Differentiating for Introverts in the Classroom

I’ve written before about the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain and the ways that it made me rethink some of my (extrovert) perceptions about how we should do things in schools. I’ve increasingly come to the view that our schools and classrooms begin the process of stigmatizing introversion. We begin the process that forces introvert children to believe that if they are to have any chance of succeeding in the world, then they must learn to ‘fake it’ and must overcome the added stress and uncomfortable emotions that a crazy, manic extrovert environment causes for them.

The process is so prevalent that parents of introverted children add to the levels of anxiety and sometimes even pressure teachers to do more to ‘convert’ their child – to make them act and behave in ways that will ‘fit in’ with an extrovert oriented world.

One of my favourite elements from Susan Cain’s book was when she talked of the ways in which introverts perceive extroverts – as doing their thinking out loud before taking the time to get their thoughts clear inside their own heads. maybe, that could be how we finished up with schools and classrooms, teaching methodologies, processes, timetables etc. that are so stacked in favour of the extroverts and against the introverts.

With all these thoughts in mind I was delighted to come across this insightful interview with Susan Cain that explores in greater depth her viewpoints and perspectives about education. In it, she shares lots of ideas about how as educators and parents we can begin to make the adjustments that create environments which are fairer and far more sensitive to the needs of the introvert child.

How to Teach a Young Introvert – Susan Cain Interview
(Click on the link above to read the article)

Big take-aways for me from the article were Cain’s endorsement of ‘the flipped model’, rethinking how we design and lay out schools and classrooms (something I feel strongly about and will be writing on soon) and the use of online communication methods to bring in participation from a wider spectrum of children than those normally inclined to speak openly in class.

In ‘Asian Model’ schools we have even more challenges to address. Cain is writing from the perspective of the average American school. One very big difference is that those schools typically cater to a much smaller number of students, often smaller class sizes and a narrower range of ages. We contend with schools with typically more than 2,000 students, all the way from Kindergarten to Class 12 in classes of at least 30 children. For these reasons alone the issues are more pressing and we need to harness the most creative minds in education (and beyond) to break out of the temptations to organise these schools according to our convenience and the ‘mass consumption’ models that have held sway.

Educators today are ready to talk a lot about differentiation when it comes to learning styles etc. We need a more systemic kind of differentiation to acknowledge the varying temperaments of our children if we are to fulfil objectives of meeting each child where they are and enabling each child to fulfil their potential through education.

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