Making room for introverts

The six biggest mistakes of managing an introvert – Quartz.

^ Good read.

There’s been a lot of good popular writing lately (online magazines, usually) about how to work with introverts without misjudging them for the very qualities that make an introvert an outstanding employee: thoughtful, reflective work.  It’s not hard to accommodate the particular needs of introverted folks:  give them a chance to think before demanding an answer, provide peace and quiet, retool the way you form teams for collaboration.

The individual learners who make up our classroom communities can benefit from similar accommodations:

  • Create physical space in your classroom for those who need to be a little further from the action, and places where those who need peace and quiet to work can find that.
  • Insert time and space between questions and answers — for example, ask a (chewy) question but make everyone jot down answers on a paper or in a journal for a few minutes before allowing the class to respond. This gives people time to process, and introverts often prefer written communication to off-the-cuff answers.  Allow students to read what they’ve written if they prefer.
  • Consider pairing introverts together for group projects. You’ll encourage them to step forward as a pair or team to do presentations or other “public” work instead of being overshadowed by the extrovert in their group.
  • Allow your coursework to ebb and flow between quiet personal work and busier, louder, more active engagement.  It doesn’t have to be a learning zoo all the time.  Model introspection and taking time to think before speaking.
  • Encourage groups to talk as much as they need for making decisions or analyzing the problem at hand, but encourage them to move into developing ideas (individually, perhaps, and then returning for a group discussion) and individual implementation to allow introverts a break from personal interaction.

There’s an equal danger, of course: that school, with its rows of desks all in a line and emphasis on order and rigor, can squash extroverts just as much as it wears out the introverts with public speaking and constant collaboration.  For the extroverts, being forced to sit down, shut up, keep quiet, stay on task, stop bringing up new ideas — all of that reinforces the idea that only the boring, orderly kids are going to do well at school.

So – as always – lesson design must accommodate both.

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