The Case for Introverts

I appreciated this TED talk (see below, also) from Susan Cain, who makes a case for introverts, those who feel more comfortable in solitude and smaller groups, energized more by silence than activity.

Cain is the author of the well-received Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Cannot Stop Talking, and her talk summarizes the book's thesis. Among many good points that she makes, this one especially resonated with me as a teacher:

When I was going to school, we sat in rows. We sat in rows of desks like this, and we did most of our work pretty autonomously. But nowadays, your typical classroom has pods of desks -- four or five or six or seven kids all facing each other. And kids are working in countless group assignments. Even in subjects like math and creative writing, which you think would depend on solo flights of thought, kids are now expected to act as committee members. And for the kids who prefer to go off by themselves or just to work alone, those kids are seen as outliers often or, worse, as problem cases. And the vast majority of teachers reports believing that the ideal student is an extrovert as opposed to an introvert, even though introverts actually get better grades and are more knowledgeable, according to research.


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Rebecca Krier
3 years 4 months ago
Very true. I have often observed a strong bias toward extroverted students in faculty meetings. Being "so outgoing" is often spoken of as some kind of high virtue! And introversion can often be cast as having "social difficulties."
amy r
3 years 4 months ago
Being an introverted teacher is also difficult in most school cultures today. I was criticized by administrators for not being social enough at staff gatherings, for not being social enough with parents which I'm not sure is even professional or appropriate--I was appropriately professional with them and communicated as needed. But in a small Catholic school, one admin expected teachers to make friends with parents and socialize with them. Another admin even took points from my evaluations because I was not "enthusiastic" enough in talking to kids in the hallways and needed to "giggle"--the latter being not only a critique of my introversion but also a sexist issue as I know for a fact he never asked the stoic male math teacher in the room next door to "giggle" in the hallways.
Anne Chapman
3 years 4 months ago
Excellent. I wish the entire talk could be reprinted and made required reading for all educators, all workers, all students, all families. At the end there are a couple of points that I am copying here since Mr. Emerson focused on the part most relevant to educators. Stop the madness for constant group work. Just stop it. ...And I want to be clear about what I'm saying, because I deeply believe our offices should be encouraging casual, chatty cafe-style types of interactions -- you know, the kind where people come together and serendipitously have an exchange of ideas. That is great. It's great for introverts and it's great for extroverts. But we need much more privacy and much more freedom and much more autonomy at work. School, same thing. We need to be teaching kids to work together, for sure, but we also need to be teaching them how to work on their own. This is especially important for extroverted children too. They need to work on their own because that is where deep thought comes from in part.Go to the wilderness. Be like Buddha, have your own revelations. I'm not saying that we all have to now go off and build our own cabins in the woods and never talk to each other again, but I am saying that we could all stand to unplug and get inside our own heads a little more often.


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