Supporting the Quiet Student



I attended a great parent ed event last week at a local high school with Heidi Kasevich, who runs the Quiet Schools Network.

The focus of the lecture was how we can support quiet, or introverted students. Our society has a strong cultural dynamic around an extroverted ideal. Susan Cain writes about this in her book, Quiet. We have a tendency as a culture to associate negative personality traits with introverts and conversely, positive traits with extroverts.

Our schools are more and more focused on group work, project based learning and working in teams. We continue to take down walls and classrooms can be noisy and loud. As it relates to students, introverted kids are labeled “shy”, “loners” or “anti-social”. In reality, introverts and extroverts are wired differently. Extroverts like people nearby, work well with background noise, enjoy meeting new people and group work. Introverts, on the other hand, like small gatherings, 1:1 work, like working alone and to retreat to a quiet place to be productive.

In reframing how we look at introverted students, we see that they are active listeners, deliberate, caring and have a true sense of purpose. They think before they speak.  They can also need more time to get comfortable, or as Kasevich says, “need long runways”. As parents, we can help quiet students by getting them to arrive early to school, plan on their contributions in class ahead of time and encourage them to ask questions in class. In addition, a planner to help with managing students down time is great for quiet students. (No we didn’t pay her to say that!) In the same way we talk about planners for setting expectations, quiet students benefit from knowing when they will have time to be alone and will help them when they feel overwhelmed. How great is that?

As it relates to leadership and future success, we need a balance of extroverts and introverts in a work environment to be successful. Introverts make great leaders as they are humble, ask questions and really listen to their coworkers and peers. If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book, Quiet.

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