School can be difficult for the young introverts of this world.
The outspoken are repeatedly praised for their willingness to jump in and command the conversation. Quick thinkers, regardless of the accuracy of their answers, earn those coveted checks for class participation over and over again when report card time rolls around. They are often tapped as leaders because they almost never hesitate when called upon to complete a task. Their confidence soars and they thrive within the classroom because we live in an extrovert-dominant world where active engagement is interpreted as being a team player.
Meanwhile the introverts, the quiet ones lost in thought, tend to slip through the cracks. Viewed as shy, despite the fact that many introverts don't actually identify as "shy", the quiet ones are sometimes left to be, well, quiet. Or they are asked to be someone else...someone more like that kid who never ever puts his hand down, even when he doesn't know the answer to the question.
I was one of the quiet ones. I enjoyed my rich internal world. I spent hours lost in imaginary play and wrote entire books in my head during particularly boring class lectures. I was thoughtful, studious and talkative in small groups but preferred solitary learning to group projects. I never felt the need to answer every question simply because I retained the information.
I learned to find my way in an extroverted world, but it didn't happen overnight. And I was never asked to change my ways -- to act in a way that ran counter to what came naturally to me. I had the benefit of growing up in a time when the world wasn't in a rush to mold every little kid into something great the minute they stepped foot in a kindergarten classroom. I was given the gift of time.
My daughter is very much like me. She's quiet, studious, reflective and empathic. Her imagination is unparalleled. She gets lost in art and writing for hours at a time and understands the power of a really great book. She loves math, science and history but doesn't feel the need to raise her hand simply because she knows the answer. She knows what she knows, and that's enough for her.
She learned the hard way that quiet learning doesn't always fly in today's classrooms.
Speak up. Speak Louder. Share your thoughts more often. Tell us what you know.
Quiet isn't bad and loud isn't good. All children have unique personalities and all children should be encouraged to learn and grow in a way that leaves them feeling confident and happy. The talkers might be easier to engage and teach, but the quiet ones have so much to offer this world.
As you send your little introvert back to school, consider these five pieces of wisdom to help your quiet one shine.
Time is a gift.
Introverts need time to process information and consider their thoughts and feelings before sharing them with others.
Thinking before you speak is a very good thing. When kids take time to think, they are more likely to use empathy and kindness in their words. Assure your child that being the first to answer does not mean being the one with the best answer.
Your light comes from within.
Introverts shine from within. They might not engage in every group discussion, but when they do, they tend to share valuable information. They make a difference.
Groupthink might be the go-to model for education at the moment, but it doesn't work for everyone. Some kids thrive in small groups but shut down in large ones, and some prefer solitary learning.
Encourage your child to let her light shine when she's ready. Remind her that she has just as much to offer as her extroverted counterparts, she's simply waiting for the right time to share her gifts with others.
Speak with confidence, not volume.
Introverts don't feel the need to answer every question or attempt to talk above the noise. In fact, many will walk away to avoid the white noise that clouds their thoughts.
Teach your child how to speak with confidence. It's not about speaking every time or commanding every room, it's about making eye contact, using a clear and calm voice and standing up straight.
Introverts are great listeners. Masters of observation, they tend to take in their surroundings and take the time to hear and consider what others are saying. While the quick talkers might seem like the obvious classroom leaders, the quiet ones thrive when given leadership roles.
Great listeners make great leaders because they take the time to understand the needs of others. Remind your child to keep listening.
Your voice counts.
Introverts might not love to stand in front of the class and recite poetry, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a lot to say. In fact, the opposite is often true. When introverted students engage in story telling, they tend to really shine.
Encourage your introverted child to share meaningful experiences with others - to tell the stories that matter to her.
Introverted students don't have to fade into the background. When children understand their personalities and how they can thrive in the classroom setting, they are better able to communicate their needs to their teachers. Take the time to help your child understand her personality so that she can begin to find her way.