By Trevor Muir
A blogger just slapped me in the face.
Ow John Spencer.... ow.
One of his most recent blog posts, "Teaching Introverts," discusses the idea that introverts have needs that might look different than the needs of extroverts, yet many of the strongly pushed education reforms and practices are aimed towards benefiting the extrovert.
"Collaboration is key."
"Project Based Learning means students don't have to work alone anymore."
"Space needs to be opened up. Look at the offices of the newest, best tech companies. Nobody has an individual space assigned to them."
He then challenges the reader to consider the needs of introverts as well.
"Solitude matters. Some kids need a little extra alone time in order to have thinking space."
"Kids need to have a place of their own, both physically and mentally."
"Allow some (if not all) kids to process things alone before they go to peer-to-peer or whole group discourse."
I believe John's main point is that there must be balance; space and solidarity must be given to the introverts to think and process. Not every student is wired to collaborate and communicate 100% of the time. Not everyone is an extrovert.
And that is what slapped me in the face (unintentionally I believe).
Hello, my name is Trevor, and I am an extrovert.
There, I said it.
I do well in large groups. I am comfortable sharing my ideas and emotions with others. Presenting in front of people is one of my favorite things to do, and my only fears beforehand are if I will have a perfect presentation or not. I can be a little loud sometimes.
And this is the mindset that I teach with. I think of the ways I learn best and am most receptive, and then want my students to do the same. I slap grades onto presentations, and deduct points from 9th graders who are not comfortable (or ready) to speak in front of 50 of their classmates. I make most of the groups my students work in groups of 4, so that they have more ideas being contributed, even though some of my introverts do not contribute at all in groups that big.
There is an incredible commons space outside of my classroom beautifully designed for students to work in groups. TV screens with 4 VGA cables hooked up to them so students can project what's on their laptops up on the screen. Restaurant booths where small groups of students can sit and face each other while they work together. Long and comfortable couches where groups can huddle around and bounce ideas off of each other.
The perfect place for extroverted group magic to take place.
But also an incredible location for an introverted student who needs solitary processing time to escape the busy classroom and think alone.
However, I don't always treat it that way. Students have said to me, "Can I go into the commons and work on my paper?"
And my reply is often, "No, we're going to work on our papers in the classroom. You can go into the commons later during group work time."
I am perfectly fine working on a paper in a packed, busy classroom. Some students are not. And I am slowly becoming aware of that fact. I am not allowing many of my students to learn and grow at their full capacity.
And although I cringe when I think of the numerous instances where I have created a classroom environment catering only to extroverts like me, I'm looking forward to going to school tomorrow where I can practice changing that.
If you haven't already, read John's blog @ http://www.educationrethink.com/2014/03/teaching-introverts.html
Thanks for the slap.
Image Credit: Michaela Chung, introvertspring.com