Is your student an introvert?

If you are a teacher, can you define these personality characteristics regarding your students?

With the ever-growing focus on the social, emotional, and developmental needs of our students, there is no better time than now to highlight the gifts of our introverted students. There is a social stigma, a host of myths, and a superficial blanket of beliefs about introverts. It is time to uncover the myths, remove the superficial blanket, and embrace our social behavioral diversities.

According to various studies, and as stated by Dan Buettner in Thrive via Psychology Today, "The brain of an introvert vs. an extrovert is wired differently, with a greater or less need for the dopamine chemical. Our brains release dopamine when we experience something positive. It’s an automatic reward center that makes us feel good."

An extrovert needs more dopamine to feel an effect, whereas an introvert has a low dopamine threshold. Extroverts thrive on dopamine. Introverts don’t require a great deal of stimulation to feel rewarded, and when too much dopamine is triggered, an introvert can quickly feel tired, overwhelmed as well as anxious.

The front part of an introvert’s brain is most active and stimulated by his or her own thoughts. Introverts enjoy quiet, solitary and small group activities such as reading, writing, painting and problem-solving. The back parts of an extrovert’s brain are the most active. The outside world stimulates extroverts. Extroverts thrive on noise, attending social events, large gatherings, throwing parties, and taking part in large group meetings. They are quick to speak, rather than listen quietly.

Common Myths About Introverts

They are shy: An introvert is not shy or timid. There is a big difference between being shy and being an introvert. Shy people tend to move away from social situations based on fear or feelings of rejection. Introverts are not afraid of social events or people. They only need a valid reason to engage in conversation. They prefer deep conversations with one person, rather than big group conversations-especially if the topic does not attract their interest.

Introverts don’t talk often: They love talking about ideas that hold their interest. They greatly enjoy talking with those who have the same interests, beliefs and aligned topics. In large groups, they tend to listen much more than talk and think about what to say before they share their insight. They do not jump into conversations based on impulse, but rather, take time to evaluate, construct and share their opinions.

Introverts believe they are above others: An introvert may appear this way; however, he/she is only taking in and digesting more. They will speak when the time is right. They do not view themselves above anyone else in the room. They are peacefully enjoying their own quiet and thoughts in their mind.

An introvert can overthink: They are known to think a great deal. There is a difference between being obsessive and thinking deeply with self-reflection. Introverts enjoy their own thoughts and do not require a great deal of stimulation to confirm their feelings.

Introverts don’t enjoy being around people: They enjoy being around people; however, their time is limited because they physically tolerate much less than an extrovert. Spending more than two hours at a party can be exhausting for an introvert, while an entire night may not be enough for an extrovert (dopamine and neurotransmitters).

Introverts don’t like to go out in public or attend social events: Yes, they do. However, they prefer problem-solving, reading a good book, daydreaming and imagining a new idea or project. They are content with their thoughts and ideas. They thrive on discovery, research, the arts, and writing. Introverts interpret and judge situations very quickly, and don’t feel the desire or have the energy to be out in public for endless hours.

Introverts are odd or different: They don’t follow the crowd. Introverts follow their own paths based on their personal decisions. They are their own leaders.

Introverts can be boring: They may be boring to an extrovert, as their needs are significantly different. However, they are filled with passion, ideas, projects, and new developments within their busy minds.

Introverts are socially inept: They are not socially awkward or afraid. They need less social interaction and more individual based time alone to grow and nourish their soul. They do not feel comfortable around many people or in noisy situations.

Introverts should change to fit the expectations of our society: They should never change, nor can they change physically. Many of our greatest leaders and inventors were and are introverts. We should embrace their uniqueness and leave them to flourish. Micromanaging an introvert is like turning off a light bulb in a beautiful room full of books. We should welcome their talents, respect their needs, and let them be who they are intended to be.

Teacher Tips and Introverted Students

  1. Give an introverted student the ability to learn and share in his or her own way.
  2. Do not force group work. Let an introverted student choose his/her best path for optimal performance.
  3. Share this gift with other students by showing them it is okay to be on the quiet side.
  4. Realize that every student will not be a social butterfly, and that's okay.
  5. Don’t force the student to be a ‘people person’ or refer to him/her as socially challenged. There is nothing socially, emotionally, or developmentally wrong with an introverted student.
  6. Provide students with the opportunities to explore and encourage their interests in their own ways.
  7. Celebrate the differences in behaviors within your class.
  8. Give them space and time to grow so you can learn about their backgrounds.
  9. Respect your students' different characteristic traits, listen to them, and guide appropriately.
  10. Don’t try and change an introvert, as this comes with great consequence. See them for who they are and embrace their unique traits.

If we let our students be who they are as opposed to training them to society’s “norm,” our world will open up. We can discover great problem-solvers and inventors, hear magical music, and we will be part of a world that encourages and supports historical game-changers.

About the author

Robyn D. Shulman is a writer, editor, educator and the Growth Marketing Manager for Summit K12 - where they empower learners and support teachers in the ESL/Bilingual and Dual Language Field. In 2018, she won LinkedIn's Top Voice, and she is a former contributor to Forbes, where she covered education and entrepreneurship.