Live 2 Learn

A few thoughts and ideas

Educating Introverts

ThinkerA while ago I found this article. It has some worthwhile points to make on the subject of student introversion and follows on from a very important point one of my colleagues made about not judging introversion from an academic viewpoint when writing student school report comments.

http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/quiet-susan-cain-approaching-introverted-students

I found the article very interesting from a professional point of view but also it resonated personally, bringing to the fore some memories from my childhood. The descriptions offered in paragraph 4 actually is me.

My teacherly opinion is that I think all students, regardless of their level of introversion or extoversion, should experience a wide range of circumstances, some of which put students outside their comfort zone. However, my experience of attempts by teachers to cure my introversion has occasionally been overly stressful – at least I thought it was at the time. At school, I really didn’t want to do things publicly and would attempt to stay home if I know it was my turn to read to the class when in primary school. My attempts to stay home would always fail as my Mum didn’t fall for the feigned illness for even a millisecond and I went to school and faced my introversion demons.

An example of where my introversion and lack of confidence came to the fore is when I was at primary school, and I was to sing a solo in the carol service. Despite being extremely self conscious and sweating profusely when practicing in the music room, I managed to do the rehearsals (I had a pretty nice voice even if I do say so myself). But, I completely froze when it got to my turn at the actual performance. Another child stood up and sang my verse after a line and a half and saved the performance. My Mum and Dad had turned up to see me sing. To this day, I don’t sing except on my own, in my car.

I also remember in high school, when I had to read to the class a page that had the word ‘rendezvous’ in the text. I had never seen this word in print and completely ‘stuffed up’ the pronunciation with the result that the whole class laughed at me. I hated it.

I suppose that one saving grace of these experiences is that they are good for your memory, at least for particular memories! I know exactly which verse and which carol I stuffed up and where I was standing. I know the book that was being read when I mispronounced ‘rendezvous’ (it was Chapter 6). I can also remember exactly where I was sitting when it was my turn to read in Year 6 in Mr Clarke’s class.

I have spent my adult life trying to develop myself from my introverted nature which has been classified as INTJ (Wikipedia article on INTJ types) according to the Myers Briggs tests. Becoming a teacher has been part of this deliberate journey. Despite my natural introversion (which I don’t think is exactly the same as shyness), I now enjoy presenting to children, parents and teachers. However, despite the skills you learn, an introvert is still an introvert on the inside – the article above clearly illustrates how introverts like life to be like. The major impact that introversion and my experiences have had on me as an adult is that I tend to overthink and over-rehearse interactions with others, I prepare thoroughly so that I reduce the likelihood of mistake or error to the absolute minimum.

The point of these anecdotes is that if this has been such a significant issue for me then I am sure that it is a common experience for a significant proportion of our students. I do not think we should protect introverts from having to perform, present or input to a class but, as my colleage quite rightly explained, we should be careful that we don’t judge introversion as an academic failing.

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