It’s Not About Us!

Earlier today, I read a fantastic blog post by one of our Board’s superintendents, Sue Dunlop. In it, Sue helps others better understand what it means to be introverted, and even shares a great post with strategies to help introverts in social situations. As somebody that’s also introverted, I appreciated hearing Sue’s thoughts on the topic and learning some new “coping strategies.” I even replied to Sue’s post with some thoughts of my own, including sharing some of my thinking about how I help support introverts in the classroom and asking about what else I can do.

2015-02-09_19-34-45It wasn’t long after I posted my reply, that I saw a comment from my previous vice principal, Kristi. It was her comment and Sue’s reply that really made me stop and think.


Yes, I am an introvert. I get overwhelmed in unfamiliar social situations. Large groups with lots of unstructured talking time is challenging for me. I like to talk, but with those people I know. I almost always need to prepare myself for large group social interactions. But in the classroom, I find myself thinking of how to accommodate for introverts because the learning environment seems more well-suited for extroverts.

  • Students are constantly working in small and large groups.
  • Students are regularly working in groups with lots of different people.
  • Students are engaging in many oral discussions: in small groups, large groups, and the full class. 
  • Students are given large blocks of time to work, learn, and explore, and they are regularly creating their own structure for unstructured time.
  • There is always lots of productive noise and regular conversations.

I find that this environment aligns well with the play-based, inquiry-based classroom model, but it’s also one where extroverts really seem to blossom. And so I consider what I can do to support the introverts in the room, as I want all students to meet with success. But as teachers, we may all have different classroom set-ups, and while I’m considering how to better address the needs of the introverts in my room, others may be considering how to better address the needs of the extroverts in theirs.

It was then that I began to think about my day today. I kept reflecting back on a recording from the end of the day. I wanted the students to reflect on their learning and make connections as to why some structures (chairs) worked better than others. As the students were sharing their ideas aloud, I couldn’t help but notice those couple of students that were reluctant to participate and didn’t seem to be as engaged. I wondered why. On my drive home, I realized the problem. We were doing a lot of talking, but we weren’t using enough visuals. Some students needed these visuals. As an auditory learner, the talking time worked well for me, but it didn’t work well for all of my learners. Next time, I need to look at how to provide these visual and kinaesthetic opportunities for those students that need it. And just like that, I gained a new appreciation for what Kristi and Sue were saying: what works for me may not always work for my students. Ultimately, it’s the students that matter.

How do you always consider the various needs of the students in your classroom? What opportunities do you give for your students to share their learning preferences with you? I would love to hear your thoughts as I further contemplate how to meet the needs of my introverted, extroverted, auditory, visual, and kinaesthetic learners.




8 thoughts on “It’s Not About Us!

  1. Have you read Quiet: The Power of Introverts? It is a great book even though I find at times there is too much anti-extrovert in the writing. What I did when I was in a classroom was to allow choice for some projects. You could work with a partner or alone. Not always as I believe everyone needs to learn the skills that come with group work. As an introvert and mother to 3 introverts (and one extrovert) I try to be sensitive to this. I feel like you included a great deal for your kinesthetic learners in the building.

    • Thanks for the comment, Heather! I read QUIET quite a while ago now, and maybe I need to revisit it again. I do try to work in these choice options as well, and I do believe that they work for the introverted student. I also try to get students to tell me if the options don’t work for them, and either they offer another choice, or we work something out together. At the beginning of the year, students were reluctant to voice their concerns, but all of them do so more now, and I’m glad that they do.

      Thank you too for the comment about the building! I think that the activity itself helped my kinaesthetic learners, but I’m not sure that the follow-up discussion included enough visuals and/or movement opportunities. Maybe this is what was missing for some students. I need to think about this more, and maybe even ask my students what they think about this kind of sharing.


  2. It is funny, Aviva, that you mention learning styles here. Last week I got to soak in the genius of John Hattie, who has spent years dissecting effective teaching strategies. His view of learning styles (kinaesthetic, visual, auditory) was that it was a bunch of malarkey…actually he used harsher words than that, but there’s the gist. I’m not sure how to process that information yet but I do wonder if it really matters how we categorize or label learners. I know lots of introverts who aren’t all that like me in many ways, and there are probably some extroverts I have lots in common with. If we focus more on reflecting and observing not only what works for us but works for each one of our learners we’re probably better off. Students are too complex to fit into a label. Strategies and teaching styles are too rigid to fit every child every time. Recognizing those simple truths I think is how we begin to respect the learning needs of everyone.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kristi! I’ve heard these thoughts on learning styles before, and I’m not sure exactly how I feel about this. I do agree with you though that the key is in observing our learners, and really trying to meet their diverse needs (not an easy task, but an important one). I also wonder if at certain times we can all fall into different categories — from introverted and extroverted to the various learning styles — and maybe just being aware of when our teaching and learning environments aren’t working for students and what more we can do, are essential. (I’m not sure that I thought about this at the time today, but I will be more cognizant of this tomorrow.) Thank you, as always, for giving me more to think about!


    • I have heard similar sentiments over differentiation as it is impossible to truly give a different program for each student- even when we truly care and try. I think having a variety of choice in assignment allows students to present or work the way they feel confortable AT THAT MOMENT. This may change for some students. Maybe the extrovert needs some quiet time…….I think there are learning styles but I think they are fluid and subject dependent. For example I can read and know swim thing easily if it is related to something I am interested in. If I am trying to knit or sew something, I have to actually do it. Reading about it or watching someone else do it makes no sense. For teaching, I can hear a great idea and role with it, I don’t need to see it in action. I’m sure others are the same and there are other examples of where I have different learning needs and strengths.

      • Heather, I definitely think that choice matters and hearing feedback from students is also important. I think that we both responded to Kristi with similar sentiments. I’ve heard these thoughts on learning styles before, and I don’t know exactly where I stand, as at times, it certainly seems like students need different opportunities to be successful (from hearing ideas aloud to seeing them in action). But I think that you make a great point: these styles may vary depending on the situation. Again, it comes down to really observing our learners, and trying to address their needs “in the moment” when they may need these different options most. (And from your examples, this could be as true for adult learners as children.)


  3. Aviva…
    I agree that so many of our ”effective” strategies are more geared towards extroverts.
    I actually was just discussing this with some colleagues. We often think of being an introvert as being a bad thing (unintentionally). But really, often introverts, are thinkers and don’t feel the need to express themselves through talking. They may not be comfortable participating in discussions (in high school, I can use online discussions, thankfully). It is important, as educators that we foster the learning of introverts as well as extroverts. We can provide valuable learning experiences in different forms by giving choice and encouraging students to try activities that may be outside their comfort zone, but with support. A comfortable learning environment is as important as effective teaching strategies… In fact, the latter is useless without the former. As well, a comfortable learning environment may be different for extroverts and introverts. Observing for some students is their way to learn. Being quiet doesn’t necessarily mean a student is not engaged,- active listening demonstrates engagement.
    Thank you for this reminder. It’s all about our students’ best interests, not what ‘looks better’. I am going to keep this in mind as I plan this week!

    • Thanks Lisa! I really appreciate your perspective & your high school experiences. I used to use back channels all the time in my Grade 5 and 6 classes, and even back when I taught Grade 1 before, to give those quieter students, a voice. Most of my current Grade 1 students though do not have the reading and writing skills necessary to be effective at this type of conversation. I think that I would make them more frustrated than happy. I’m wondering then how I can hear the thinking of those students that don’t want to participate, but do have ideas to add. I try to record some of their thinking prior to our full class discussions, but sometimes, new questions make me curious about how their thinking would change.

      I also know that observing can be a good skill, but watching some of their fidgety, distracted actions, makes me wonder how much these students are observing and taking in. Maybe I need to ask them more about how they feel. Your comment has definitely gotten me thinking, Lisa! Thank you!


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