Beth Manning, a middle school science teacher at Latin, is a lifelong introvert. Growing up, she remembers feeling like she wasn't being the right kind of student in the classroom. After reading Susan Cain's book, “Quiet” several years ago, she saw all of the benefits that introverts can bring to a classroom and to a workplace.
What are the common myths about introverts?
There have been studies done on CEOs and how introverted CEOs actually make more money for the company.
Beth Manning One of the biggest myths about introverts is that they are broken extroverts and that they need to fix themselves so that they're more extroverted to fit in. You hear all the time that quiet people need to come out of their shell and that they need to live life more and have more fun. They get this message so much–that they're doing everything wrong and they are broken and they need to be fixed. We know now, that's not really the case. Introverts have so many gifts to bring and it’s about figuring out how your natural temperament can be respected.
Another myth is that introverts don't like to talk. But the truth is they don't really like to make small talk. They like to talk about important things. And so, and especially if you engage an introvert on a topic that they're really passionate about and that they really love, they won't let you get a word.
Another common myth about introverts is that they aren't going to be good leaders. The truth is you don’t have to be a big boisterous loud person in order to be a leader. There have been studies done on CEOs and how introverted CEOs actually make more money for the company.
What is the difference between being an introvert and being shy?
The big difference is that shyness involves social anxiety and a fear of negative judgment. Introverts might simply not have something to contribute at the time and be feeling inside perfectly fine about that. Somebody who's shy might not be contributing to a conversation because they're really worried about what other people are gonna think about them.
How does the brain process experiences and information differently for introverts versus extroverts?
The amount of stimulation introverts and extroverts can handle is really different.
Beth ManningIt turns out that there are actually brain differences. Introverts are more sensitive to the dopamine neurotransmitter, so they require less dopamine to be happy. Sitting in a corner and reading, or just being quiet with their thoughts is going to give them enough dopamine to be content. While too much dopamine can be really overstimulating for an introvert. That's why if they've spent time in the gym at recess or spend time in some busy, loud classroom, they're going to be really overstimulated. They are then going to need some time to relax and recover from that in a quiet space. Extroverts, however, oftentimes need to do something that will increase adrenaline because they crave stimulation. The amount of stimulation introverts and extroverts can handle is really different.
The way the brain processes information is also different. An extrovert might get a stimulus, then it goes straight to brain processing, and that processing happens while they're talking. An introvert, however, gets a stimulus and it has to go through long-term memory first, then go through the planning portion of the brain. And only after those things happen, can they really start to process what has happened. That’s why introverts need time. Once they get that time, they come up with really amazing analysis. It’s really helpful for teachers to think about introversion versus extroversion as another way to differentiate in the classroom.
What is the best way to work with introverts in a classroom setting?
Give introverts time. This well-researched classroom practice shows that if a teacher asks a question, the teacher might pick on the first hand that goes up. If the teacher waits three seconds–some people will even say 10 seconds–they are going to get way more hands going up, especially from those quiet kids, who've had that extra few seconds to think.
Teachers can also utilize technology with these digital corkboards where you can ask questions to the class. And then instead of just waiting for kids to raise hands and share that way, you can have them answer it on their iPads and then it could show up on the screen. This gives kids time to answer the question and write it all out. You then can see this kid who has never said anything in class before has this amazing question that pops up on the board for everyone to see. There's so much technology that can really help these introverts shine and help their ideas and their questions be seen.
Parents can have conversations with the students about how these things that maybe some people perceive as weaknesses can be flipped around to strengths.
How can parents support their introverted student?
Parents can have conversations with the students about how these things that maybe some people perceive as weaknesses can be flipped around to strengths. Think about embracing your natural tendencies and celebrate the fact that when you're given time to think, you really think deeply and you see details that other people don't see. You can help them realize that they're not flawed or defective. It's just how they are. There are techniques that kids can do to survive being in an extroverted world. Susan Cain mentions one in her book, “Quiet.” Introverts can think beforehand. Before you go to class, know what the class is going to be about and prepare what you're going to say. If introverts can go in right away knowing what they're going to say and plan in advance, they can get their thoughts out there at the beginning.
How do you foster collaboration between extroverted and integrated students?
Create a structure for managed roles to help foster collaboration between the students. Assign any kind of roles–a recorder, a timekeeper, a materials manager, and a group speaker–even an introvert can be a group speaker. If they're assigned that role, they'll take it really seriously and they'll be able to prepare for it and be a great group speaker. But, if they don't get assigned that role, then they might not feel comfortable taking that on because one thing introverts don't really like to do is they don't like to interrupt or they don't know how to interrupt.
How can people learn more and get more resources?
Susan Cain is really the one who started this conversation several years ago. She's got a couple of books. Her first one is “Quiet” and then she's got one that's geared towards students. She also has an amazing website, which is a whole world for introverts and promotes the greatness of introverts. Another helpful book is “Quiet Kids Count” by Chrissy Romano Arrabito, which is packed full of practical tips for teachers.