Nothing demonstrates that the world is not designed for introverts, particularly intuitive introverts, like the school system. Participation grades, a non-flexible schedule, and a one-size-fits all curriculum are just several of the ways that the school system reveals its utter lack of understanding of the needs of a small but unique part of the population—those with INFJ, INTJ, INFP, and INTP personality types, who are collectively known as “introverted intuitives.”
As an INTJ, I had significant struggles in school, including daily frustration, overstimulation, and a lack of motivation due to my needs being ignored. I needed a challenge, but instead I was told to stop calling my work “easy.” I needed time to reflect in order to come up with good answers to questions, but I was encouraged to respond immediately to questions in order for the teacher to think I was paying attention. Most importantly, I needed someone to recognize that a curriculum is designed for the students, not the other way around.
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My parents, who are also introverted intuitives, decided to remove me from school and homeschool me, which was the best thing they could have done for me. However, homeschooling is not feasible for many people, so I have come up with some suggestions for the school system that we can all fight to accomplish in order to better meet the needs of introverted intuitives:
1. Don’t judge a student by how much they participate. Participation grades supposedly indicate if a student is paying attention. But honestly, does it matter if a student is paying attention as long as they understand the material? Furthermore, what good does it do for a student to participate heavily in class discussions but give long winded, incorrect answers? Introverted intuitives often need a lot of time to formulate a good response to a question. We are perfectionists and want to make sure that we say something meaningful, or else we say nothing at all. Many people are faster thinkers and have a talent for responding to questions immediately. Because these students often speak up in class first, it may seem like they are paying more attention, thus they receive higher participation grades. Some colleges use an electronic clicker system for yes or no and multiple choice questions so everyone gets chance to respond. While this is not always feasible for younger students, some way of evaluating a student’s comprehension besides what they are willing to say in front of their peers is essential when teaching introverted intuitive students.
2. Ask parents about the needs of their children. My mom, an INFJ, was (and is) very perceptive to my needs, and hopefully most parents understand the needs of their children as well. If my teachers, during the numerous parent-teacher conferences she attended, had listened to her when she explained that I needed a challenge, my school experience would have been much better. Instead she was told the school’s policy, which stated that students could not test out of grades but they could have additional worksheets and assignments. I ended up feeling frustrated by having to do more busywork. Overall, it would benefit students if school systems relied less on rules and guidelines and more on the individual people those guidelines are designed for.
3. Focus more on quality of work, less on quantity. Intuitives love to think about things. We live in our heads and often our inner worlds are where we are comfortable. Combine that with being introverts, and we need a lot of time to recharge. Giving us a lot of homework, especially if we already understand the material, is an easy way to crush our spirits and make us hate school. Instead it would be better for teachers to cut out the plethora of time-wasters in the school day to make it efficient enough to allow elementary students to have little, if any, homework. In my classrooms, if we had spent 5 minutes lining up instead of 10 minutes 6 times a day, that would have freed up 30 minutes for extra work. Furthermore, if we didn’t have an hour of silent reading time, that would have allowed for a whole hour of more structured learning, permitting students a chance do their work at school instead of at home. This would allow students the time and energy to read or pursue their interests.
4. Allow independence for the kids who need it. If a student is getting great grades and seems to be bored during group discussions or teaching, there’s no reason why they should have to sit through 45 minutes of teaching time. I remember one time I finished my work early and asked the teacher for another assignment so I wouldn’t have to just sit and wait for the other kids like I normally had to. She told me to write a paragraph about something we were learning. I was so happy that I finally got what I wanted and had a more challenging goal to work towards. I can understand why teachers have a schedule—many kids need and benefit from external structure and large groups of students can be difficult to manage—but for me, the feeling of being controlled caused me to hate school. Being granted more independence would have made me motivated and excited about what we were learning.
Although introverted intuitives are a minority, we are not victims nor should we act like it. If we and those who parent children of our personality types become more vocal about our needs, perhaps we can create classroom environments that are more suited for our types.
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