Teaching Introverted Students

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Child learning to read using magnetic letters. Education School Knowledge Concept

And why it’s not always a case of getting a “shy kid” to open up

We tend to live loudly. Our ads are loud (ever noticed how whenever an ad comes on you need to reach for the remote?). Our most private conversations while taking public transport are loud. Even our sneakers are loud. But what about the quiet folk?

Most accounts put introverted people at about 40% of the population, while extroverts make up the majority. But the nature of the extrovert tends to make the difference seem even larger. Put three Gordon Ramsays in a room of three hundred introverts, and you would be mistaken for thinking you were in a cooking nightmare.

But there is also some misconception about what is means to be an introvert. What many people tend not to understand, is that being introverted does not necessarily mean you are “shy”. Shyness is a form of social reticence, while being introverted means you process information and are energized better when focusing internally.

In the classroom this becomes an important distinction.

When quietly reflecting on an answer, or pondering how to solve a problem, an introverted student may come across as shy or hesitant. But actually the student may just require some additional time to focus internally on the problem.

While some children are genuinely shy, and can benefit from gently being coaxed into having more open and frequent social interactions, introverted children are typically born that way. Rather than a problem to be fixed, introversion is a character trait that should be complemented in the right ways.

So what are some of the best ways to adapt to a more introverted child’s learning style? Firstly, it’s almost always case by case. But there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Try not to call attention to the fact they are more introverted than their peers. Dishing out behavioral labels (to children or anyone) usually does more harm than good. Rather, recognize the character traits for yourself to better work with the child.
  • Patience. As we said, an introverted person will likely never change. So the key thing to remember is that this person operates best by internalizing ideas more frequently.
  • Share some skills. Helping students undertake simple interactions and greetings will also help them develop means and ways to interact more easily with their extroverted peers. Things like small talk, greetings or occasional compliments.
  • Find what works. Remember that what worked like a charm with one kid, might not take at all with another. Take time and be constantly aware of what students respond well to.
  • Encourage interests. If your student is a thinker, try and home in on some passions or interests. For some people, making small talk about random topics is a task. But if you’re interested in the topic already, that’s half the battle won.

Have you come across many internally focused students? What have your experiences been changing your teaching style to better complement their way of doing things?