I’ve been reading and thinking about this article from The Atlantic magazine, “Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School” by Jessica Lahey. Specifically, she talks about asking questions and the difference between the “extroverts” and the “introverts.”
This is no problem for the extroverts, who live for the opportunity to talk about their ideas. However, I also teach introverts, who live in fear of being asked these sorts of questions.
Hmmm… back up the truck here for a second. Introverts “liv[ing] in fear of being asked these sorts of questions”?
I knew a lot of classmates who were introverts, and never recall them being terrified of being asked a question that required more than a “yes” or “no” answer. I remember kids (both intro- and extraverts) not being prepared and not wanting the teacher to call on them. I remember kids whose classroom participation drew snickers and giggles from some of their classmates. I remember some kids being bored out of their minds and drifting off, only to be shocked back into reality when the teacher suddenly asks them, “So, what do you think of that?” There were kids who, hearing that good students are quiet and studious (but mostly quiet), took it to heart. And there were the kids that were scared not to write down everything the teacher said, for fear that they would miss something that might be on an exam, and were so busy scrawling notes that they weren’t prepared to be called on. At one time or another, I was the kid in each of these situations, and I would guess that most of you were, too.
Being introverted is not about being a shrinking violet. Where an extrovert is energized by being with people, introverts are energized by time spent alone. That doesn’t mean introverts don’t like people or are intimidated by them. The difference is, where an extrovert relaxes by talking with his or her friends on the phone or participating in after-school activities, the introvert relaxes by reading, doing homework, pursuing a hobby, or watching TV.
The point is, being introverted isn’t the same as being shy or unwilling to participate in class. There are kids that have to be drawn out of their shell, but they aren’t all introverts. There are extroverts who want nothing to do with class discussions. Not every extrovert lives for the opportunity to share their ideas.
There might be a study about this already and I’m just not aware of it (hey, I can’t know everything), but it would be interesting to give students the MBTI and compare the results on the introversion/extroversion facet with the qualitative assessment of the teachers who see the kids every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a correlation, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the correlation was not statistically significant, and that other factors were a better predictor of classroom participation.
That’s my two cents. What do you think? I’d be interested to know.