Am I Failing the Introverts in My Classroom?

If you’ve ever met me in person, this might catch you by surprise:  I am an introvert.

That doesn’t mean I can’t stand in front of a group of people and deliver a good presentation.  That also doesn’t mean that I can’t be playful and loud and gregarious.  In fact, I’m pretty good at all of that stuff.  Gimme an audience and a microphone and I’ll make someone laugh, that’s for sure.  Need proof?  Then ask me to sing The Canadian National Anthem or the Devil Went Down to Georgia someday.  I’ll belt both out at the top of my lungs no matter where we happen to be standing.

But I learn best when I’m lost in my own thoughts.  

Writing and reading aren’t just personal passions — they are the moments in my life when I’m left alone to reflect and recharge.  Stop by the booth in the back of the dirty McDonalds where I spend entirely too much time and I’ll nod and smile from behind my screen, but please don’t sit down and start a conversation with me.  It will feel like an interruption to me — and interruptions destroy my intellectual flow.  That might come across as selfish, but it is the truth.

Now, I’m not saying that I CAN’T learn with others.

I actually dig moments where I can connect with thinkers that I enjoy and admire.  I recognize their expertise and appreciate their feedback.  They are a source of challenge and inspiration and they tend to drive my thinking in new directions.  But those moments can also leave me feeling more than a little overwhelmed — not because I’m socially awkward or nervous or full of anxiety, but because I know that I will leave with tons of new ideas that I know that I’ll need to wrestle with before I can move forward.

What’s interesting about all of this to me is that despite seeing myself as an introvert, I’m pretty sure that my classroom prioritizes extroverts.  There are constant opportunities for checking in with partners.  Group conversations are the norm rather than the exception to the rule.  Projects are always done in pairs — and they happen all the time.  My lessons are fast-paced and full of energy and there’s few moments set aside for genuine introspection.

A part of that is my response to implicit suggestions that being “college and career ready” means being extroverted.  Read through research and you are likely to see report after report about the importance of teamwork in the modern workplace.  Rumor has it that companies aren’t looking for folks who learn best when they are buried inside their own minds.  Instead, they are looking for folks who can collaborate on complex problems —  driving innovation by building on and challenging the ideas of one another.

A part of that is my response to the notion that I’m trying to reach “the connected generation.”  Sometimes I feel like I am competing with a thousand sources of enertainment that rest a few clicks away for today’s kids.  If every lesson isn’t filled with heaping doses of whiz-bang, I figure I’m going to lose an audience that has learned to hit the reset button the moment something doesn’t go their way.  Pauses are interruptions to the impatient, aren’t they?

And a part of that is my response to trying to teach a ridiculous curriculum.  With a thousand objectives to get through in 180 days, I pack action into every moment of every single school day.  That’s not because I don’t see any value in sitting with thoughts.  Heck — I’m sitting with my own thoughts right now.  It’s because I feel a very real pressure to cover everything that’s mentioned in North Carolina’s science standards — and that turns every school year into a full court press.

That’s all a failure for some of my students, isn’t it?

Michael Godsey — author of When Schools Overlook Introverts — certainly thinks so.  He writes:

It seems that such efforts have, for the most part, struggled to effect much change in the educational world. The way in which certain instructional trends—education buzzwords like “collaborative learning” and “project-based learning” and “flipped classrooms”—are applied often neglect the needs of introverts.

In fact, these trends could mean that classroom environments that embrace extroverted behavior—through dynamic and social learning activities—are being promoted now more than ever. These can be appealing qualities in the classroom, of course, but overemphasizing them can undermine the learning of students who are inward-thinking and easily drained by constant interactions with others.

He also writes:

I used to think their ubiquitous earbuds were feeding their need for stimulation; now I wonder if they’re sometimes blocking out the noise.

So what’s the solution?  

I’m not sure.  The simple truth is that finding space for introspection in days that are straight slammed and in schools that prioritize action over reflection won’t be easy to do.  But I can promise to stop judging the “quiet kids” in my classroom.  Intead of seeing them as disengaged, I’m going to force myself to remember that learning doesn’t have to be loud and messy to be meaningful.


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  • Joanne Fuchs

    I like that you asked us to

    I like that you asked us to think about it instead of telling us what to do. You have a chance to reflect. And as an introvert myself, that is what I will do. 

    • D. B. Gilbert



      the quite thinkers are forgotten – until the finally put into action some thought they've had. Confidence breeds conversation, coddling empowers fear as a solution. Insecurity results in slow or no development of self efficacy. Which leads to low self esteem, which breeds and grooms introverts. Teach confidence by proving to them that they can do it, they are intelligent and achieve on successful levels – then they will want to share as confidence rises do does efficacy. When they believe in themselves and their ability the hands go up and class  participation rises. They now believe they are worthy. The introvert, a fancy word for fear has been replaced with knowledge confidence self efficacy and the unshakable belief that they are worthy. Yes, we should be awear of and help the introverts break out of their cycle of self doubt that keeps them self excluded from the rest; sitting quietly by themselves. It is a condition, a learned mechanism for coping. Our moderator admits in her statements she was an introvert. She may still feel the fear when stepping on a stage to talk to groups. But, that is not proof she is still an introvert. The fact she claims she is still, is proof of her trained belief in the label she and so many wear. As her confidence in her self-worth grew self esteem & efficacy grew. The introvert has been gone for s long time, yet the comfort of a filimar label remains. Like a bad habit you've had so long it's now accepted as part of your normal everyday life. 

      Being introverted is like not knowing how to swim. The learner must 1st have belief in the trainer or they never even put a toe in the water.  The trainer's 1st job is instilling confidence through encouragement (to put your courage in them) then they enter the water, not knowing how to swim there is much fear – they've never done it before. As the instruction guidance and encouragement and love continue, so then does the confidence of the learner. In time they get in the water, submerge their head for the 1st time, mimic swimming, practice while being supported by the trainer. Then actually  swim beside the trainer then finally swim with no help at all. The introvert (fear) is gone – replace with a participanting confident student. 

      • Bryan

        Not Quite.

        Nope.   I disagree.  Introversion is not fear nor is it a lack of confidence.  A lack of confidence and "introversion" can appear the same, but don't be so naive to confuse the two of them.  It is simply a preferred personality type.  That's it.  That's the whole point of the article.  If you see it as a personality flaw that needs to be fixed by some confidence technique then you are flat out wrong.

        Let me explain it this way.  My Grade 6 daughter is introverted, and she has (for lack of a better word…) a bully for a teacher.  You know the type…  "Come on!  Don't you get it yet??"  She needs time to process.. Quietly… Alone…  but when pressured, she will default to whatever answer comes easily to her.  Right or wrong, she will say it out…  Or she will shut down and mind block on the simplest of problems.  

        There are 2 factors at work here.  

        ONE:  The teacher needs to realize that she is an INTROVERT and likes to process things 1) quietly, 2) alone and 3) in her own time,

        TWO: CONFIDENCE – he needs to remember that school is about us reaching the learners, not about making them conform to our teaching.  

        These are 2 distinctly separate factors that are contributing to her struggles.  Don't confuse them.  

  • Linda Phillips


    As an Instructional Coach, I am always aware of students who need space – to make connections, to process information, etc.  I try to emphasize in my work the power of pausing to allow this introspection to occur.  If we don't give students opportunities to make connections, to process their thinking, they won't hang onto the work we are doing.  Just as we all practiced the usefulness of wait time, we need to become practitioners of the power of pausing for introspection.

    • Jeanie Street


      wait time is so important. As educators, we are often so focused on getting the material presented; we forgot that crucial "wait time". 

      Thank you for a very relevant post  


  • DeAnna Miller

    Though Provoking

    Thank you for posting this.  As an introvert, I’ve often found myself in your shoes, creating a learning environment more conducive for extroverted learning.  Your blog has caused me to re-examine my lesson planning to ensure that I am creating time for my introverted students to reflect on the learning they are doing.  Of course, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing for our extroverted students to do as well.  Thank you for such a thought provoking post.

  • kelly Carter

    High School Math and admin intern

    I really like this point! I am working with teachers to engage learners, and I needed to read this. Introverts look different than extroverts when engaged…we can't judge their quietness. I am going to use this, thank you.

  • kelly Carter

    High School Math and admin intern

    I really like this point! I am working with teachers to engage learners, and I needed to read this. Introverts look different than extroverts when engaged…we can't judge their quietness. I am going to use this, thank you.

  • Mary Ellen

    Middle School Science

    I think about this a lot.  I really try to not require my students to verbally participate more than they need or are comfortable with when it is not required, and providing opportunities for both group and individual learning activities.  I recently read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, it has great application for educators.

  • Introspeculation

    Gina LaBarbera

    It is the job of educators to reach all learners. We are pushed to push collaboration and conversations. We often force kids to work together with peers that they are not necessarily comfortable with because that is the real world, right? You don't always get to pick you coworkers and partners… Thank you for helping me see another perspective. We all get caught up in what we are supposed to be doing. We are pressured to get through the curriclum and although we are differentiating, formally and informally assessing students, those quite thinkers may get overlooked. I am faulted at moving too fast, not giving enough think time. I know this is something I need to work on. I am always so concerned with keeping it moving and making sure the students are not sitting still too long or they may become disengaged without realizing I may be doing a disservice to those who need "think time." Thank you for taking that think time and sharing your thoughts.

  • shawnkemp

    yes i agree that for better

    yes i agree that for better understanding with student this is necessary to make a connection and relationship with between students and teachers. however the tips you mentioned in such awkward situation is very usefull. thanks for that. leather jackets

  • Michaelconner

    Middle School Teacher

    Many people who got success in their fields are introverts. In recent days a research paper service made excellent research on human psychology and published papers on introverts. Introvert problem is cured by taking of children from child hood.