In this reflection, I will discuss the issues brought forward in Susan Cain’s (2012) TED talk entitled The Power of Introverts. This thought-provoking and poignant talk provided a multitude of worthwhile facts on what is seen as the introversion/extroversion dichotomy. One-third to one-half of people are introverts, but many of them feel that the quiet, introverted way is not appropriate, and they spend much time trying to pass as extroverts. Cain describes her journey as an introvert from a time at summer camp to the journey of writing and promoting a book on the topic. She believes we need to allow introverts to do “what they do best” and makes a call for three things: time away from constant group work, time for personal revelations, and time for everyone to share what they have to offer to the world. I will reflect on this introvert/extrovert personality trait from a personal point of view and also reflect on its impact in the classroom.
This talk reinforced my belief that I am an introvert. Many people who only know my work or volunteer persona are often surprised to hear this. My close friends and family members understand and know this is the truth. I crave alone time. I am very happy to be by myself. Have you ever seen the Facebook ads with a picture of a cabin in the woods with a caption “Could you live here for 3 months alone for $100 000?”. I wouldn’t hesitate! My husband is an extrovert, and we do have to negotiate how to manage social engagements. At times, I am keen to participate. Other times, I am happy for him to go solo. Knowing the basic premise of the introvert/extrovert definitions helps us to support each other and our sometimes very distinct needs.
I often wonder if I am becoming more of an introvert as I get older. I don’t remember craving alone time so much when I was younger. I self-identify often these days and am accepting of what and who I am- proud even. I have come to a place where I seldom participate in events that I am not interested in, but there are plenty of times when I do want to be involved. I choose carefully. The balance is very comfortable for me.
This morning, my son (13 years old) asked me what this paper was about. I asked him if he knew what introverts and extroverts were, and he replied with a very eloquent and accurate answer. Then he said, “I am definitely an introvert…but I love group work.” When I asked why he replied that he liked it because he got to work with others on bigger projects but focus on what he was best at. I think he’s got a good balance figured out too. It’s unfortunate that there are so many people who are not comfortable with their own identities and are not supported for, or encouraged to embrace, their own strengths.
Many people misunderstand this character trait. Introverts are not necessarily shy. I read some of the comments responding to Cain’s TED talk; one person said she spent “19 years of my life being ashamed of it.”. Cain also alluded to this idea when she admitted she “made these self-negating choices [to behave as an extrovert] so reflexively that I wasn’t even aware I was making them”. A basic google search gave some explanation to these feelings of negativity. Oxford dictionary (n.d.) defines an introvert as a “shy, reticent person”. Thankfully, the Urban dictionary (n.d.) is more inclusive and recognizes more components of the truth; it says introverts may have great social lives, but they need time alone to reenergize after those encounters. They enjoy and seek out solitude and like to think and be alone. The key factor that is vital to understanding the implications of introversion is about how they respond to social stimulation. Introverts harness energy from within themselves, feel drained by too much outside stimulation, and recharge with time alone. They prefer to cultivate a few close friendships and prefer to learn through observation (Schmitt 2015). Since introversion has such an impact on my life, how I feel about my interactions with others, and how I take on the world, I realize I should definitely invest some time thinking about different personalities in my classroom. How do my teaching style, instructional activities, and assessment and evaluation choices impact on the various personalities in Speechreading?
In my Speechreading courses, we have recently begun to talk about conversation styles, personality, and the continuum between introversion and extroversion. My students are typically surprised to find out that I am a self-proclaimed introvert, perhaps because, in my classroom, I am comfortable, confident, and personable. Occasionally they actually seem relieved to be told that it is acceptable! Until our discussion, many still believe that being an introvert means you are shy.
There are many sites that provide guidance on how to address the differing needs of both introverts and extroverts in the classroom and how to help both personality types do their best work (Higgin 2017, Shmoop Editorial Team 2008, and Thompson 2012). These tips give guidance on how to create a balanced classroom, for example: provide choice, embrace back channeling through digital options, redefine participation, be mindful of how class discussions are moderated, allow time to think, and be cognizant when you set up your physical space. It is vital to think about all the students’ needs and provide options that support the whole spectrum of personalities.
This reflection has made some things clearer for me. I will definitely continue to self-identify as an introvert, both socially and in the classroom. I want to make sure that I promote the true definition and what that means. I will also support my son to continue to be a proud and confident introvert.
I am committed to making changes in my teaching environment regarding this topic of introversion. I want to address both instructional strategies and assessment/evaluation procedures. I want to make a commitment to continue to use a variety of instructional activities that support the learning journey of both sides of the spectrum. Further examination of the sites referenced above will provide excellent guides in this respect. Evaluation of class participation is a large part of the Speechreading course. Although I don’t feel that I have been harsh on the more thoughtful and quiet students, I need to be sure the evaluation criteria are fair. I want to continue and perhaps expand the use of reflection in my courses, to capture these thoughtful insights. When you know better, you need to do better.
In my classroom, the learners may need encouragement to reflect on their own personalities, not only in regards to their social beings but also in thinking about any impact on becoming a more effective communicator when hearing loss is in play. I need to do more research about the impact of hearing loss related to introversion and extroversion. We had an interesting impromptu discussion on this topic in class last week. I need to follow-up to give the discussion more theoretical and research depth to support the experiential stories and provide a more solid foundation going forward.
Finally, I want to encourage my students to identify their strengths and embrace them, whatever they may be. As Cain (2012) promotes, take a good look at what’s inside “your own suitcase” and figure out why you put it there. Everyone needs to open up their suitcase and share with the world what they have to offer.
Cain, S. (2012, March 02). The power of introverts. Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4
Higgin, T. (2017, January 11). 5 Classroom Strategies That Help Introverts and Extroverts Do Their Best Work. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://www.commonsense.org/education/blog/5-classroom-strategies-that-help-introverts-and-extroverts-do-their-best-work
Oxford Dictionaries – Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/
Schmitt, P. (2015, April). How Personality Type Affects Your Student’s Experience in the Classroom | Parents Newsletter. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://parent.wisc.edu/newsletter-story/how-personality-type-affects-your-students-classroom-experience/
Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). The Differing Needs of Introverts and Extroverts in the Classroom. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from http://www.shmoop.com/teachers/classroom-management/students-classrooms/introverts-vs-extroverts.html
Thompson, S. (2012, January). Introvert? Extrovert? Tips for a Balanced Classroom. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from http://www.canadianteachermagazine.com/archives/ctm_teaching_ideas/janfeb2012-introvert-extrovert.shtml
Urban Dictionary, April 26: introvert. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from http://www.urbandictionary.com/