Tell Us About Yourself: Sending an Introvert Into a Tailspin

Freaked out at the thought of having to introduce yourself to strangers?


Quiet Book Cover
Source: http://bit.ly/1wZT1oc

Several months ago I blogged about my BIG discovery {here}, after reading Susan Cain’s, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, last December.  What a great read!  In it, she discusses introverts in our society and society’s response to them.  She writes, “The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.”




You can see her TED Talk here:

If you’re an introvert, you know she’s singing the gospel… Now, if everyone would just get quiet and listen….!! Right?

What was particularly enlightening to me ~ other than discovering I’m really an introvert camouflaged in an extrovert’s body ~ (light bulb moment!) was to learn why my instructional style is so challenging for some of my students…. You know, the ones who are also introverts, but not masquerading as an extrovert.

These guys and gals take quiet and attentive (qualities a teacher appreciates) to a much higher level, often edging closer to a referral for what appears to be open defiance because they will refuse to participate than have to talk with peers (and/or me).  Yes, it happens!  Maybe you were one of those kids? Maybe you’re raising one?  If so, might be helpful to give your kiddos’ teachers a little insight.  *Not taught in teacher-school.

Turns out, my collaborative classroom approach overwhelms introverted kiddos ~ as probably happens in many classrooms (fellow teacher-types, take note from this slow learner!).  This was a HUGE a-ha! moment for me… during my 20th year in the classroom.  As I read her book, I found myself saying, “That explains a LOT!”

When I reflected on how some of my classes are markedly different from others, it occurred to me:

Those classes that require me to cajole students to talk to one another and/or me {and they still refuse} are the classes in which introverts rule.  They are silently in control! 

When classes resumed after winter vacation last January, I was ready! Armed with this epiphany, I greeted my 2nd period class and told them what I finally understood. Poor kids.  They were visibly relieved. It was as if you could hear them whispering, “Finally, she gets us! Took her long enough!”  😉

HUGE difference between first and second semesters, as I gave my students latitude in how they would interact with their peers (and me), balancing the need to teach effective collaboration skills with giving students a ‘comfortable, safe’ learning environment that worked for everyone.

Electronic communication turned out to be a helpful way to get introverted students to interact.  Much has been written about the interface, including this article for Time by Cain. I have seen it first-hand, having students who didn’t utter a word for an entire semester, become involved in peer and student/teacher discussions when they could interact behind the safety of a keyboard.  Win-win!

Things were much calmer for me, too.  It was nice to have one class a day in which the kids weren’t swinging from the rafters a quiet disposition was expected and appreciated by my students. I didn’t have to be ‘on stage’ to get my point across.  Now if I could just get my other classes to try out this calmer, more focused presence….  Bliss, it would be pure bliss.

I’m kidding. It would be boring as all get-out!

*Interesting side note:  My ‘introverted’ class has been period 2 for three years running. Entirely different groups of kids from year to year, yet it’s consistently 2nd period.  Wonder why?   I smell an action research project lurking in the shadows…. 

Fast-forward eleven months.

Last week, I read a blog post from doc-turned-author Carrie Rubin {here} about her own embarrassing moment with introversion, and her advice for those of us who develop trainings or meetings for others.  As a presenter/PD facilitator/instructional literacy coach, I hadn’t ever considered how introverts might feel in my sessions. But once again, it sure explained a LOT about some participants’ sudden trips to the restroom or to ‘take a call’ when introductions begin.

According to Carrie, introverts are terrified to hear “Tell us about yourself…”  Wow!  This was an eye-opener for me… but makes perfect sense.  Now, when I’m plan sessions, I’ll remember to give participants a heads-up with plenty of ‘think time’ ~ to collect their thoughts and plan their words. Thanks, Carrie!

How about you?

Introvert? Extrovert?


Raising one (or two, or three ….)???


  • mrscrawford1998

    We read Quiet as part of an online book discussion. I think everyone who reads that book starts thinking: Introvert? Extrovert? I think I’m a sensitive extrovert, if you remember that part of the book. I get overwhelmed and can’t handle the noise and bustle, but I love talking to people. As for teaching, I completely agree that giving kids a digital way of participating can really open doors. I had a super quiet introvert who rarely says anything in class participate the most in a “back channel” chat that occurred while other students discussed out loud. I used http://backchannelchat.com How do your kids participate in digital participation?

  • Carrie Rubin

    Such a relief to read a post like this from an educator! My oldest son is a strong introvert. He’ll go all semester without speaking in class if allowed. Well-meaning teachers keep telling me he has to come out of his shell, and I tell them that’s not likely to happen. Once an introvert, always an introvert. But I explain to my son that he has to learn to adjust in an extroverted world. His input is worthwhile and he should share it. It’s nice when I meet a teacher who understands, and together we can try to help him learn to participate, at least to a small degree. Really great post. Thank you.

    And thanks so much for the mention. A nice treat to my morning!

  • RobinLK

    Mrs. Crawford,
    I first read about backchannel chats happening at conferences, then finding their way into the classroom. I will check out the website you referenced. Thanks for sharing! We use Edmodo in my class ~ for several purposes, live chats being one of them. I think in my younger years I might have been a sensitive extrovert, always worn out by people, in general. As I get older, though, I identify more with introverts. Maybe I’m just tired of people?! Ha! 😉

  • RobinLK

    It’s interesting. I know many educators who are ‘clearly’ introverts. Many of them struggle in the classroom. Ironically, though, they don’t seem to translate that to students. Or, the extroverted educators continue to (as I did) push on ‘all’ students, instead of understanding the varying personalities. I’m glad you found the post useful/helpful. I’m thinking there’s a training topic I need to develop from this post. It was great fun getting to cite your advice…. thanks for sharing an important tip with us, one that got my tired brain cranking. I always appreciate writing inspiration, especially when sprinkled with humor. 🙂

  • Baz - The Landy

    Oh definitely, by any classic or non classic definition! ” For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.” But don’t get me wrong, I like being around and with people, but I need to “regather” with self-time afterwards! 😉

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