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Friday, July 9, 2010

The Introverted Student

Recently I went to see a therapist to find out what my problem is. I don’t like being in large groups of people, I don’t like talking in front of adults I don’t know, I’d rather pull my hair out than make a phone call or go to a party, and I need ‘alone’ time. Is there some deep dark childhood trauma that caused such strange personality quirks? How do I get over it? The therapist, Mr. Gorman, looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and then said the magic words, “It just sounds like you’re an introvert.” Could it really be that simple? I’ve always known I was an introvert, but clearly I didn’t understand the core traits of an introvert.

When I got home that day I went straight to my computer and googled ‘introvert’. I came across a wonderful article on Psychology Today’s website titled Introverts Unite! (Quietly). I read through the article and the comments left by other readers. Suddenly I understood myself on a whole new level… and there are others like me! The next time I saw Mr. Gorman, I shared how much this information helped. As we discussed introversion in more depth, he commented about the effect of introversion on a student in a classroom. What is the best way to deal with an introverted student? That really got me thinking.

The Introverted Student

Introverts get their energy internally through quiet time, contemplation, and emotion. People sometimes see them as bookish or unsociable. However, introverts do enjoy activity and socializing. They just like to do those things in smaller groups. That would be something to keep in mind when planning activities in class. An introvert may do fine in a group of two or three, but could clam up in a larger group.

Introverts will take more time to process information because they process more deeply. They think out what they will say before speaking. In fact, according to an article by Tami Isaacs, PhD. in Teaching and Learning as presented on the Family Focus Website, “Research has shown that extroverts and introverts process information differently using different parts of the brain and different neurotransmitters. The extrovert draws upon small amounts of information in his short term memory in developing his thoughts, while the introvert recalls thoughts stored in his long term memory to build more complex associations. The introvert needs more time, therefore, to develop his ideas and express them.” We want to give the introvert student a little more time before calling on him. If possible, let him raise his hand first. I find it amusing how extrovert students will raise their hand whether they have an answer or not. The introvert will wait. Thought comes before action. That is one reason it is so important to give all students a chance to formulate an answer before calling on someone.

Like most students, introverts will do best in a safe and supportive environment. They have to know that a wrong answer will not be laughed at by the students or the teacher. Further, the introvert will shut down with too much pressure from a teacher. Space is the key. Give the introvert student space and time to be who they are, and you will see better results.

Now that I understand myself better, I can understand my students better as well.  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  How did that effect you in school?

6 comments:

  1. This really resonates with me. As a child I was not so much introverted, as shy. I hated math because we always had to work problems on the board... in front of EVERYONE. My brain would just freeze up. I'm not so shy today... but I still hate math. I wonder what would have happened if I had teachers that understood how shy I was...

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  2. I was the same way! Going up in front of the class was the worst form of torture for me. That and reading out loud in class.

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  3. Insightful post! I do see these different behaviors in classroom dynamics. What I usually do when an introverted student is still gathering their ideas is call on someone else first then get back to them.

    Also, as a child I was quite introverted but it seems I outgrew it because I'd say I'm pretty extroverted now.

    Anyway, great site! :)

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  4. Thank you AJ! I really appreciate the input. I love your blog btw!

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  5. I wish the teachers at my daughters school would accept that because she doesn't have a million friends and doesn't do the social butterfly thing doesn't mean she has a problem.

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  6. Shinju,
    I'm so sorry to hear you're having an issue like that! I'm sure you've told your daughter that she is fine just the way she is. As long as she understands that she doesn't have a problem, that's most important. Perhaps next time a teacher mentions the 'problem' you can explain introversion. ;) Good luck to you!

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