When Introverts Rule the Classroom

seedling I presented the first in a series of posts reinventing the world with the introverts in the majority, and then followed that up with a blog about introvert home design.  I want to write about the ideal introvert city and office setting, but first I want to write about introvert schools.

I decided to write about schools next because Claire at Openly Quiet wrote an insightful two-part series on home schooling, and champions alternative schooling for introverts.  I applaud Clarie’s writing and urge all of you to go out and read her blog.

Schools – Introvert Style

Let’s start with the teachers themselves.  They should be the heroes that every little girl and boy want to become.  Not the sports stars.  Not the rock stars.  The teachers.

Colleges that train teachers should be difficult to get into, accepting only those with proven aptitude, because they are turning out a precious commodity, the people who will shape the next generation.  They should be not only a place to train aspiring teachers in the best techniques, but they should also be places of research into the cognitive functions of the mind.  We need to know more about how we learn, and how to foster creative thinking.  Instead of stomping out creativity, schools should inspire it, encourage it, feed it.

Teachers should make the big bucks.  Let’s do away with tenure, and replace it with a merit system that starts teachers off with a generous wage and then financially rewards them for innovation and the happiness and success of their students.  Turn things inside out.  Teaching should be a challenge to stay fresh and fun, not a challenge to grind through the day to meet ridiculous standards created by legislators.quietBox

Class size will be small so that the teacher can be attentive to the children.

Kids should be encouraged in their passions, following their native-born talents.

Learning should never be rote.  Let’s put our best minds to work finding effective teaching methods that respond to a student’s main learning channel.  Make learning multidimensional and interactive.

Keep classrooms quiet, well equipped, comfortable and safe.  Create a physical environment conducive to learning.  Make them bright and cheerful, but also make spaces where you can get away to think quietly, draw, build, and experiment with ideas.

And please, for all our sakes, let’s give girls the same encouragement and opportunities that we give to boys.  Let’s see more girls as the president of the robotics club or the champion “mathelete”.

Imagine your favorite teacher.  Most of us are lucky to have one or two gems during our entire childhood.  What if all of your teachers had been like that?  Mind boggling, isn’t it?

What if they had the time and equipment to let you explore the things you were good at, to develop your talents?  What kind of person would you have become?  Who would you have grown up to be?  Would you be working at the same job you are now?  How would your life be different?

Share with us!  Hit the comments and tell us about your best memories of school, or what you think your schooling should have been.

Disclaimer:  I should explain that I’m not a teacher.  I don’t have children in any school system.  I had a good education, for the most part, in parochial schools in the US.  But I see the kids I volunteer with struggle with fitting in, bemoaning the inadequacies of their schools, complaining about the teachers they have.  They want to learn but are being poorly served.  And if you are an introvert, you are especially handicapped in large, noisy classrooms, in a competitive group-think environment.

Hi.  I’m Chris.  I’m an introvert.  Look for my ongoing series debunking the introvert myths (Sunday) and introvert cartoons (Wednesday), plus anything else interesting that I find in the meantime.  Come and share with like-minded introverts.  I also contribute to the new food blog Three’s Cooking, learning to cook from the heart, for the soul.

21 thoughts on “When Introverts Rule the Classroom

  1. Rote learning is not all bad. For some things it is really the best way to learn. Some skills can only be perfected through drill. Quiet classrooms are also not always the best learning environments, either. A little chaos and challenge often creates sparks of insight. However a LARGE class is an unmanageable class and the noise that ensues in that environment is different from the noise of people working together (I’m an introvert but I believe strongly in group work–we don’t live in little extrovert/introvert ghettos; we live TOGETHER) to solve a problem. Not all introverts are quiet and not all introverts even NEED quiet, in fact, my experience is that an extrovert is much more likely to be distracted by what his/her classmates are doing than is the introverted student who has already shut out the world to make progress on their own.

    “Fitting in” is a challenge for kids and has been forever. There is a tension between the individual and his/her society — it’s natural, normal, eternal. I believe a lot of human progress has resulted from this tension. I think the “fitting in” thing is more about the way parents raise their children. School doesn’t do it all and the more “socialization” it’s called upon to do (nice term for babysit) the less actual teaching it will be able to do.

  2. Dream on, Introvert … It’s the same all over, me love: insightful people wanting all those things so that the kids can be better taught, vs the goddam mindless government appointees who haven’t a clue! I’m currently in a competition with a pommy blogging friend regarding whose Federal Minister for Education (or similar title) is the MOST USELESS, IGNORANT, THOUGHTLESS and EGOENTRIC MORON … At this time we haven’t decided between Gove and Pyne. I doubt we’re ever going to have a winner …

    • M.R., I know it’s the same all over. There are pockets of shining light all around the world, though, places where people are daring to break the mold and try something new.

      What I want to ask our legislators is this: why can’t we find the teachers who are doing it right, who are turning out well-adjusted and successful students, and copy that? Why can’t we find what works best and give us more of that?

      But that isn’t what we’re discussing… *sigh*… I just want to dream about what the perfect school would be like for me. For me when I was young. For me now at my *cringe* advanced age. I guess that’s why I like TED Talks so much. I like expanding my mind.

      • Please, Chris – don’t cringe about the fact that you will be 62 this year.
        I shall be 71 this year.
        That oughta make you feel better!! [grin]
        In fact, I think that when you were at the outset of your career, you didn’t have enough of the world inside you to enable you to dream of the perfect school. Imnsho, it’s only as we age that we can see what we should’ve, all those years back.
        But honestly – who’d want to be young again?
        Pas moi …

        • I know what you mean about age, and we’re going off topic here, but what the heck… the only way I’d want to be young again is if I could do it with all the knowledge and wisdom I have now. Youth is indeed wasted on the young. 🙂

          I was a real geek in school. I was in the science club, on the debate team and wrote for the school newspaper. I would have been in the band, too, if we would have had one, but we didn’t have the budget for that.

          If I were young now I’d want to go to space camp. Why don’t they have space camp for adults? Or children’s museums for adults? We like all that fun interactive learning stuff, too. Who is the idiot who declared we have to be stuffy and reserved as grown ups?

      • Well-adjusted and successful students are not really a teacher’s responsibility. I think that happens at home. Parents who value education, who teach their kids respect for others and for learning, who read to their kids at a young age, who engage their children one-on-one, who do not give in to everything their kid wants, who create a world apart from the cheap and rude reality all around us (my neighbors do this) — that’s where it starts. Schools are often blamed for what is actually poor parenting.

        • Hi Martha, I totally agree with you about this, it really is at the root a problem of parenting – but, for example in places where parents received little education on a subject, they can’t teach their children about it so we have to start somewhere else, like school of course, if we want to effect a generational change. Parents are failing all around us at providing all these great environmental structures that you correctly identity to encourage their children to succeed – in school or anywhere else for that matter – I think if we just blame them we do ourselves and the future students a great disservice… Education is the great game changer and even if it’s the tail wagging the dog, we need to start somewhere!

          • I’m not “blaming.” I’ve just stated a fact. Poor parenting (and that’s a term that embraces everything from drug addiction, child abuse, ignorance and on and on) IS responsible for many students who don’t do well in school. If students do not learn to value education at home, their chances of doing well in school (or knowing why they are there) are minimal.

            Please never imply that schools are not doing everything they can. In the past 30 years schools around me have gone from being the usual 6 hour/day temple of education to 12 hour/day semi-homes providing two meals a day, “enrichment” (baby-sitting) AND a school curriculum. I teach students every day who are in college in spite of their parents’ not wanting them to be there. I teach others who don’t know the difference between a teacher and a family member. Kids need OTHER adults in their lives who do NOT have a parental role.

            Compared to the family and society as a whole, school is a small influence on the lives of most kids. In a social climate that devalues learning (which describes the US), it’s an even smaller. Society as a whole can do a lot for those kids by placing a high value on learning, not the current $$ value it places on education.

            • Amen! I’m very sure you are right about that! I can only imagine it’s an untenable situation for teachers these days. How do you see this changing for the better, under the circumstances we face in the reality?

              • The values that would lead to what I regard as progress are no longer ascendant. Life in the future (fifty years from now, assuming there are no world-cataclysms) will be very different from now. It will be OK for the people living there.

                  • It’ll be fine. It’s happened thousands of times in human history. Don’t worry about it. We’re all in training for it right now. 🙂

                    • I wonder if there are any studies on the environmental triggers providing impetus to positive change – assuming of course that they exist and also that there may have been a time when it actually occurred!

  3. I think that an inspiring teacher’s “vert” status is irrelevant, as long as s/he is inspiring and motivational. My favorite teacher (3rd grade), if not a major extrovert, was a damned good actress about it. She used “Charlotte’s Web” like it was her personal Bible or something, starting with the concept of finding our own “Magnum Opus.” In the 3rd grade, a little gold star by your name meant a lot. Perfect papers – and she meant PERFECT – got you one of those. This fostered competition and cooperation simultaneously. Students checked each other’s papers while trying/hoping for the most stars.

    I won’t say who got the most, but when my work was done, she’d give me the stack of perfect papers (aka our Magnum Opi) for putting up stars. I hope I’m not remembering this wrong and just through rose-colored specs, but I recall feeling pretty good for the kid who often struggled in class, whenever he had papers there. He was always watching me during that time, so I’d show him any of his papers that I found in the stack, before affixing the Attaboy.

    I’m only using this as an example of a larger reward system that she used. Also: we had square dances! Do classrooms nowadays have square dances??

  4. Chris your ideas are spot on, in my totally useless opinion, it’s not helpful to play the blame game but instead revamp the entire system with specific goals to reach as you’ve listed so beautifully. I think there are governor’s schools in South Carolina that implement some of these but grandfathering out this old system in favor of a whole new system would be awesome – it just needs some awesome education designers in a few great universities to get this ball rolling, don’t you think?

  5. I think the best teachers are those who are not afraid to admit to the class that they do not have all the answers. To give their own personal opinions on, for instance, a particular history lesson. Remind the children that it was the winners who wrote “their own version” of history.
    I don’t know how this could be enforced but manners is a big big problem in Ireland. When i was at school I would get six slaps on my hand with a strap if I happened to arrive late for the umpteenth time, or if said the “F” word etc.
    It meant that any of the lads who were not being taught right from wrong, at home, were learning it the hard way at school. Or in my case at both at home and school 🙂 I was late….a lot. Boys will be boys.
    But then this practice was abolished because I think some teachers overdid it.
    I am lucky that I have three daughters and lady of the house teaches them right from wrong. So far there has been nothing but praise for their manners, on the yearly report cards.
    I strongly believe that good manners will take a person further than any College Degree. TEACH THEM TO READ, TO READ WIDELY. I think everthing else falls into place after that.
    But there again, I was never a teacher and I think it is tougher than my simple analysis.

    • I think that’s a lot of it. It’s difficult for a person with no self-discipline to learn anything. I have a student in one of my classes who is ignorant and arrogant (also 19 so it’s part of the territory). She asked me, “You mean all we do in this class is read books and write about them?” (It’s an English class.) I said, “Yeah, you’ve known that since the first day.” “But that’s not what I want to do.” She seriously BELIEVED that what SHE wanted to do should mandate what I taught. I found myself (again) in the position of defending what I was teaching. “OK, well look. After this class, you’ll spend the rest of your life doing what you want. You’ll go into your major. In this class you learn skills to help you succeed later. Got it?” She actually accepted that but all I felt was resentment at having had my buttons pushed and needing to use class time to respond to her. Narcissism vs. Education. That’s one aspect of an extremely complex problem.

  6. Unfortunately,the type of classroom & teaching style you envision would be extremely expensive & our governments just can’t afford it. And does it really serve the students? Does it really prepare them for the real world where employers want the most out of every employee for the lowest possbile pay? If we teach each child in their own special way, how are they prepared to face the world of employers who want things done a certain way, in a certain time, etc.? As it is, I think we are not preparing our children for the real world after graduation with the education system & parenting we have now. Parents today too often are “rescuing” their children without realizing the longterm consequences of teaching their children they are the center of the universe. Our children are precious & to us (who are parents) they are the center of our universe, but I think one of the greatest gifts we can give them is to teach them life isn’t always fair, the hardest worker doesn’t always get recognized, etc. But we should also teach them each generation has the opportunity to make things a little better for the rest of the world & inspire them to be one of the ones who wants to make the necessary changes.

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