Sunday, February 2, 2014

Not "Shy" at All!

Odds are that one of every three people (or so) who reads this blog post will feel like the following bullet points describe him or her (they definitely describe me):
  • Large crowds and loud noises are tiresome, even overwhelming.
  • Hearing the words, "Now turn to the person next to you and make a new friend!" while sitting in a class or conference is a source of panic and/or simple frustration.
  • Being put on the spot to "share" thoughts or feelings actually freezes brain function and/or halts thought processes.
  • A quiet lunch and good conversation with one close friend is preferred over a party or gathering of many people.
You may not be familiar with the characteristics of introverts because extroverts are so much more common in our society, and in many cases even more prized-- "He's so outgoing!" or "She's so friendly!" being common refrains. Introverts are typically (and mistakenly) characterized as shy, withdrawn, or even brooding. In reality, being an introvert means that one's energy comes from being alone (whereas extroverts are energized by being around people). Read more about the differences here:

In her fantastic TED talk on the power of introversion, Susan Cain describes how our society has come to prize extroversion over introversion, and how this hurts people and ultimately damages our world.  (See it here:

Introverts in the Classroom
As a parent and educator, my primary concern is that my own children and my students are learning and growing to their fullest potential, especially in their faith. There are introverts in our classrooms who need quiet time to think, ponder, and assimilate new ideas. If you're an extrovert, this may not make much sense to you since you think aloud, by talking out your ideas with others. 

As an introvert, however, my process is very different. The best illustration I can offer is what a college professor once told me. She said that she could actually see me process new ideas during her class, "It's visible," she said.  "You wrestle with the ideas, taking them inside of you, turning them over and over, and making the connections needed for that idea to have meaning to you." This is how introverts make meaning-- by taking ideas in and bouncing them off of prior knowledge, challenging preconceived notions, and fitting the ideas in with existing knowledge.

If 1/3 of our students need time to make meaning like this, then silent time for reflection would seem to be essential to the classroom environment. Even more so, silent time in faith formation classes is an absolute necessity, as we strive to help young people develop a personal relationship with Christ.

How to Care for Introverts
Following some great educators and Catholics on Twitter, I came across this recent image through a tweet, and hosted here:

It's easy to see how this list can be applied to classroom or work environments. For students who are introverts (who process ideas internally), constantly forcing them into group activities can be detrimental to their learning and even lead to their frustration with the classroom. It's in the best interest of students to give them time to process, quiet time to think, and periods of peacefulness. These 12 guidelines are a great start.

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