January 2 is National Introvert Day.

That makes me one day late, as I’m writing this on the 3rd.

This does bring up some thoughts to talk about in regards to introverts in our classrooms. So from this introverted teacher and student, may I present a PSA for Introverts.

Our Introverted Students

Right now, pushing collaboration and cooperative learning are buzz words in education. We talk about them in 21st Century Learning Skills, in project based learning, even in my state’s language arts skills. Because the truth is, collaboration and cooperation are important skills to have.

However, some things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t always require group work. I really like giving the option of working with a partner, a group of three, or working alone on most assignments. This provides social students an environment where they work best while still giving introverts the option to work alone.
  2. Provide opportunities for group building. Introverts are more willing to work with people they’re comfortable with, so take time to build culture in your classroom and provide activities for students to get to know each other. Rather than kicking off a group project right away, wait a few weeks until students are more comfortable with each other.
  3. Invite participation through multiple channels. Some students are comfortable speaking up in class; others are more willing to share through writing. Give students the option when you can. Scaffolded sharing activities can also provide more support for students. Check out Save the Last Word for Me and Graffiti Boards.
  4. Unsure? Ask them. It’s not a bad idea to survey students about their comfort level of speaking in class, and assuming that they can’t always bow out of an activity such as giving a speech or reflecting on Flipgrid, ask how you can support them in these moments. Another important question: Do they want to be recognized in front of the class? Some may not want to be the center of attention, even if it’s for something good. But other introverted students may appreciate it.

Don’t Forget Introverted Teachers

Since the publication of Susan Cain’s Quiet, I think teachers have been far more cognizant of their introverted students and appreciative of the thinking those students are quietly doing.

However, we have to also be aware of educators who are introverted. Don’t think you can spot them–sometimes the most energetic teachers in the classroom are introverted. Instead, be aware that they’re on your staff, and there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Respect their prep time. Introverts enjoy being around people, but they need alone time to recharge. This is why prep time can be essential to introvert teachers–we need those moments of solitude to be the best we can for students. In one school I taught in, our prep time was pre-planned for us four days a week with team meetings, grade-level meetings, planning meetings, etc. This is a quick way for your teachers to burn out.
  2. Avoid cheesy get-to-know-you activities at PD. While I doubt any teacher really enjoys playing signature bingo (you know–find a person who was born in the same month as you and have them sign their name in that block), introverts are even more likely to be frustrated with the small talk and meaningless connections.
  3. Build culture in meaningful ways. Just as we need to build our classroom cultures, we also need to build staff culture. That means providing opportunities for deeper conversations and PD that is actually meaningful.

No doubt I’m missing some other great tips to consider with introverts in our schools, so if you’ve got some, feel free to add them to the comments below.