The majority of articles, blog posts, and conversations about introversion seem to be “adult-centric” and not as much about the challenges that introverted kids face at school, at home, and in their social lives. We thought that with the beginning of school upon us, it’s a great time to try to shed some more light in this area. Actually, stumbling upon Susan Cain’s book, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids and the Quiet Revolution website section on introverted kids were the initial catalysts for writing about it now. The book and website provide helpful and practical tips for not only kids to capitalize on their introversion, but also speaks to parents and teachers to increase sensitivity and awareness and better relate to introverted kids. For example, in school where class participation is king, perhaps there are alternatives so both extroverts and introverts can contribute in ways that are comfortable for both.
The volume of data and research in recent years has helped to create a greater understanding about introversion: what it is and what it isn’t. It’s not, by definition, about being shy or anti-social, but is about (among other things) how, and from where we draw our energy. Not only has all this new information helped to chip away at the stigma of being quiet in an extroverted world, but it has also brought to light some of the advantages of being an introvert, and the valuable contributions we can make. And this includes young people in elementary, middle, and high school.
Teachers, here are 3 quick tips you can use today with your students:
1. Implement “brainwriting”. A variation on brainstorming, this is an exercise that Stephen and I used during our introvert workshops at GWSB, which can also be used when classmates need to work on a group project or presentation. The basic idea is for each student to write his or her ideas down on Post-It notes, which are then placed on the blackboard or wall for everyone to discuss together. This approach makes it easier for everyone to suggest ideas without the fear of being interrupted (which often happens during traditional brainstorming sessions).
2. Rethink Class Participation. Consider the “Think/Pair/Share” technique where students first think, then express their ideas to one classmate or to a small group. Only then do they return to a whole-class discussion to help the introverted kids slowly expand their audience and become more comfortable sharing, while allowing them time to develop their thoughts.
3. Try to strike a healthy balance between group work and quiet, independent work throughout the school day. Even brief periods of quiet time can go a long way to creating a productive and positive environment for both extroverts and introverts.