Have the courage to speak softly

 Susan Cain gave a TED Talk called The Power of Introverts.

Introverts are told they should work hard to be outgoing. Quiet and introverted is not going to work in this world, so try to pass as an extrovert. Be someone you are not.

Here is the truth: introverts are smart, creative, deep thinkers that develop unique answers to problems that others involved in groupthink may not be able to produce. According to Cain, introverts are not shy, they are just people who are more capable when in a quiet or low-key environment.

One-third to half of the population are introverts. This has educational implications that I need to remember as I work with students.

School is for extroverts

Classroom presentation

Photo CC- by City Year

What do you notice about the desks? They are for groups of students. How about reading? We do this in groups. Writing? Groups. Science? Math? Yep, it’s groups.

There is very little quiet time in school anymore, and the majority of classrooms and activities are centered around groups of students.

School is for extroverts. Please do not misunderstand, I recognize that learning to work together is a valuable exercise. We all need to pool our ideas at times to produce products. Learning alongside peers is a great way to make discoveries. Extroverts thrive in this type of environment because they are energized by people, noise, and activity.

The negative side to the extrovert-oriented classroom is that introverts tend to be isolated. They feel excluded in an environment where they should be involved. They are seen by others as loners, awkward, or shy.

We need to have balance in our classrooms. We need to meet the learning needs of extroverts and introverts. We should have collaboration, and times of individual work and thought.

Cain has four solutions (in bold). I just can’t say them any better than she can.

Stop the madness for constant group work. Just stop it!

We need to promote deep thinking in our schools. Deep thinking comes from being alone and working through ideas and concepts. Have a balance between learning that requires group work and learning that promotes thought and the building of ideas.

Go to the Wilderness

This means spend time alone at some point during the day. Learn who you are when no one else is around.

Take a look in your own suitcase (what do you bring?)

Extroverts put themselves out there. They are not afraid to show their thoughts, talents, and abilities. Introverts, though, are often guarded. Introverts need to be able to show others what is in their suitcase. They need to allow others to see their worth. As a teacher, I need to give introverted students a chance to shine in their own way.

Have the courage to speak softly

I want to give the introverts in my class an opportunity to speak what is on their mind. Even if it is a soft, quiet manner.

As an introvert, I enjoyed this TED Talk. As an introvert learning how to lead a classroom, I appreciate all the things it has made me think about.

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4 thoughts on “Have the courage to speak softly

  1. This TED talk is just how I see myself just like you I too am an introvert. I can remember being in school and having to do group work and feeling left out of the group. I think this talk gives great ideas that teachers need to give introverts time/place to talk even if it is a soft speech. This can only help us introverts become more confident in public speaking. I like the idea of letting introverts show others what is in their suitcase. This again allows the introvert to gain confidence.

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    • I felt like that at school too. What I appreciated about her talk and suggestions for school was regarding balance. Though I would have loved for school to be all about working the way that I was comfortable (very quiet and all alone), that would have made half the class crazy! We need to let students have different opportunities to find where they fit, and to help them find different ways of working. I really liked what you had to say about public speaking and gaining confidence. Thanks, Bonnie!

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  2. I’m an introvert too, though I’m not entirely sure you’d know that if you observed me teaching a face-to-face class. I definitely need plenty of quiet, alone time to restore myself from the energy drain of having to be so extroverted in the classroom. Cain’s point about group work is really interesting to me. I’m wondering how much time and space I really give students in a face-to-face class for that deep reflective quiet absorption that she considers essential. I think I tend to get that outside the classroom and just assume that students will too, but I wonder what that kind of space would look like in the classroom.

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  3. I really enjoy being around people at school and at work, but like you, after that I am tired and need time to build up my energy again. After working at school, will come home and tell my kids, “Please let me sit for 20 minutes and I’ll be fine the rest of the evening!”

    When I think about what a deep-thinking time would look like in a classroom for second or third graders, it may just be 10 or 15 minutes through the day where the kids have the chance to catch up on a specific project, or work on a project of their choice in a quiet environment. It think that just removing noise and interaction for a brief time is enough to allow introverts to have energy restored, and also long enough to allow extroverts to begin to learn how to appreciate solitude in small doses.

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