Thanks to Liz Burns who led me to the article “Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School.” written by an extroverted middle school teacher. I’m an introverted middle school teacher, shy on top of it*, and so have a very different take on this. First of all, not every part of the world or culture necessarily views outspokenness as necessary as we often do in the United States. I’ve had teachers complain about children who do not look them in the eye when those children come from cultures where doing so is considered impolite. Secondly, as someone who feels her best way of communicating is by writing, I think it is important to acknowledge and respect all ways of sharing our views and knowledge. Of course, we teachers do need to support all our students, provide safe ways for them to speak up, to help those who are reticent to feel confident to make the occasional comment, but to make that a requirement, to grade it, to privilege that as something necessary for success, I don’t agree.
* My admission of being shy may be a surprise to those who know me in the children’s lit world, but out of my element, in a situation where I don’t know anyone, I am very different.
6 responses to “In The Classroom: An introvert teaching every sort of kid.”
I’ve only read two sentences of the article, and already I’m mad. I am also an introvert – intensely introverted – and somewhat shy; I place a high value on class participation among my college students, but I also realize that everyone is different. I also think that “blaming’ introversion for less participation in class discussions is kind of a red herring; introvert doesn’t necessarily equal socially anxious/awkward, or even shy. I can’t tell if this article is an attempt to capitalize on the current “trend” in introvert research, or if it’s yet another effort by an extrovert to make us all more like her. [for what it’s worth, I find the greatest hindrance to my students’ willingness to speak in class is their fear of giving the wrong answer and being shut down by the teacher].
Yes to everything you wrote here, Monica. Thanks.
Thank you for pointing out this article. I read it expecting to disagree. However, being a shy introvert myself and having one of my children being just like me, I don’t necessarily disagree with class participation. I think the introverted kids should be asked to participate. My son has blossomed at school and is able to share his point of view in that safe environment. It has helped him elsewhere in his life. What she didn’t cover in the article was how she was accommodating the shy kids in the way she grades participation. So, I can’t necessarily agree or disagree with the way she is doing it. But, we live in a verbal world and I feel my son needs to learn to speak for himself in a safe environment. I would hope that he would be able to do this before I learned to do so, which was my junior year in college. I am still shy in social settings, but I have learned to be self-confident in settings associated with things that I am knowledgeable about. Do I want him to be a social butterfly and expect his teachers to make him one? No, but learning to speak about his views in a safe environment is something I think he should learn.
Thank you for reminding me that there are open-minded teachers who respect their students different needs and place those needs ahead of their own theories – especially when those theories are misinformed.
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I agree with you, Monica. Communication styles vary so much around the world. One of the challenges in teaching world languages is to incorporate cultural norms and information into our lessons connected to the grammar and the vocab, and the content. This includes concepts like gestures, proxemics, facial expressions, turn-taking, and, as you mentioned, eye contact. I also appreciate your previous post about the ways in which you make a quiet space in your classroom. I will have to try some of those ideas!