When my daughter is with her family or small groups of friends, it's hard to get her to stop talking. She always has plenty of stories and jokes to share and she has no problem speaking to adults, asking for help or asserting her opinion. But put her in a classroom filled with 30 of her peers and she prefers to let others do the talking. She's not scared, nor is she suddenly unsure of the answers. She's just quiet.
And she's certainly not alone. While most classrooms tend to be dominated by extroverted kids whose personalities shine in group settings, there are plenty of kids with great ideas who tend to blend into the background. But it would be a shame for the world to miss out on their ideas simply because these kids don't enjoy being in the spotlight.
That's where the Quiet Summer Institute comes in. This new workshop recently trained 60 New York City educators on ways to help notice — and reach — the quiet kids in their classrooms.
The curriculum for the workshop is based on the bestseller "Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. It was developed by Heidi Kasevich, a teacher with 20 years experience who now works for Cain to help promote the book's message.
The Quiet Summer Institute brought together school administrators, school psychologists, guidance counselors and teachers to discuss their ideas for reining in the extroverts in the classrooms to give the introverts a better chance to get involved.
The idea is that kids shouldn't have to feel pressured to be extroverted just to get noticed. Because we all know that whether they mean to or not, most teachers tend to gravitate towards the kids whose hands go up first. Yet as Cain explains in this TED talk, "The Power of Introverts," there is "zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas."
Cain ends her TED talk with three calls to action, the first of which is to "stop the madness of constant group work." In both school and work settings, she explains, people of all ages need privacy, freedom and autonomy to create great ideas. And in schools in particular, students need to work together but they also need to learn how to work on their own "because that is where deep thought comes from."
So what would a classroom geared toward quiet kids look like? Kasevich told NPR that teachers could start by re-imagining classroom participation — a factor that often plays a large role in a student's grades — as classroom engagement.
Kids don't have to stand up in front of the classroom to share their ideas. They can draw pictures, share written stories or break up into smaller groups to collaborate and connect with their classmates.
That's the kind of teamwork that's good for both introverts and extroverts. And it creates the kind of classroom that lets all of the great ideas shine through.