For both introverted and extroverted students, school can be full of hurdles. Stressors are everywhere, from keeping up with homework, studying for tests and trying to earn good grades to feeling pressured to make and keep friends and fit in. But for introverts, the classroom can be even more treacherous. Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, in her book, The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World, explains the specific challenges introverted students face:
First, just being out in the world and focusing externally burns their energy. They’re often operating outside their comfort zone, which makes it harder to do their best. Typical classrooms consume gallons of fuel because they are noisy, full of visual distractions, and require close proximity to others. It’s difficult to hear, especially if people speak quickly or have accents. And on top of all this, there’s often little time or space to recharge.
Second, innies are pressured to process information, communicate, and finish work quickly. They are measured by the ability to work speedily, assume tasks before they feel ready, and take timed tests. In addition, they are often forced into situations that they struggle with, such as speaking before the class, assimilating others’ standards and views, managing interruptions, shifting from topic to topic, and working in groups. Plus, innies may be overlooked in classrooms. Rowdy students often take up the teacher’s attention.
Introverts often come home from school feeling mentally exhausted. They need some recovery time before they can move on to the next task, activity or conversation. They may retreat to their bedroom to be alone or simply zone out and not want to talk. They may sit quietly with a book or electronic device, intensely focusing on just one thing, until they feel better. The hardest part is introverted students must get up the next morning and repeat this cycle again. During a typical week—which may include additional social obligations, gymnastics practice, piano lessons and so on—there is not enough time to fully recharge before the next school day is upon them.
Introverts make up 30-50 percent of the population, so up to half of the students in any given classroom are introverted. Are schools ignoring the needs of up to half their students?
As an introvert, what was your experience in school? If you have introverted children, what is school like for them?
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