What Do Teachers Really Think Of Quiet Kids?

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Overcome Shyness What Do Teachers Really Think Of Quiet Kids?Did you catch yesterday’s news story about Natalie Munro, the high school English teacher from Pennsylvania who blogged her true feelings about her students? Apparently failing to comprehend the public nature of the Internet, she mused about the nasty things she wished she could write on her students’ report cards.

It was an awful abuse of trust,  and a dunderheaded use of the blogging medium. But that’s not what I want to focus on here;  others have already covered that very effectively.

I want to talk about Munro’s view of quiet and shy students. Here, according to her blog entry of January 21, 2010, is what she wished she could put on their report cards:

“A kid that has no personality.”

“She just sits there emotionless for an entire 90 minutes, staring into the abyss, never volunteering to speak or do anything.”

“Shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying. Must learn to advocate for himself instead of having Mommy do it.”

Munro seemed to have no understanding of how tough a place the typical American high school can be for introverts — like an all-day cocktail party without any alcohol. She believed that these kids should suck it up and act like everyone else. And she was right, to a certain extent; we all need to fake it a little, extroverts too. I’ve met many introverted kids who are thriving and happy, and most of them have learned how to adopt an extroverted persona when need be.

But consider this question: Why do so many high-functioning people look back at high school as the worst time of their lives — and why do we accept this as normal?

As adults, we get to choose the careers, spouses, and social circles that suit us. Bill Gates and Bill Clinton thrive in very different work environments. But for schoolchildren, it’s one size fits all — and the size on offer is usually extra-extroverted.

One saving grace are the teachers who understand all this, the teachers who connect with the kid in the back row thinking amazing thoughts that he’s uncomfortable sharing aloud with  25 classmates. I’ve spent a lot of time touring schools and observing classrooms, and I’ve met some great and sensitive teachers along the way. If you read through Munro’s blog, she’s clearly a Piece of Work — not representative of your typical teacher.

I also know how hard it is for teachers when students are reluctant to participate in class. Once I taught two back-to-back negotiation seminars — a Wednesday night class and a Thursday night class. The Wednesday night class discussions were always lively and animated. But in the Thursday night class, the participants stared at me as if I had two heads, and wanted me to do all the talking. This made my job so much harder and — on a day-to-day basis –  less fulfilling. Some of those students wrote me letters when the class was all done, expressing how deeply they’d enjoyed it. I was surprised each and every time; I’d assumed they hadn’t liked the class at all. So I have tremendous respect for teachers who work gracefully with their “Thursday night” students.

But I’m afraid that they are the exceptions; studies show that the vast majority of our teachers believe that the “ideal student” is an extrovert. Which is extraordinary, when you consider how many of our greatest thinkers were introverts. Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, Steven Spielberg, Larry Page, J.K. Rowling: none of them would have made “ideal students.”

If I had one wish, it would be to reverse the stigma against introversion for children, so that the next generation won’t grow up with the secret self-loathing that plagues so many introverted grown-ups today.

I’ll be posting a lot about introverted kids, helping parents and teachers to identify and cultivate their incredible potential.

In the meantime: What do you think? What experiences did you or your kids have at school?

*Big hat tip to my good friend, Jeff Kaplan, for alerting me to the Natalie Munro brouhaha!


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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tim Stock and mtupot, susancain. susancain said: What do teachers really think of quiet kids?: http://bit.ly/e3zaP0 [...]

  2. Jackie on 17.02.2011 at 11:14 (Reply)

    What an insightful post.

    My first experience with parent teacher conferences was a real eye opener in just how many teachers are just looking to get through the day.

    Disappointing but too often true. That’s why a gifted teacher is remembered forever….

  3. Maureen Soules, CID, IIDA on 17.02.2011 at 11:46 (Reply)

    Susan, I’m really enjoying your blog! My own experience in High School was actually pretty happy; I guess I’m a “High Functioning” introvert. Both of my parents were teachers, AND introverts as well, so I learned a lot of coping mechanisms from them.

    My High School class was over 600 people, so I found it very easy to “disappear in a crowd” and often did. Yet, I was active in the show choir, theatre troupe and most of the creative arts. However,it was the social events that made my teeth itch. The cast parties AFTER the performances is where I wanted to shrink away and not be noticed. Most people are very surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert, because I appear to be outgoing. I’m always considered “friendly” yet have very few friends.

    What these people don’t see is how I retreat to my home and collapse in a sweat after a cocktail party at work, or how I’m always the first to leave a social event because I find them so draining.

    I would love for you to write about the difference between being shy and being introverted. So many people assume they are the same. Most shy people are probably introverts, but not all introverts are shy. Johnny Carson and David Letterman are two more classic introverts, yet they both are huge public personalities. Bill Clinton? NOT an introvert…

    Keep up the great job!

  4. Starthrower on 17.02.2011 at 11:49 (Reply)

    Oh, this pains me. I am an educator but more than that I am an advocate for introverts in the classroom and the workplace.I’ve tried to explain how unreal the school experience is in preparation for the “real” world and one size fits all is not the real world.
    That teacher is like many I have met. I began speaking about introverted children in the classroom years ago and I would just get a strange look and be told that those kids just have to get with the program. The correlation between school burnout and drop-outs.
    Thankfully, because of you, and our awakening to what introversion really is we may soon end the mind numbing experience so many introverts have to endure, in preparation for the “real world”

  5. sara on 17.02.2011 at 12:24 (Reply)

    Argh, how is it that in this day and age people still can’t figure out that the Internet is not their living room? Ridiculous!

    As an educator (in part – I’m a graduate student who teaches discussion sections and hopes to one day become a professor), I agree that it can be tough to deal with shy students. I think the trick is to figure out ways to teach them valuable life skills – in almost no job can you truly be successful if you remain silent and never speak up as some students would like to do in class – without pushing students so hard that they shut down. For instance, if you want to be a scientist or otherwise go into academia, I can guarantee you’ll do quite a bit of teaching, where the ability to “perform” in front of a crowd and genuinely connect with people is extremely important. And I can guarantee that Bill Gates can’t get by without speaking to people!

    However, I think strategies that push kids too much – for example, harsh cold calling, making students who can’t come up with a response feel really uncomfortable, etc. – are more likely to cause students’ shyness to get worse and maybe even push them away from the class entirely (I know there was one supposedly brilliant but notoriously scary-about-cold-calls prof when I was an undergrad who I refused to take a class from even though others raved about his classes). I use a combination of techniques to try to teach students public speaking/participation skills without going over the top. Just as one example, I’ll start class with about 5-10 minutes (out of a 2 hour class) of definitions or simple questions that everyone gets ahead of time, and then folks will be randomly selected to give answers…they can always pass off the question to someone else, but they have time to prep/think of responses and the questions are basic enough that anyone who has done the reading/gone to lecture should be able to come up with something. I’ve found this has gotten a lot of shy kids to be much more willing to participate, both at the moment, and then throughout the class since they then have the experience of speaking in that group.

  6. Susan on 17.02.2011 at 13:02 (Reply)

    Thanks, all, for these thoughtful comments!

    Starthrower, I’m curious what sort of speaking you’ve done about introverted kids (which venues, etc.), and whether the response has gotten any better over the years as awareness increases?

    Sara, that’s a great idea; thx much for sharing in detail. And I agree that overly harsh strategies make shyness worse, whereas nudging students in small, manageable steps can give them more confidence for the next time. (There’s actually some interesting research out there on what happens in the brain that makes this so; at some point I’ll post about it.)

    And Maureen, yes, will post at some point re: shyness v. introversion…important distinction!

  7. Starthrower on 17.02.2011 at 13:46 (Reply)

    By speaking I mean in the classroom with other teachers! Sorry, to give you the wrong idea about speaking in venues and such. My grad paper addressed introversion as well. I did work with alternative school students and we talked a lot about why traditional classrooms were not a good fit for them. I found time and time again that many of the students were simply introverts. Sadly, struggling with their “predicament” since kindergarten. How sad is that?

  8. Susan on 17.02.2011 at 14:10 (Reply)

    Starthrower, I would love to see your grad school paper, if you’re comfortable sharing it.

  9. Luna on 17.02.2011 at 14:19 (Reply)

    Funny when I was a teacher it was always the quiet ones who got my attention, still waters run deep (sorry for the cliche). A classroom is so packed with personalities and you really have to take time to get to know each one of your students and try to connect with them so you can figure out how they learn best. Unfortunately you don’t always manage that but you still really have to put in the effort. in thirteen years of teaching and after that 10 years of volunteer tutoring I only met one really quiet child who I just could not reach at all. Teachers have a lot on their plates but I think regrettably too many people go into teaching for the wrong reasons; lots of vacation time, control issues, couldn’t find another job etc. and when they are in the classroom they just want all the kids to do it their way and that just doesn’t work. A good teacher advocates for all his/her students, they put effort into understanding them. I have noticed though in my time in schools that most teachers connect best with children that are like them. Sporty, outgoing with sporty outgoing kids etc.

  10. Sara Anne on 17.02.2011 at 14:34 (Reply)

    Thank you thank you thank you for posting this! I can remember every teacher who made me feel accepted and welcomed in his or her classroom, just as I am–an introverted and shy person–and i can also remember the teachers who made me feel like there was something they were trying to fix about me. I’m grateful for the teachers who’ve commented on here and their interest in advocating for introverted kids and I’m so SO glad you’ve started this blog–I am sharing it with EVERYBODY (with all of my introverted friends, cause contrary to popular belief–introverted people do have friends! haha!) Keep up the good work!

  11. Susan on 17.02.2011 at 14:43 (Reply)

    Sara Anne,

    You’re welcome! Do you remember specifically what teachers did to make you feel accepted — or, on the other hand, what they did that made you feel like there was something they were trying to fix? I want to collect a lot of info on this so I can ultimately go out and talk to teachers about the perspective of introverted kids in their classrooms. Thx for your insights!

  12. Kristi on 17.02.2011 at 15:28 (Reply)

    Thank you for sharing this! I struggle with this issue, as an introvert mom of an introvert high schooler. My experience in high school was fine — I can fake extroversion if I have to — but I worry about my quiet son who is perfectly happy to keep his brilliant thoughts to himself, and is not a “joiner.” Especially in terms of college admissions — I definitely think the extroverted “involved in everything” type is privileged above the quiet intellectual type. So, I do worry.

    Technology can provide a way for quieter students to contribute — posting work for comment on blogs or wikipages, having discussions via Twitter, etc. — but I don’t see that happening very much.

  13. LeAnn on 17.02.2011 at 18:49 (Reply)

    School was OK, but I spent most of my time bored out of my brain. I’m introverted more now than I was as a kid: I tried to speak up when I knew the answer and found out quickly that being “the smart kid” didn’t get you any friends, just hassles. Best to keep quiet and let the teacher drag the answer out of whichever hapless victim got picked.

    Career life is better, but I still find that I shouldn’t be the one with the answers too often – only now it irritates the boss instead of my coworkers. I still prefer to work alone instead of in a group, too.

  14. Christy on 17.02.2011 at 20:05 (Reply)

    Funny. I’ve often heard the opposite side of the story, that public school is much more conducive to the introvert than the extravert because students are mostly expected to sit quietly and take notes or tests, doing much in a quiet and solitary manner. I’d say there are probably things that would drive either person a bit crazy. We introverts aren’t alone in thinking it’s an inequitable system.

    “A kid that has no personality.”
    People who say this are merely demonstrating their sheer ignorance, which doesn’t keep the statement from making me very angry. Apart from being intensely scientifically inaccurate, how dare any person say such a thing? It’s basically saying, “You aren’t like me, so you are not a real person.” I hate it.

  15. Caryl on 17.02.2011 at 20:38 (Reply)

    I was reminded, somewhat painfully, of my awful experience as a “quiet child” at school in the 1960s.

    When I did summon the courage to put my hand up and say something it was usually greeted with a sarcastic putdown.

    When I lead meetings I remember this experience and always try to stop the extroverts – who never need prompting – and try and draw the introverts into the discussion.

    Some respond – with usually a point or issue no-one else has thought of – others are happier in a one-to-one conversation at the end of the meeting, or sending me an email.

  16. Marianne on 17.02.2011 at 23:25 (Reply)

    I had an English teacher in high school who told us how she really hated that the school made our classroom time shorter to accomadate the pep rallies for the football team. She told us that the school should be honoring the students in the advanced English class, not the football players and the cheerleaders. We all thought she was crazy.

    1. Susan on 18.02.2011 at 09:18 (Reply)

      I LOVE that teacher!

  17. Maureen McCabe on 18.02.2011 at 11:58 (Reply)

    I am enjoying your blog. I am such an introvert. I find Natalie’s blog interesting. Or at least the last three posts. I can see your point that she does not “get” introverts but I don’t think she did anything horrible by blogging about her view point. I guess that is for the school to decide. To me worse if she had ridiculed the kids in class for being “quiet.” Or made her frustrations with introverts a crusade to change them.

    I suppose if I knew it was written about me it would have been painful. Once I got past 3rd grade I was OK most of the time. Well except 7th and 8th grade and some classes in high school. I guess 4th, 5th and 6th grade were my happiest school days. I wish I’d had a clue what an introvert was before I hit my 30s.

  18. Mary on 18.02.2011 at 12:08 (Reply)

    I was a quiet kid in school but was fortunate to have a couple teachers that understood and didn’t push me to be extroverted. They created classrooms where each student had the ability to be heard. They were the exceptions rather than the norm though. Too many of my teachers allowed students to talk over one another so I learned in their classes that it wasn’t worth it to try and respond, I couldn’t out-talk or make more noise than the extroverts. But I could sure out-think them and my grades showed that….

  19. Mark on 18.02.2011 at 14:44 (Reply)

    What a great piece — I was an incredibly shy and introverted kid, and can certainly relate to your ideas.

    Your blog is terrific — keep up the good work!

  20. Melissa on 18.02.2011 at 16:29 (Reply)

    I’m quite an introvert and so is my son, but I don’t think that introversion per se leads to low class participation. Rather, I think what is necessary for introverts to participate fully is what is necessary for everyone: a class environment that feels safe. When the focus is on learning and the respectful expression of different ideas rather than on personalities or belittling, introverts and extroverts both are likely to speak up.

  21. Another Introvert on 19.02.2011 at 04:28 (Reply)

    As an introverted child, one of the toughest parts of school was when we were told to pair of with a partner. If your an introvert and in a class without friends this can feel overwhelming. I used to dread those days. Even worse would be if I was left without a partner, how embarrassing. Especially when everyone has paired up and then the teacher asks, “who doesn’t have a partner?” This always seemed to be the worst. I would be left to play it off like it didn’t bother me and bury my eyes in the text book to avoid what was going on around me. Introverts usually are the kids waiting for someone to pick them as a partner and people are less likely to choose them because they are so quiet and people don’t know as much about them. Partners and groups were great when you have friends around but I always wished the teacher would have just assigned us groups or partners. Situations like this made me worry about school and like it less even though I was a good student.

    Over the years I developed coping skills, as I got older I would ask other people to be my partner or look around for other people like myself that were left looking around helplessly. Still to this day if at a training or activity where I am required to group up I prepare to be the odd man out, just in case…

    So I ask that if you are a teacher, please take special care to make sure your introverted students feel comfortable and included, they want to be, even if it doesn’t appear that way.

    1. bailey They on 10.06.2012 at 14:54 (Reply)

      Well said!! I’m guessing that this is a mere nuance aspect of a teacher’s curriculum, as well as with the consideration of some work place training presenters. I can totally relate to what you are saying about being simply relieved once the preferred kids were chosen for the game or whatever we were to “pick a partner” for. I can still recall the dread that I would feel whenever we would get an extra outside gym “opportunity” that the whole class would be so excited about, and I just wanted nothing to do with it, privately wishing that there would be a small disaster of some kind that would cause the plan to change back to regular classroom work.

  22. Another Introvert on 19.02.2011 at 04:35 (Reply)

    As an introverted child, one of the toughest parts of school was when we were told to pair off with a partner. If your an introvert and in a class without friends this can feel overwhelming. I dreaded those days. Even worse would be if I was left without a partner, how embarrassing. Especially when everyone had paired up and then the teacher asked, “who doesn’t have a partner?” This always seemed to be the worst. I would be left to play it off like it didn’t bother me and bury my eyes in the text book to avoid what was going on around me. Introverts usually are the kids waiting for someone to pick them as a partner and people are less likely to choose them because they are so quiet and people don’t know as much about them. Partners and groups were great when you have friends around but I always wished the teacher would have just assigned us groups or partners. Situations like this made me worry about school and like it less even though I was a good student.

    Over the years I developed coping skills, as I got older I would ask other people to be my partner or look around for other people like myself that were left looking around helplessly. Still to this day if at a training or activity where I am required to group up I prepare to be the odd man out, just in case…

    So I ask that if you are a teacher, please take special care to make sure your introverted students feel comfortable and included, they want to be, even if it doesn’t appear that way.

  23. Barb on 25.02.2011 at 18:28 (Reply)

    My teenaged son is shy and introverted. When he was in grade 5 he had a teacher who made is life hell for most of the year. I couldn’t figure this out – he sat quietly doing his work and wouldn’t dream of doing something the teacher didn’t want him to do. After talking with other parents I realized that this teacher seemed to target two other children who were also quiet boys. I could only conclude that quiet, shy boys really bothered this loud extroverted teacher. I wish I could say that I felt confident that it was one year and one teacher and that we would likely not experience that again. The truth is most of his schooling to that point (with the exception of one year) had left him and I struggling to figure out how he could possibly fit with this model of teaching. By the end of the school year my son would say that he wished he wasn’t alive anymore. The next year he started going to a small private school where he has flourished with teachers who really care about him. I now work three jobs to keep him there. I am bitter that the public system we experienced didn’t value him.

  24. The Scrivener on 27.02.2011 at 18:53 (Reply)

    In my field, medicine, cold calling is pretty much the only way students are assessed on rounds. “Scrivener, name the five conditions requiring emergent dialysis.” We call it pimping. I know it’s useful to learn to think on your feet, especially in certain fields, but it terrifies an introvert like me. I’d answer the questions they directly asked me, but never volunteered information because I was scared to say anything that might make me sound stupid.

    Now that I’m involved in teaching (Saturday outreach to high schoolers), I’m a lot more aware of teaching technique. Trust builds slowly for introverted people, and teachers should be aware of that. Another good trick is to break the students into smaller groups of 3-5 to discuss things before the larger discussion.

  25. [...] post, “What Teachers Really Think of Quiet Kids,” and its follow-up, “A Different Kind of Cool Kid,” generated passionate reactions. Many of [...]

  26. introvert'smom on 07.03.2011 at 04:33 (Reply)

    what are your thoughts? my introverted child’s teachers are planning the upper elementary school class play to be performed in front of the entire school/parent community. each student was asked to choose the top three roles they would like to perform in the play. my introverted child chose props, sound and lights, having absolutely no desire to perform on stage. when the teachers assigned my child an acting part they said, “it would be good for your child. it will help your child. your child needs this and needs to be pushed” because my child does not speak much in class. it breaks my heart that my child is being asked to do this and is receiving the message that being introverted is something that needs to be changed.

    1. Susan Cain on 07.03.2011 at 09:44 (Reply)

      I very much agree with you. I think that some degree of “pushing” (aka encouragement) is sometimes the right thing, because children sometimes find they enjoy things that initially seemed unappealing or scary. But this should be done in small steps and in situations in which the child is sure to have a positive experience. Throwing a child who doesn’t like to perform onstage in front of the whole community is too drastic. I’m hoping that they’re giving your child a small role?

      The best thing you can do is rehearse with him or her over and over again so that s/he feels totally prepared and has a good experience on the big day. Maybe see if you can visit the stage together so s/he can climb up there with you and get used to what it feels like.

      Does this make sense? And, pls let us know what happens.

  27. Kara on 24.03.2011 at 19:02 (Reply)

    My friend just turned me on to this blog today and I’m grateful. I’m a teacher and an extrovert, but I’m very much an introvert advocate. As an English teacher, I am blessed to get to know the quiet kids (since they write things about themselves that I get to read). I often forget that the other students in the class don’t know all the interesting things I know about these less loquacious students, hence they assume these kids have nothing interesting to say. I hate that. I always feared my attempts to make connections with shy students annoyed them, but when I started advising the yearbook, I learned what a difference my feeble attempts could make. I had two painfully shy staffers who both became editors, one of them my editor-in-chief. While in their day-to-day life they still opted to hide at times, when they were in our journalism room, they took charge and lit up: you’d never know they were introverts. And when I got a letter from that editor-in-chief and her mother thanking me for all the time I took to encourage her to come out of her shell, I realized I wasn’t annoying my students, I was making connections with them. This helped them make more connections with others. My student journalists learned best the stories of introverts, because they interviewed them and told their stories in our book. It makes this extrovert happy to hear everyone’s voice!

    Susan, I appreciate your sensitive take on this topic. You and I share a love of kindness–Natalie Munroe’s platform of negativity makes me crazy! I wrote a post about her too. But I wish her well and hope she finds happiness.

    1. bailey They on 10.06.2012 at 15:02 (Reply)

      Thank You, if you are as conscientious as you say that you are about this topic.
      Way to go!! The skills that you seem to possess as a teacher could be such an asset to some of the bullying cases that we see, as someone with your willingness to have the insight & to express it, on behalf of the “unknown” students will often make all the difference in the number of folks they can relate to in a meaningful way on a given day.

  28. Random on 26.04.2011 at 00:22 (Reply)

    Weird thing is, I never spoke outside of class, but I used to volunteer to go first for oral presentations and never hesitated to answer questions in class. The teachers thought that I was an annoying know-it-all, and the kids would laugh at me in class for talking too much and outside of class for not talking enough! Bizarre. Of course, they all wanted to be my best friend, come group projects. *eyeroll* Refusing them was fuuuun. *evil grin*

    “Want to be my partner?”
    “Sorry; I’m doing the project by myself. Thanks, though!”
    “Are you sure!? Isn’t that a lot of work? Let me help!”
    “I’ll be fine! Thanks, anyway.”
    “Aww, okay.”

    After the projects, they’d be back to shouting insults and pointing and whispering. *facepalm* The power of two-facedness, it’s astounding.

  29. Danielle Gauthier on 08.05.2011 at 22:19 (Reply)

    When I was in high school, one teacher passed me by in the corridor and to my great surprise he stopped, turned towards me and said:’ Whatever you are thinking of doing, don’t! Let the feeling pass before you do anything you might regret! Things will get better…’ I was totally stunned. This teacher thought that because I was introverted and sad due to the fight my parents had the night before,that I was contemplating suicide.

    Yep, you read that right. How’s that for being totally off the mark. As if being quiet automatically means you are about to do yourself in.

    You’ll have guessed that I didn’t much like high school. Mom realized this also, so she helped me find a full-time job. She said I could always take night-time adult classes. Thank God for moms. That was just what the doctor ordered. Being in the midst of adults taking night courses to dig themselves out of their predicaments instead of being surrounded by judgmental self-centered teenagers and biased teachers was the answer to my prayers. I started blooming and became much more at ease not only with other adults but also with myself.

    I have a message for clueless teachers. Being quiet doesn’t mean we’re not thinking, it just means that what we ARE thinking about we don’t care to share with you because we already know what your biased opinions or reactions will be.
    As we say in my neck of the woods, it’s MY mouth. I decide what comes out of it, not you!

    I only wish I would have had the courage to say this to certain biased teachers and judgmental students while I was in high school, but it still feels good…

    Danielle

  30. [...] Cain is getting a lot of press for her book “Quiet”. Cain writes about introverts living in a world designed for extroverts and offers a few insights [...]

  31. Red on 05.02.2012 at 16:27 (Reply)

    I am glad you are raising awareness on introverts in the classroom! I was painfully shy throughout high school and college. In high school, not a great learning environment for a person like me, it was easy to hide. I would absolutely avoid eye contact with teachers so I wouldn’t have to speak, and to my surprise it worked rather well, about 90% of the time, the other 10% I would hmm and haa in attempt to think about what I wanted to say, the teacher would finally answer the question for me. In college, hiding wasn’t so easy because of the smaller discussion based classes, where participation counted for a percentage of the grade. I hated being put on the spot because I literally freeze and turn Fire Engine Red!! I also hated classes where I had to give presentations, I actually burst into tears once in the middle of a presentation I was giving, luckily my prof. of that class was a saint and offered to let me step into the hall and get a drink. Although I got a decent grade, it was an awful and painful experience for a 23 year old. I did presentations prior to that class in high school and college, but was exceptionally nervous for that one. I really enjoyed the professors who used other ways besides just discussion to involve everyone. Some of these professors would have us write responses to questions posted on an internet discussion board, others would have us write responses to questions ahead of time, and some would have us write and hand in responses to a question the prof. asked in class. I enjoyed all of those methods because I could speak confidently about something without turning red.
    For all of those who think shy students have “no personality” think again, I am a successful teacher. My students are also successful because I take time to get to know them and create a positive learning environment which helps them grow and learn.

  32. Peg Taylor on 12.02.2012 at 17:12 (Reply)

    I would much prefer that you had titled this “What Does ONE Teacher Really Think of Quiet Kids?” One ignorant and insensitive teacher does not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent all of us. I hope that current teacher education programs are giving lessons in the appropriate use of social media.

  33. Meh on 14.03.2012 at 19:37 (Reply)

    I’m 30 and an introvert and if I met this teacher in real life I would punch her just so she could realize what it feels like to step on people she seems intent to degrade, sounds like she is both childish and has a behavioral problem. I got two educators fired from their jobs back in the day for being assholes. I hope someone gives her what she deserves a boot out the door. People like that are what’s wrong with kids today, just fucked up if you ask me.

  34. M L on 16.03.2012 at 10:58 (Reply)

    The woman whose child had a bad experience in 5th grade may be being harsh when she indicts the whole public school system for the behavior of one teacher. I am so sorry her son was being abused. Of course a private school with small classes and dedicated teachers would provide her son with more help with shyness. I am impressed with her efforts, but many do not have her options – can’t even find one job, etc.
    When we defund our schools, and class size increases, teacher’s end up spending more time dealing with the most difficult students – the ones who don’t mind drawing attention to themselves in class, and less time helping the “quiet wheels”.
    I was part of the Bay Area Writing Project which stressed that kids should share their writing with one another, refine and publish. Writing just for the teacher does not give the validation and motivation that peer review can. Introverted students then have a voice.

  35. fadingxink on 17.03.2012 at 00:05 (Reply)

    High school sucked. Everyone’s rude if you don’t talk, and get all bug-eyed and silent if you end up putting in your two cents–scaring you into silence even more. Students and teachers alike need to understand that not everyone is interested in gabbing nonstop instead of quietly wrapping their heads around what’s being taught; being quiet doesn’t mean you’re weird or need help–it’s just how some people are.

  36. mf on 17.03.2012 at 13:46 (Reply)

    I am quiet and learned at some point how to play with extroverts. I went to college where class size was huge and you were given the material and figured it out on your own,did not want to deal with all that stuff in high school where students who did not work as hard as me got good grades from brownie points or massaging the teachers ego to raise grades,I now unfortunately realize these are important life skills they were developing,because I quietly went home and worked on my own I got no extra credit. Found it all very distateful

  37. S Watson on 21.03.2012 at 09:28 (Reply)

    My son started senior school in England .Having excelled in primary and being very happy ,he was traumatised for the first 6 months .Yes he is shy and quiet and wede just moved areas too. He complained the teachers didnt know his name and ignored him. As they didnt know him they underestimated him. I did bring their attention to his situation and the good teachers responded. However when he has new teachers next year i suppose it will begin again.

  38. Jennifer on 29.04.2012 at 13:21 (Reply)

    I am a primary phase teacher in the UK. Currently, the focus seems to be on active learning, working with others, using talk partners, public philosophy (a conundrum if I do say so!) and peer evaluation. I don’t see any initiatives for those who prefer to work quietly on their own – other than give them a few seconds of thinking time before choosing a child to answer a question.
    I think we’re missing a trick here. I don’t think that the work environment of the future will be entirely collaborative (but, I don’t claim to know the future – who is anyone to assume what style of teaching and learning will transfer to real life?) Children need to learn how to slow down and think deeply, without distraction. This is occurring less and less. A good lesson (one that is deemed good) is a flurry of activity and socialising. It’s enough to make anyone bug-eyed and over stimulated.
    Even in maths, which requires focussed thought and perseverance, has been taken over by the cult of active learning and collaboration. The lesson is not considered good if children are not talking and explaining methods to one another, constantly, throughout the lesson.
    I don’t know what the answer is, but I think we’re doing a disservice and we ought to be more careful.

    1. mf on 15.05.2012 at 14:20 (Reply)

      There seems to be a general hostility towards those who are content to work hard and grasp things on their own, I found I learned better and retained more when I figured it out myself. I am somewhat stubborn and got more personal satisfaction even if it took twice as long as it would have if I got help. I was always grateful foer help when I really got stuck, always felt personally defeated when that happens. There has to be a place for people like this and they should not be vilified for not wanting help, does not mean they cannot interact in society when they need to, and do it very well. Once I went to a University that expected you to get ti on your own my grades soared, I graduated with honors and department honors in a high ranked university and I have had a wonderful career, receiving many honors and holding many leadership positions. IN high school one would of thought I did not have this kind of potential because of my learning style, most but not all teachers felt this way.

  39. aki on 02.05.2012 at 08:23 (Reply)

    i know what you mean. i’m an introvert and school is like hell for me. for the past 7 years, my teachers always asked me why i don’t ‘open up’.i always gave them the same answers, ‘i don’t know’, ‘i don’t want to’ or ‘that’s just how i am’. THEY NEVER LEARN, DO THEY???

  40. E. on 03.06.2012 at 16:08 (Reply)

    I think teachers should learn to have more understanding of their students. My mum is an introvert and a teacher and her students love her. She’s caring, understanding and wouldn’t judge anyone.

    School was horrific for me. Just thinking about it brings up so much anxiety and fear. In primary school teachers just gave up on me whenever I plucked up the courage to answer a question because they couldn’t hear me. In secondary school I was threatened with detention for not singing or giving presentations. Insensitive teachers thinking because I didn’t say much there wasn’t much going on in my head either and horrible class mates who bullied me day after day for years made my shyness and social anxiety much worse.

    Fortunately my teachers in college have been far more understanding. They let me be who I am. They’re okay that I choose not to talk. They just worry that I don’t ask for help when I need it. Which unfortunately I find very hard to do due to my experiences in school.

    After 6 months in counselling, I’m slowly getting rid of the overwhelming anxiety. I want to be an introvert without being shy. It’s going to take a long time but I’ve been helped to realise that there’s nothing actually wrong with me and it was never my fault that people reacted the way they did because I chose to think to myself rather than talk.

  41. [...] and blogs about the plight of introverts in the classroom. Writers such as Susan Cain claim that teachers are biased against the introverted student—the  student who thinks before speaking or who prefers not to work in groups. To rectify this [...]

  42. Chanel on 17.11.2012 at 18:15 (Reply)

    That was a very interesting article. It is sad that minorities have a tendancy to get picked on. I am an introvert myself. However I do very well in school, and I loved high school. Ironiclly the classroom is the kind of environment where I tend to be more outgoing. I speak up a lot. It is casual social gathering is what I tend to shy away from. I spend most of my freetime alone. I guess it is easier to be more talkative if I can releate to the subject matter. As a nerd I usually relate to the material covered in class.

    It really puts introverts in a better light by listing famous and succesful ones. Wow! I didn’t know J. K. Rowling was an introvert. She is my hero! In a way, it makes a lot of sense. It is a lot easier for an introvert to do what she accomplished. There is a lot of thinking and imagination for putting together the story of Harry Potter. There is countless hours of quiet solitude for writing the series. Introverts do more mental action, and they are more comfertable alone.

  43. Alison on 04.04.2013 at 22:11 (Reply)

    Hi …I came across your sight purely by chance but was immediately intrigued because my husband and I have 3 very quiet children and if it wasn’t for my husbands belief and support of their “quietness” I probably would have been convinced by family, friends and teachers that there was something “wrong” with them. They are all very bright, kind, gentle and giving children with lots of friends and yet year after year their teachers always say “would be good if we could work on their confidence”……each time we feel punished for not have loud and in your face type children…..our kids certainly don’t lack confidence…for example our 13 year old son has just completed his open water dive certificate and plays golf every weekend with the men golfers as he has the same golf handicap as most of the men. Anyway its nice to know there are others out there that agree with us (my 3 children are aged 8, 10 and 13).

  44. MF on 05.04.2013 at 15:05 (Reply)

    I think a good number of the individuals here would be considered an INTJ ,Meyer Briggs personality type. I would encourage you to go on line and see if you fit that description either by reading about what that personality is like, or taking one of the many versions of the test on line for free. Once you know your personality type you can visit u tube for videos of others like you,or get on web forums and see you are not alone, for parents gives you better insight into your kids, a lot of this is hard wired,not easily modified,

  45. 内気な成功者 | tori.no.saezuri on 15.08.2013 at 09:04

    [...] introverts also often includes Michael Jordan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harrison Ford, Charles Darwin and David Letterman, among many [...]

  46. Amanda on 14.09.2013 at 01:27 (Reply)

    Wow! Amazing post, I just discovered this while browsing the web.

    I’m definitely an introvert, and it is a horrible feeling most of the time. My mother is an extrovert to the fullest extent and I constantly feel like I’m disappointing her. She just never understands why I am the way I am and it frustrates her.

    It’s hard finding a job too when everyone wants to hire an upbeat person. I’m very nice and I am a very hard worker but that always gets passed up because I am shy.

    I always loved the teachers who respected my personality in high school. Those who forced me to speak up were my least favorite because it put me on the spot and it would make me feel even more uncomfortable. Some had different ways of assimilating me with the others and I respected their methods. I guess it is hard to explain but some teachers have that way about them, about how they approach teaching, that can an amazing effect on someone like me. Of course no extrovert would notice a difference but I would. There were only a few classes I ever felt comfortable in.

    I wish more of the teachers I had would have tried to make that extra effort for people like me. I was always a smart kid and I think my teachers had a respect for me because of it, but it didn’t mean they treated me like a person, more like a statue.

    The teachers who made me feel comfortable will always be in my heart. I believe introverts have extra insight on the world around them, so in regards to that amazing teacher we respect them ten thousand times more than an extrovert who may have taken them for granted.

  47. Reena Chanday on 15.09.2013 at 13:14 (Reply)

    Hi this post is really useful .my son is grade 3 student.heis introvert. And doesn’t open in class . He knows all the answer . If teacher asks he answers but don’t take initiatve or ask from teacher whenever he is not clear with any thing. So plz suggest me what I can do for him thanks

  48. Beth Wallner, LCPC on 12.12.2013 at 11:59 (Reply)

    I find these posts so helpful – and relatable. I too am an introvert and have found that some of the most helpful work I do as a therapist is to “normalize” introversion for many of my clients. The relief is visible when they finally feel seen and heard and respected. So, I was horrified when my recent client, an 18 year old senior in high school – went to her Latin class the other day, and the teach chose three (extroverted of course) students from the class as “captains” and had them choose teams!! and – you got it! – my client was mortified to be standing there at the end unchosen!! I have been so proud of this client – she read your book and then wrote her college essay on introversion and how painful it is when teachers ignore her!! Her English teacher immediately got her permission to share her essay with other teachers!!! Of course – this English teacher will be one she will remember all her life for her love and support! Awesome – but obviously SO much work to do in education for these students who are so caring and gentle and intelligent – and often so hurt.
    Thank you to all of you – and especially to you Susan – for opening up this topic to all of us for discussion and hopefully some much needed healing!!

  49. Sera K. on 10.03.2014 at 00:12 (Reply)

    It’s horrible. I’m thirteen and in eighth grade. The teachers seem to think something is wrong with me and they don’t mind showing it. Only one of them, my science teacher, is really kind to me. I’m kind of his pet student, getting all A’s and being polite and everything, mostly because the other students are so obnoxious he’s just glad to have one that will sit still and quiet. The teachers want silence and cooperation; why do they have to throw a hissy fit when they get it?

    You see, I have to be quiet. I’m extremely shy and socially awkward. But that’s not the reason I’m silent. It’s because I know if I did open my mouth, I’d tell them exactly what I thought (probably not what they would want to hear). If my English teacher asks me what I think Johnny in the example should have done, I’m going to tell her exactly what I think Johnny should have done. Whether it conflicts with the “correct” answer or not; whether she wants to hear my real opinion or not.

    Too often teachers ask rhetorical types of questions expecting the answer they have provided. If the question is a matter of opinion than so should the answer be. I’m tired of “right” answers to flexible questions. So that’s why I don’t open my mouth in class and they think I’m some sort of pathetic angel child; because once I get over my barrier of shyness it’s hard to retreat back into my safe little shell without any repercussions.

    Maybe this is because I’ve been home schooled off and on. I’ve sort of been allowed to think more freely and I don’t appreciate their efforts to stifle.

    So, I think teachers and people in general often fail to realize that those introverted, pathetic types just might be doing them a favor by suppressing theie fiery vim.

  50. tara on 23.03.2014 at 15:17 (Reply)

    Thank-you for this post…I am an introvert and was all through high school. Im a mother of six and they all seem to take after me..they are introverts, some of them more than others. My children have been accused of having no personalities by teachers, freinds and even friends parents (saying you cant trust the quiet ones!) Even my in-laws think my children different, why? Because they aren’t loud and obnoxious? I even had a teacher ask if my child was abused!!?? My children are fabulous, caring and special children just because a child is quiet and timid absolutely does not mean that they don’t have a personality.

    1. M fisher on 01.04.2014 at 07:28 (Reply)

      Unfortunately , if you look at the perspective of your non introverted teachers,friends and relatives, they want something they perceive to be of value in the relationship. They want to feel valued. To them it includes feeling cherished,getting positive vibes,and feedback to feel that sense of connection. They do not see actions speak for themselves, but need the emotive part as well.

      Hard to explain,but let me use my mother in law as an example,my wife and I both introverts are always there for her. But the ones she really likes are those who make a fuss over her when they see her,even if it is not backed up by actions or deeds. She tolerates us because she can depend on us,but she longs to be able to depend on those that make her feel special.
      As introverts to get along with others in this world when we interact with someone we should try to concentrate on what they need from us to be happy with the interaction,rather than our self consciousness over how we are being perceived. Having said that,my heart is not really into that kind of behavior,so I accept the consequences which you point out in your post.

  51. M fisher on 01.04.2014 at 08:09 (Reply)

    Above Comment directed to Tara

  52. Patty on 04.04.2014 at 10:17 (Reply)

    Funny that I came along this article. I received a letter from my son’s school a couple of days ago which is driving me nuts. He receives mostly As on his report cards and never any Cs. He is a respectful, sweet child. But he is not going to be loud in school and he is not going to be raising his hand every day. He knows his stuff he just doesn’t choose to share it. Well, they think he should be in a special program. They think he should go into a class with less children where he may shine. Maybe he doesn’t want to shine. Maybe he is fine being who he is. Why do we all have to be extroverts? My older son is very much an extrovert. I love him too, but don’t feel the need to have them all be the same. Why the pressure to be something we are not? We cannot all be leaders nor should we be. Now the son who does so well has to wonder what is wrong with him. It is sad. There is a great Christian song which says: Take me as I am, I can come no other way. Wouldn’t that be great! Thanks for letting me vent.

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