Some thoughts on introversion

He must have been an introvert.

He must have been an introvert.

I am an introvert. Myers-Briggs says so, and I have no arguments with the analysis, although I must clarify by explaining that I am closer to the middle than the extreme end of the introvert-extrovert spectrum.  I do get my best ideas, however, in solitude– while driving alone in my car, drifting off during yoga class or sitting quietly in my study. As Susan Cain explains in her powerful TED talk, “introverts feel.. their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments” (a perfect description of a library, I might add).

While introversion is not a synonym for being shy, introverts are the quiet ones at big parties, are slower to comment in large group settings and prefer a few good friends to a crowd of hangers-on. So, if I understand my own introversion so well, why has it not informed my teaching? It wasn’t until I listened to this March 2012 TED Talk on a recent trans-Atlantic flight (thank goodness for seat back TV’s that allow you to choose your own programming) that I got it.

At about five minutes into her talk (but please watch the whole nineteen minutes; 3,734,433 people can’t be wrong!), she talks about introversion in the classroom. She talks about pods and committees and points out the obvious (at least now it is obvious to me) that some children “need to go off by themselves”. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. She closes her talk with three calls to action for both the workplace and schools. Her first is “Stop the madness for constant group work. Just stop it.”

I am going to heed her call. If I can structure my lessons and activities so that there is more choice for students to opt out of group work, I will. Not all the time, but certainly often enough to empower them. If I can assign smaller groups so that introverts will feel more comfortable sharing, I will. If I can create assignments so that responses can be written rather than verbal, I will give my introverted students the chance to express themselves as they haven’t been able to before.

Thank you, Susan Cain, for putting your introversion aside to speak softly on this very important topic.




15 Comments on “Some thoughts on introversion”

  1. Melinda Kement says:

    Another reason or way to differentiate what we do!

  2. That’s really smart. I see this being a positive for my little guy, but it also makes me think of the girls. They get tired having to work “with” people all the time and often get fantastic ideas when they are home, alone in their rooms, able to focus and think on their own.
    Great post.

  3. ocdtalk says:

    Great post! I have listened to Susan Cain’s TED Talk more than once and think she is amazing. So are you, for heeding her advice!

  4. Love Susan Cain Nancy. Her book/talk was recommended to me by some of my introvert friends a while ago. It’s nice to know we’re not alone. Thanks for posting!

  5. nrkellner says:

    Glad to see this resonated with all of you. She is definitely an inspirational speaker. Was moved to tears when she talked about her grandfather. I am putting her book on my to-read list.

  6. nrkellner says:

    Great graphic for extroverts on “How to live with introverts”:

    Thanks to my West Coast Connection for this!

  7. […] the same way with this blog. I had no idea when I wrote my post, Some Thoughts on Introversion, that I would have struck such a chord with my readers or that I was posting about such an au […]

  8. Julie says:

    I LOVE my very public job, and talking with library patrons all day. But I am a formerly extremely shy person who is still an introvert. My favorite definition: an extrovert gains energy by being with people; an introvert uses energy by being with people (no matter how much they enjoy it).

    • nrkellner says:

      That’s a great way of putting it. I find I need to find solitude after being “social” to be able to reboot.
      Thanks for sharing your interpretation,

  9. […] Most Commented Upon Post-Some Thoughts on Introversion […]

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