Communication and the Quite Student
Let me start off by asking you this: When you hear the words introvert or introversion, what comes to mind?
I have a particular interest in how the school environment affects the quiet student. Because introvert students are quiet by nature, classroom engagement presents a challenge for educators when it comes to getting their quiet students to take part in class. Introverts have a preference for spending time alone as opposed to their extrovert counterpart, which in contrast have a preference for social activities. Introverts re-energize by being alone and extroverts to re-energize by being around other people. Introverts react to overstimulation by experiencing an overwhelming need to separate themselves from the stimulating activity and retreat to a quiet space in which they can recover from the overstimulation.
The purpose of the conversion of introversion is to explore current and possible ways that teachers can engage introvert students by understanding the personality of their quiet students with the result being an enhanced educational experience for the child.
Because teachers are among the most influential people in a child’s life, often even more influential than parents, they play a vital role in shaping a child’s perception of self. If they view the introvert student as being as normal as the extrovert student, then educators and others would begin to withdrawn the conclusion that the introvert needs to be fixed. Best-selling author Susan Cain says “I think well-meaning teachers see their role as being to turn introverts into extroverts. We really need to understand that an introvert is a totally normal personality type.” (Cain, Quiet, 2013).(Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking). If a teacher deems that there is something wrong with a child, it can have the unintended consequences of the child coming to the same conclusion. A slight change in attitude can have a tremendous impact on a child’s view of themselves.
The social group experience is much the same as the classroom group experience to the introvert. In contrast to the sociable introvert with many friends, there are other introverts that simply have and prefer to have just a few close friends rather than many friends. They prefer smaller more intimate groups where conversations are likely to be controlled by common interests. In such intimate settings, they are more likely to engage because this is a selective group for which they may share some common interest and thus eliminating the small talk.
Extroverts including extrovert teachers find it difficult to understand the lack of sociability and need for constant space and quiet. Introvert and extrovert attitudes towards each other can be described “Each type undervalues the other, seeing the negative rather than the positive qualities of the opposite attitude, a fact which has led to endless misunderstanding and, even in the course of time, to the formulation of antagonistic philosophies, conflicting psychologies, and different values and ways of life.” Furthermore “Unfortunately the two types misunderstand one another and tend to see only the other’s weakness, so that to the extravert the introvert is egotistical and dull, while the introvert thinks the extravert superficial and insincere.” (Psychololgical Types, 2015).
Boring vs Different Interest
Small talk is an activity that some introverts get don’t get. For them it’s as if they are not wired for small talk. However, if you engage them in a conversation of depth, you are likely to have them hooked and will experience a side of them that may surprise even those that claim to know them best. To extroverts this lack of small talk comes across as being boring (another negative connotation), simply because their interests are different. Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way (Dembling, 2012) says that introverts find it a mystery what people seem to have to talk about all the time. She says her policy is “say what you have to say and then stop talking.” This much describes how many introverts feel. Dissimilar interest does not equate to boring.
Putting it All Together
The combination of better understanding introvert students and the negative messages imparted on them leads to a discussion about changing perceptions based on the knowledge gained and engaging these students. Armed with this knowledge, teachers can give serious consideration to how changing attitudes toward introverts can result in an enhanced educational experience for this classification of students. In the section on understanding the introvert, there was some discussion about how teachers might engage students based on a specific introvert trait or quality. Now we further explore the impact of added effort to engage students which is ultimately the goal of every classroom teacher.