Some thoughts on introversionPosted: February 8, 2013
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.