Much talk in education circles lately discuss the need for care of introverts in the classroom. After the popularity of Quiet by Susan Cain, mindfulness related to differences in personality and learning styles emerged, and in most cases, for the better. However, a missing link relates to the discussion of those of us that fall smack dab in the middle of the spectrum, those of us described as ambiverts.
I found out I was an ambivert when I was going into my senior year of high school. At a girls leadership conference, we did several personality assessments and I learned several new terms to self describe. Specifically, as a true ambivert I fall smack dab in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Over time, I learned how to tap into the strengths of both introverts and extroverts as needed.
Many colleagues and students think I’m a true extrovert. Likely this is because teachers usually find ways to find energy from others or we wouldn’t be in this environment. For me, I know I possess extroverted tendencies when we have test days and I find it hard to be quiet period after period. In other words, I like conversation, especially in my classroom, especially while at work! Outside of work, I enjoy alone time or small groups of friends. I love working in quiet environments when I write, read, or when I need to relax. Without time alone I struggle. I usually do best when I find ways for solitude even when traveling to visit friends and family. The point is, for me it depends. Sometimes I am introverted and other times I’m extroverted.
My major issue since the buzz related to the book Quiet is the idea that educators have concluded we no longer should ask quiet students to talk during class. This is absurd. The need for quiet does not equal being a mute. Sometimes, this is true. Related to education, I think it means we should know our students and create learning environments that cater to both types of students. For example, in practice, teachers should allow more student time to think before they speak as this benefits both the introverts and the extroverts at some level.
Recently, students in my AP Microeconomics class participated in a Shark Tank project where all students made a pitch to adults related to their unique business idea. Introverts and extroverts alike completed this process. While I allowed students to partner with others, some that are extroverted, some shy, quiet students completed the project solo. I gave students choices- safe choices. I also gave them plenty of time to prepare and plan their pitch. I sure hope all students benefited from the learning experience by putting themselves out there. Even my talkative kids got nervous before presenting to entrepreneurs, CFOs, and CEOs. That’s what is most important to me related to the introverted vs. extroverted student. I strive to create an environment where all can succeed and I try best to not overlook the introverted students.
Ultimately, ambiverts may have the best of both worlds as we can tap into strengths as needed. Regardless of where we fit on the spectrum, we should realize that the range exists. This holiday season there may be less conflict if we remember that naps or time spent reading may serve as an introvert’s need to gain energy. Likewise, attending parties may make the extrovert’s night! If you aren’t entirely sure where you stand on the introvert/extrovert test – google away- there are several easy self-assessments online. I took the test again as an adult and my results were consistent with my 17 year-old self. Your results may surprise you, and it may give you something to discuss at the next holiday get together. Hell, throw out the term ambivert while sharing a holiday cocktail and see who bites. Wherever you stand on the spectrum, at some level, I can relate!