Friday, 4 December 2015

The Shy Versus the Outspoken - Judy Dimhoihkim, Head of Department of Education



Learning is rapidly shifting from conventional methods of classroom teaching to more practical learning strategies. In a conventionalclassroom environment, an introvert student may not reach the expectations of a teacher; because they need more time and space to develop their ideas and express them. In most cases the extrovert students stand out more and receive appreciation, whereas the introvert students often tend to be sidelined in the classroom. There is nothing wrong in being an introvert, and as teachers, one must be observant of the different personalities in the classroom and try to create an active learning classroom that makes the introverts feel safe to express themselves. We take a closer look at how teachers play a vital role in providing support to help introvert students.

The Shy Versus the Outspoken 

Our classrooms are composed of students from different spectrums; the extrovert, the introvert, and the ambivert. Extroverts are outgoing, socially confident persons, while introverts prefer keeping to themselves. Ambiverts have a balance of extrovert and introvert features in their personality. I intend to focus on the introverts who we usually see as quiet, reserved, and active listeners. They are shy.  Most of the time we tend to focus on the ambiverts and extroverts, unconsciously ignoring the introverts. In fact most of our teaching, classroom activities, and learning are associated with the extroverts and ambiverts. Teachers need to realize the importance of student’s identity. Extroverts will always be lively and participate actively, which might not be the case with the introverts. A third to a half of the population are introverts, so that means one out of every two or three people we know are introverted. Just as forcing the extrovert to be an introvert would be futile, we should also give space to the introverts to do what they think is best whether it be reading, writing, thinking, or any other activity. Their identity should be identified and respected. As much as the extroverts crave for social stimulation, the introverts need a quieter place, a more low-key environment where they feel most alive. They need quiet time to refuel.  Research has proven that introverts are better with grades and are more knowledgeable, even though an ideal student, according to most of us, would be the extrovert.

It is time for a teacher with all her/his innovative practices to create a safer learning environment for introverts. They should be given more choices with regards to choosing their assignments and classroom activities. Most of them are better at writing than speaking. They work best on their own, rather than in a group. They need time to prepare for interaction, conversation, and process their thoughts and emotions.  An uncomfortable task, like forcing them to respond in front of the class, is an attack on their identity.

There are times when the introverts are expected to be more like the extroverts, which is quite impossible. We all recognize ourselves as belonging to one or the other type. We need a better balance. This is mostly important when it comes to boosting creativity and productivity, because when psychologists look at the lives of most creative people, they find that people who are great at innovative ideas have had a serious streak of introversion in them. This solitude is a crucial ingredient for creativity. Some of our transformative leaders in history like Gandhiji, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc have been introverts. These people describe themselves as being quiet, shy, and soft-spoken. Susan Cain, the author of the 2012 non-fiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, says that when it comes to leadership, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership position. This is because introverts tends to be very careful, and much less likely to take outsize risks, both of which are favourable qualities required for these positions.

We need a classroom with teachers who are able to identify the students and teach accordingly. Apart from teaching students to work on their own, schools need to teach the students to work together as a group. Space should be given to both introverts and extroverts. They should be encouraged to come back with their own ideas which they generate by their own unique means. It is important for teachers to stop using negative labels for introversion. Failure to respond, and preference to work alone are often wrongly understood as problem cases.  We must recognize their identity rather than force them to alter their personality! They might not always raise their hand when asked a question or respond as expected, but introverts are more of active listeners, which is a vital part of participation. As teachers, we want all our students to feel confident, so we have to provide them the vehicle for self expression. This could be through non-traditional modes of assessment such as painting, writing, chart-making, and thus provide them a tool for coping.

To support my views, here is my experience as a teacher where I’ve come across different kinds of students. Being part of our college’s mentoring programme, my mentees are mostly introverts. They are shy, reserved, aloof from the group, and whenever we had a group mentoring session, it always ended up with me being the active participant. When I approached them asking how they would want the session to be conducted, surprisingly they told me that they would prefer a one-on-one session. Following their requests we had few sessions and it was an absolute success. The common problem my introverted mentees faced was expressing their ideas, giving presentations, and conversing with their class-mates(their socializing skills). Many times, they are down and depressed, and tell me how difficult it is for them to socialize and be understood by their fellow mates and teachers. I found a way to solve this problem by providing them with an environment for socializing with a friend with a similar temperament. It’s a relief for introverts to find other introverts with whom they share interests. They are now much happier, and more adjustable individuals with the capacity to never give up. The key here is to maximize the environment favourable for different spectrums of students so as to optimize their talent and excel in life.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org

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