Teaching Introverts



Being an introvert has become somewhat trendy lately. Between the popularity of Quiet and the various YouTube videos and quizzes about the introversion, it seems as if society is suddenly saying, "Maybe introverts aren't scary loners. Maybe they're not anti-social. Maybe they need alone time and space and that's okay."

And yet . . . 

I've noticed that many of the people who are also suddenly promoting the role of introverts are at the same time promoting a pedagogy that benefits extroverts. Here's what I mean:
  • Collaboration is key. Kids need to hash ideas out with one another and learn from each other. 
  • Project based learning means that students don't have to work alone anymore. 
  • Student-to-student discourse is the key. You need to be using Kagan strategies often.
  • Space needs to be opened up. Look at the offices of the newest, best tech companies. Nobody has an individual space assigned to them. 
  • Learning is messy and noisy. Embrace that. 
  • It's important that we are connected. Connected learning is the future of education. 
I don't disagree with the ideas above. In fact, I've said many of those before. I've seen how extroverts are shamed for their need to process externally and how kids in rows and silence struggle to be themselves. However, I'd like to balance those ideas with a few that might help introverts:
  • Solitude matters. Some kids need to a little extra alone time in order to have thinking space. 
  • Kids need to have a place of their own, both physically and mentally. 
  • Allow some (if not all) kids to process things alone before they go to peer-to-peer or whole group discourse.
  • Learning might be messy and noisy, but sometimes it's quiet. Embrace that, too. 
  • Incorporate independent, interest-driven projects alongside the collaborative ones. It's not enough to assign roles and simply carve out individual time in a group project. Introverts have a need, on some level, to own the entire learning / creative process in at least some area of their lives. 
Final thought: Introverts aren't always quiet. Sometimes they can be loud. Often, they can be social. So, if you, as a teacher, are the one deciding when and how a student process information, there's an issue. Empower your students to understand who they are and what they need in their learning.

photo credit: Jonathan Kos-Read via photopin cc
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John Spencer

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About. He is passionate about helping students develop into better writers and deeper thinkers.

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