Another Book List

More high quality reading – another great list of business books to enhance personal and professional growth.

Agenda – 30 Business Books Every Professional Should Read Before turning 30

I might be a little past that age right now, but I still think there’s a lot of quality in this list. Personally, I’ve read 13 out of the list so far and have a further 9 of them on my ‘To Read’ list.

Introverts

I’ve written a few times in the past about issues of introversion/ extroversion in schools. It concerns me that, like too many other areas in society, schools are so set up to support extroverts that introverts are undermined in their ability to fulfil their potential in education. We see this exacerbated by parents who fear that the world is going to treat their introvert child badly if they don’t change. Thus, not only are school environments too often hostile environments for the introvert child, but the parents may even exhort the educators to push the child in to being and acting more and more like an extrovert, even when this goes against their natural disposition.

So, I was pleased to see this article recently that fully acknowledges the desirability of active learning environments, but where the writer also understands the need to be sensitive to the needs of introvert members of the class.

Faculty Focus – Article – Keeping Introverts in Mind in Active Learning

I believe that some of the things that can be done or focussed upon to make sure that introverts are effectively included include ensuring that the more extrovert students understand and value the benefits of reflection. It takes reflective students to realise that all the best ideas may not come from the more assertive and talkative team members, or that the most effective teams elicit the ideas of all team members (including those who might not be thrusting themselves forward).

The comments about being cautious of assessment policies that favour ‘participation’ when it’s treated too simplistically are particularly relevant.

Whilst on the subject of introversion, I (and the above writer) have highlighted the work of Susan Cain and her superb book – Quiet. So, I was delighted this week to see that Susan Cain has launched a website with lots of resources, articles and materials on the subject. It has a very extensive section on kids and parents:

Quiet Revolution
(Click on the link above to open the website)

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.

Valuing the Introverts

I just recently finished reading Susan Cain’s wonderful book: Quiet: The power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking

I found it a superb book, really thought-provoking and lived up to the introduction that I’d had to Susan Cain’s ideas from her TED talk. Inevitably, as I was reading I couldn’t help looking at the ideas in the book from the perspective of an educator and the ways in which the education system treats introverts, the shy and the quiet. Educators and parents tend, all too often, to join in a conspiracy to force introverts to ‘pretend’ they’re something different. We see elementary school parents and teachers exhorting the child to ‘join in’, to see going off in a corner quietly alone to play with a toy or read a book as somehow deviant behavior that should be eradicated.

This is the point where I have to put my hand up and say that I perceive myself as someone with ambivert tendencies, oscillating at times between the tendencies of extroverts and introverts. When in public I probably tend to behave as a classic extrovert (including frequently talking too much and not always with enough pre-thought to marshal all of my ideas). That said, at times I’m conscious that some of that flows from learned behavior, that somewhere along the way I figured as a child that the game was stacked towards the talkers more than the listeners and so modeled myself accordingly.

However, I’m also aware of my own need for ‘down time’, time to get away from the rush, to bury my head in a good book (like Quiet) and to think, contemplate and recharge batteries. Sometimes, in fact, I can be downright unsociable!
So maybe that’s the side of me that really gets concerned that if we have education systems that seek to force every child to be a joiner, talker, participator – all thrusting forward for the limelight, we’re potentially contributing to a society that will become ever more superficial and lacking the breakthrough benefits and insights that emanate most often from the shy, the quiet, the introverts. I believe that we need to provide children in schools with the space and time to have quiet time, down time and also opportunities to be part of low intensity, thoughtful discussion. Something is missing if we just simply encourage the million miles an hour, frenetic pace of the extrovert gabblers and force the quieter students to shape up and play along, even if this is unnatural and uncomfortable for them.

It is for these reasons that I felt uncomfortable with this article from The Atlantic, by Jessica Lahey suggesting that introvert children should be cajoled in to fitting in to the noisy world using assessment to make them fit in with the predominant trend for noise and speaking up. I was surprised to find Lahey seeking to take justification for her actions from Susan Cain’s book; The Atlantic – Article: Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School

She uses the example from the book of Rosa Parks and the impact she had on black civil liberties when she defied the segregation rules on a bus. However, the book stresses how parks did all this without grand speeches or noisiness, but through quiet dignified disobedience when she reached the point where she had had enough. She left all the ra-ra and noise to the likes of Martin Luther King. Hers’ was the classic way of the introvert and I believe fails to offer a case for schools to push and reinforce the model of noisy, impulsive talk for talk sake and students competing to be noticed, talking so as to gain from good assessments. The many comments that follow the article reflect especially the discomfort felt quite deeply by many introverts about the way such approaches in education fail to balance the needs of all children or acknowledge this key aspect of their differentness.

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