How Teachers Can Make School Better for Introverted Students

A teacher helps an introverted student

Teachers should recognize that introverted students have a lot of strengths and don’t need to be “fixed.”

During my long stint as an educator (don’t call me old!), I’ve met students from all sorts of backgrounds — and more importantly, with a wide range of characters, temperaments, and personalities.

I wouldn’t say I have personal favorites, but being an introvert myself, I’ve always had a soft spot for the introverted kids. Since they’re in the minority and, well, quiet, they often go unnoticed. However, they’re usually the first students I’m drawn to in a group.

At school, students get a taste of what it means to be part of society, though on a smaller scale. The focus is on shared experiences, and most activities are carried out collectively.

Yet, introverts also have a wealth of strengths that could easily become valuable skills in the workplace.

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The Strengths of Introverted Students

Introverts often excel in reflection, thorough research, and deep thinking, among other reasons to celebrate them. They are usually self-reliant and good at careful contemplation, making them great investigators and analysts. For instance, in debates, they may be particularly adept at organizing and developing their teams’ arguments.

While I’m not suggesting that traditional teaching methods should be completely abandoned, I do have a personal list of tweaks I’d like to see in the field of education. These changes would help make introverted students feel recognized and make their educational journey easier.

How Teachers Can Make School Better for Introverted Students

1. Give them solo projects.

Alena, a former student of mine, was quite shy when we first met. I remembered my own school days and knew not to push her too hard. After all, many classrooms favor extroverted students, which is a disservice to introverts.

Once Alena felt comfortable, she revealed that she didn’t enjoy group activities. She also felt that the forced “cohabitation” with her classmates — through no fault of their own — was too intense for her.

Our school policy required homework, so I usually assigned classic grammar exercises, which Alena, with her knack for languages, quickly completed. But one day, she approached me with a request for different assignments.

“Would you mind assigning me something different, too?” she asked.

Her request caught me off-guard — not because of what she asked, but because she had never asked for anything like this before. I’ll admit that my teacher’s pride was particularly gratified that such a quiet student felt confident enough to ask for more assignments.

I suggested she choose some of her favorite English words, research them, and then create a detailed presentation. This would give her a taste of some vocabulary we would cover later in the curriculum.

I had no doubt she would write a great piece, but I was utterly unprepared for the level of accuracy in the project she submitted — she had gone above and beyond.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if Alena’s project had been a group task, it would have turned out differently. While group work can also lead to excellent results, Alena’s outstanding work showcased her remarkable research skills. It reflected her independence, thoughtfulness, and ability to dig deep into subjects.

2. Make them the leaders in small-group activities.

I understand that stepping out of their comfort zone might be challenging for some introverted students, so I wouldn’t push this initiative too hard. However, I’m dead-serious about the benefits: In a leadership role, students get real experience of being in charge — having all eyes on them, peers relying on their guidance, and making decisions.

Introverted students often prove to be effective leaders. For example, their natural propensity for thoughtful consideration means they’ll listen to all sides, taking all voices into account. This inclusive approach ensures that the final project truly reflects the group’s collective effort, incorporating a diverse range of viewpoints for a richer outcome.

All kids need a confidence boost, and this is especially true for introverted children.

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3. Make room for solitary learning.

As a student, I often skipped classes. There was no ill intent, but confining 

myself to the same room as 35 other souls for an entire day, five times a week, proved absolutely draining.

Sometimes, I pretended to be sick to enjoy a relaxed morning of cartoon marathons and whatever novel I was consuming at the moment. This was my way of recharging my social battery — a concept I didn’t know at the time. Once recharged, I could focus on my studies… until the day my math teacher confronted me. He made me stand in front of the class and handed me my poor attendance record.

“From now on,” my professor announced, pausing for a tense moment, “no more absences under any circumstances.”

While humiliating, I later understood he was trying to help me. I’m not dismissing the importance of attending class. However, looking back, I see that the traditional classroom setting wasn’t a good fit for my introverted personality.

I wasn’t able to think things through at my own pace in a quiet space. Moreover, having to wake up at 6 a.m. for a long commute meant I arrived at school already mentally exhausted.

I want to urge educators to recognize the importance of solitary learning moments. They meet the needs of introverted students and are beneficial for all learners. By promoting independent learning, we allow students to take control of their unique educational journeys.

4. Avoid pressuring them.

As educators, it’s natural to want to include every student. However, this approach doesn’t always consider individual needs.

While it’s good to encourage introverted students to participate in debates and share their perspectives, it’s crucial not to overwhelm them. Yes, this is a particularly delicate balance to achieve. But, this way, they’ll receive the message that they are valued members of the group, regardless of how much they choose to participate.

Embrace Introverted Students

When I told my closest friend that I was going back to school, her expression revealed her disapproval. “But it will be impossible to fit classes and studying into your schedule!” she finally said.

I appreciated her concern, but in truth, I’ve never done better as a student: I’m enjoying a self-paced learning program from the comfort of any location I choose. At age 33, I believe I’ve found the ideal academic setting for myself.

Reflecting on the challenges I faced in school when I was younger, I wish educational institutions would adopt a more holistic approach that considers students’ individual qualities, preferences, and talents. This effort should extend to all aspects of school life, including class formats, activities, extracurriculars, and self-study sessions.

Yes, it’s a difficult challenge, but I believe it’s worth a try.

I also think that embracing diversity in activities and recognizing the importance of nurturing individual strengths in the curriculum would benefit both students and teachers. By doing so, introverted students will know that they are considered a part of the class no matter what — they don’t need to be “fixed.” I truly believe that this kind of unconditional acceptance is one of the most impactful things a teacher can offer.

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