“Get together for a group discussion!” my teacher cheers a wide smile on his face. The other students sigh in relief, happy to be avoiding written work but I am filled with dread. It seems every teacher only values group learning when I would much rather just read the book and write an analysis on it. This is not only a problem I face but one that nearly every introvert encounters. The public school system is designed for the extroverts of the world, even if some teachers try to accommodate different teaching styles the structure of the school day is not one for introverts.
1. We spend at least 7 hours with lots of people without reprieve
Introverts, like myself, can many times feel exhausted when around a lot of people, especially if we are interacting with others most of the time.
In truth, there is no escape from other people in school unless you rush to the bathroom to hide.
Your peers are with you when you go to lunch, in class, moving through the hallways, in the locker rooms, everywhere and that can feel overwhelming. To be clear, it’s not that introverts dislike other people’s company we just find energy in having some alone time and need to ‘recharge’. While extroverts draw energy from their classmates, the school day leaves introverts feeling drained.
2. Our schools place an emphasis on group learning and socialization
Group projects, group discussions, presentations, and other activities foster the “group think” mentality. Just think back to your early days in pre-school where you would sing the alphabet with your entire class or do arts and crafts with the other students. The young child who would rather read a picture book in the corner or listen to the ABC song alone is immediately ostracized and their teachers worry they may be a ‘loner’. Group learning can be fun and useful when you need a second opinion, but the school system seems to forget that quiet time and solo activities can be just as beneficial.
Solitude can be a catalyst for innovation, some people create and think better by themselves.
Teachers are taught in workshops to create group lessons and that students learn best together when in reality such teaching styles do not take into account the different personalities of students.
3. We are undervalued and overlooked
The entire world strives towards the ‘extrovert ideal’, which as explained by Susan Caine, is the belief that the ideal person is outgoing, comfortable in the spotlight and social. This extrovert ideal is seen in our education system from a young age. We see it every time teachers praise the children who always raise their hand to answer a question but not the ones who quietly excel. When we make our students believe they need to be the best oratorical speakers or be able to socialize the best to be successful instead of accepting all the strengths introverts have to offer.
Our teachers see us but do not hear us because they only hear the extroverts who are yelling their quick opinions rather than listening to our carefully crafted thoughts.
One of the easiest ways we can start making school more fitting for introverts is to have fewer group activities, more solo work, fewer presentations and we can start encouraging their strengths. As fellow introvert and writer, Susan Caine says “everyone shines given the right lighting”. We just need to make school a place where introverts can grow as they are, not a place where they feel the need to change to conform.