I remember parent teacher conferences. I would get glowing reports about how smart my child was, how she would outscore her peers on most things. They would tell me how polite she was, always listened to the rules and was never disruptive. They would explain that she was well liked and respected by her classmates. She was always on time. All these wonderful things. But they would always end with:

She rarely raises her hand. When I ask her directly she always knows the answers. In fact, she probably has an idea that no one else thought about. We really need her to speak up more. Shyness doesn’t do well in the classroom…

Now we know that my daughter goes to a competitive college. We know that she has leadership rolls and awards. We know that she was a champion debater and moot courter (even on the college level where her university is ranked in the top 25). She was picked to be her high school graduation speaker…

But yet, up until Senior Year the majority of teachers were still telling me that she needed to speak up more…(exception: one teacher who simply said- she shows me in a million ways that she understands everything I say)

But in her stellar academic career, with over 50 teachers, only one teacher ever said that it was OK to not be raising her hand…

SO my question is:

Are kids told from a young age that being an introvert is less than?

Are kids expected to change into extroverts?

Are we telling kids that being an introvert is bad?

Are introverted kids being inadvertently bullied about being introverts?

Discuss

76 thoughts on “If Only They Would Just…

  1. The shorthand answer to your questions, as a former primary teacher myself, is Yes. Or at least… sometimes. And I wonder whether one of the reasons for this is because a lot of primary/elementary teachers are themselves extraverts. I am myself a definite introvert. Imagine my feelings on the first day of teacher training, when I was told that the “most successful” teachers are extraverts. Luckily, in addition to being an introvert I am also very stubborn. I became a teacher and quickly became aware that what might look like success in terms of career progress is not the same as success in terms of providing what a child needs to learn. I hope your daughter, and all introverted learners out there, have a family as supportive as yours obviously is, to help them develop the powers of resilience and pride in themselves, so that they know they don’t need to be the biggest voice in the room in order to find fulfilment.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That one teacher said that exact thing to me..”her voice isn’t the loudest in the room but it’s always the strongest.” Love that teacher. He wrote all her college recommendations too…

      Liked by 5 people

    2. I taught a long time and never ever heard you had to be an extrovert to teach. I graduated college in 1971 and video tape was new. The communications dept recorded us all teaching a fifteen minute lesson. And we all as a class had a checklist and graded each other on our performance skills. We were told before hand that our delivery was important because we needed to hold students’ interest. We needed to give eye contact, to smile, and be engaging and non threatening etc. But we were never told we had to become extroverts. To just be ourselves. But we knew from the get go that our class performance mattered. This was one reason we all had to take speech and debate as part of our educational degree.

      Obviously there is so much more than performance that makes a teacher. However, that video taping really made me understand how important it was each day to walk into the classroom and put on a happy face. No matter what was happening in my real life, no matter who died, who was sick etc. I needed to start the the day with a kind smile and stand up there and encourage, enlighten and motivate. That didn’t mean I had to be an extravert.

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      1. It’s all about how you interact with the students. Obviously you need to be able to speak in front of a class, but introverts can be excellent public speakers!

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  2. Oh my, this used to drive me nuts when my now adult children were in school. It seemed like the focus was more on the fact that hands weren’t raised, than on how well they were doing. All three of my children are introverts, who did well in school. Two of them graduated high school early. To me, the whole hand-raising thing is a ridiculous focus. There is nothing to be gained from making them feel bad that they aren’t extroverts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My daughter still gets graded on class participation in college. That was even harder with Zoom classes. My “favorite” teacher note on a report card was the year my daughter was really sick and missed almost a week of school. A teacher wrote something about how absences are detrimental to success in the class. The grade in the class was an A. I think sometimes they just have rote comments they use for generally for everyone. One of those being the need to participate more.

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  4. I could go on and on about this subject and drive you crazy with my thoughts, and that’s because we have five kids and every single one of them is different, so I’m one of those people who believe children should be left along to grow and become what they desire to. We have experienced this often. My ten-year-old daughter is super unique and I have to hear from our librarians (who run the children’s programs) that she doesn’t talk enough during their reading discussion group. Of course the main lady used to be a teacher. I about ripped her head off one time because she acted like my daughter was strange because she was shy. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing wrong with being shy. We are all different, but for some reason people think we can pigeonhole our kids into one category. Some people are introverts and some are extroverts and I can’t understand why we as a human race have to control everything like we do. It disgusts me sometimes.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Ugh. Yes. In that quiet way that isn’t overt, but definitely signals to introverts (like me) that outgoing peoples’ opinions are more valued because they’re the ones that are constantly talking, and the quiet ones over in the corner, contemplating but not talking, are overlooked.

    I enjoy being an introvert, but I do wish the rest of the world would stop talking and just listen for a change. Not just listen to introverts– listening to the world in general.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. That’s a huge difference between schools where there is competition and an expectation of future competition …and here, where we’re in the public school system. 😀 Yes, if a child starts expressing desire to do that in junior high or high school, they are told that; but, not so much or at all in elementary.

    Then again, we have A LOT of kids in Utah. The teachers are likely praising all the quiet kids!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My daughter got more criticism in elementary school than middle or high…by middle school she clearly emerged as a public speaker and a leader, but the teachers still wanted “more”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. These are interesting questions. I think the reason that many educators say the things you mentioned is because our school check list, report cards, tests, ALL measure social interaction as well as Intellectual ability. It’s part of the assessments given in a child’s development. Too much anti social behavior, too many out bursts, lack of social consciousness etc. is rated as well as too little interaction . It’s all criteria. Not only for students but for teachers as well. We ALL are judged. Teachers are rated on our verbal performance. How we read a room, if we speak loud enough, smile enough, are engaging enough. We all are judged by social standards. .

    I don’t agree that most teachers are extroverts. I taught for 36 years and while I was very good at standing up in front of a group of students or teachers/parents, I’m actually not an extrovert in my private life. I’m just a good performer. I was middle child. I learned those skills early on. BUT THE MAJORITY of teachers over the years I dealt with were NOT extraverts. In fact I was frequently called upon to sit in on parent- teacher conferences because so many teachers were afraid of, or felt bullied by parents. ( I was also the union rep in my school and would sit in so new or young teachers would have the courage to tell parents about students who had specific issues or who were afraid of extremely intimidating parents ).

    But here is the thing. Part of social development includes social skills. So it’s put on a checklist and judged along with tardiness or turning in homework. AND, until a teacher gets to know a child well, it’s difficult to assess how well a child is learning if they are not verbal. That doesn’t mean aggressive or demonstrative. Social behavior is also determined by affect. Educators are asked to assess a host of skills. And just like a child who shouts out too often is judged, so is a child who is shy. It’s the norm that every standardized checklist or test strives to meet. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it makes a Child less wonderful. As a teacher of gifted students, many are overly verbal. Others are more performance directed. *Every child has her/his specific learning styles. It doesn’t mean anything other than how they absorb knowledge the best way they can. But teachers are required to rate it. And administrators rate teachers on similar skills. * I was on various hiring teams and when hiring new teachers, the fact is, extremely shy people don’t interview well. So you look for well spoken, direct individuals, who are warm and engaging with proper qualifications. (Think about who you’d hire in an interview).

    I don’t think it has anything to do with being an extrovert. We teachers assess students based on our assessment tools. And I don’t think I ever in almost 4 decades of teaching told a parent to encourage their child to become an extravert. Perhaps I encouraged more social interaction if I found a student to be a loner to an excess. But a good teacher knows her students and wouldn’t be bothered by shyness as long as a child was learning.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I found so many teachers to harp on my daughter not raising her hand. It was worse in elementary school, which annoyed me because my daughter had top grades in everything. Why nitpick? If she exhibited anti social behavior it would be different, but always worrying about participation. I think a lot of kids felt inferior because they were told they were too quiet. You end up giving them a complex. And really, sociopaths normally come off as charming, so there’s a lot

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      1. Yeah, I don’t understand why so many teachers had to tell your daughter to raise her hand. Obviously they knew she would answer if called upon. So what was the big deal?. That surprises me. If she was in debate, could speak in front of the class and was learning well, then why go on about more. I’m sure had they asked her privately why she didn’t like to raise her hand she would have told them. Based on what her performance represents I’m sure she would have answered and it would have made sense.. After that the teacher should have dropped it.
        I once had a student who for whatever reason was afraid of video cassettes. He could watch the movie or lesson but couldn’t handle seeing the machine eat or spit out the cassette. I pulled him aside , asked him one day, he said it bothered him and so I let him leave the room or use the bathroom to avoid it. BTW, He’s a successful attorney now. (He thought it was like a monster eating it and it scared him). Why would I make a big deal about that when he was a straight A student?. I think teachers need to pick and choose their battles. But social checklists are used for data and the norms ,as you say, can be misleading. I’m sure Ted Bundy was very social on his tests. Lol

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      2. That’s the thing…if a kid is successful (meaning paying attention, understanding info, completing assignments) why push them too much. I realize we want kids to go out if their comfort zone, but at some point we have to recognize different personality types

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  8. I was very quiet, shy and introverted as a child and a teen. As an adult I have grown out of some of my quietness.
    When I was a kid I would rarely raise my hand unless I was confident it was the right answer, like a math problem. If I was called on to give an opinion I would be less likely to give an opinion.
    Sometimes I think teachers don’t really try to get to know the introverted children. We used to have to take those silly Iowa Tests of Basic Skills–not that they mean that much–but my was really surprised that my scores were as high as they were because I would go through spells of not always doing my homework if it was something I felt I already knew.
    My daughter is also an introvert, was very quiet when she first started school. She had some learning issues initially and I felt like she was lost in the shuffle because she was so quiet. I didn’t feel like the teachers were giving me useful information about what was going on with her. She overcame the learning issues–she may have been a bit of a late bloomer–or frequent ear infections and eventually needing glasses may have played a part as well.
    I worked in a gym daycare years ago, and was also a girl scout leader–always tried to look out for the quiet kids even when some kids were louder and more dominating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think introverted kids get the short shift too. Loud seems to dominate, which is unfair, because loud and extraverted doesn’t mean smarter or better…I always advocated for my daughter and reassured her that she was fine as she was, but what about kids not receiving strong support at home?

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  9. “Every child has a god in him or her. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil… The religion that makes people good makes people bad, but the religion known as freedom makes all people good, for it destroys the inner conflict that makes people devils.” – A.S. Neill

    If your child is performing well – if he or she knows his or her stuff – what does it matter how often they raise their hand? Being an introvert is simply a personality type. We are all different – and that’s a good thing. Often some of the most gifted children are introverts. I think if a child is struggling but too afraid to ask for help then there’s something to be worried about, otherwise let the child be. Our desire to nit pick the slightest perceived flaws can’t be helpful. Is it any wonder so many of us grow up feeling inadequate?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Or smile. I once had a math teacher tell me to stop with the fake smiles, which at the time I was laughing at something. That 6th grade teacher definitely gave me a complex through 12th grade. I was also called a moron for not raising my hand.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. OK, peg it all to the binary..either or…introvert or extravert. One of the first comments I made on your post LA, sometime ago, was about being an ambivert…I feel most people are, or grow to become ambiverts, by learning to balance their personality and interest with what they perceive to be the requirements of a circumstance presented at a given time.

    No one is all this or all that at all times. How boring would that be? Shy the pigeonholing, don’t get sore when scored by a limited view of the runway. Cliche, broaden the horizon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My worry is that you take a relatively normal, yet quiet child, and make them think they’re “different” or a freak. It should always be about building a kids self esteem. If they do sometthing truly bad or anti social, you address it. But to knock a kid with good work habits and intelligence because their hand isn’t always in the air? Why? Does a hand always in the air really say the kid is better off? But yes…as time goes on I think many veer towards ambivert…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. And that’s my point…if you only give credence to lump cataloguing the child as a this or that, you’re losing.

        That underlying assumption is what should be challenged, by asserting that maybe, like us all, the child is an ambivert. Like, you and most of your readers, are now, all autodidacts. Or should be. Or at least know what the hell an autodidact is. Since we all have to become one after leaving school.

        Don’t buy into the language of just the binary. It’s used to pit this against that, and limit other options. And cover institutional asses. And filter down to culture and politics, and other venues of control.

        But I love your post anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. That was my experience in school. Being shy or quiet was considered unacceptable. When my kids were younger, we heard this a lot, but it seemed to drop off as they got older. Sometimes I think some teachers need to find something to tell you that your child needs to improve on, even if they are doing exceedingly well. Being the one to stand up and talk isn’t the way that every single person needs to be. Sometimes, you really do need those that just sit back and listen.

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  12. Your daughter is a woman of few words and most intelligent people are. They listen better than most and can figure things and people out quickly because they pay attention.
    I think the word introvert takes on many meanings and doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Belladonna, I don’t think most intelligent people are better listeners. Actually, data would say it’s the opposite. But those are certainly skills we want children to gain when getting a well rounded education. Actually, tested and “identified” gifted students tend to be more verbal. That’s why most IQ tests are given orally and require a verbal response on over half of the tests.
      I taught gifted education for more than 3 decades. The majority of the students in the top 1 and 2 % were very verbal. It is usually because of their verbal skills that teachers first noticed and recommended them for a gifted screening. However, there is also a large group of performance oriented students who are less vocal and equally as bright. Children all think and act differently. So in truth, we cannot generalize.

      IQ tests gather data on verbal and non verbal skills, knowledge, fluid reasoning, quantitative reasoning, visual- spatial reasoning and their working memory. There are specific formulas in tallying up scores. Keep in mind, intelligence tests record data from tests. Not all children conform to those tests. I’d have to say, over the years I had so many different kinds of students that You cannot really generalize. All are unique.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m a mother of 3. Each one of them are considered “gifted” and are apart of the program. They are all different when it comes to how they learn, how I taught them to read etc. One is very talkative and helpful, one is talkative and doesn’t like to help fellow classmates at all, the other is quiet and a man of few words but will assist when asked . I didn’t find it necessary to go into the topic of gifted. LA’s post was more about introvert and a stigma surrounding it.

        Thank you for feeling the need to go into an elaborate clarification. But I too come from an extensive back ground of education and understand the process first hand as well as second hand.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I never had my daughter take an iq test. I know I was tested early and often and my mother placed certain expectations on me based on my score. It’s hard to measure up to a score on a piece of paper. However my sister in law who has a PhD in child psychology with a specialty for testing students abilities couldn’t wait to tell me my daughter wasn’t gifted (of course she didn’t actually test my daughter…this was her informed observation that she told my husband when my husband as a proud father told his sister that his daughter taught herself to read at age 4) but now I’m blathering…..

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  13. Yes.
    But not too much, especially if you’re a girl. If you’re too extraverted that can be perceived as a problem, too. Society is weird and not very accepting of different ways to be.

    SN: Tennis needs to change how it does business 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I believe your daughter was socially savvy. My son, who sounds a lot like your daughter although he wasn’t shy in elementary school, earned the nickname “Answer Sheet.” He learned to keep quiet and not raise his hand after that. The teachers knew he had the answers. A teacher who didn’t like him said, “You know Robert, you don’t know everything!”
    My son answered, “I know that.”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Kids are discouraged by their peers from letting it be known that they know the answers. They have labels slapped on them as “geeks” or “nerds.” There are two sides to the idea of ability grouping, and as a former teacher and the mother of bright children I am sympathetic with both sides. If you segregate students by ability, you help the more intellectually able/high achievers by giving them competition and making it acceptable to be smart. If you mix students, you help the low achievers by stimulating their minds as they become more open to different concepts and viewpoints than they had on their own.

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  16. Ahhhhh, excellent question, LA. I think in a society that values “individualism” and socialization towards the result, as does occur in the US, absolutely, kids are being socialized towards extroversion. In fact, in my own life, I was labeled shy and sensitive as a child, read introversion here, and then developed, out of necessity and survival, extroverted personality traits. It’s actually only been in the last few years that I have reclaimed, as it were, my introverted self while realizing that both introversion and extroversion are concepts and that ultimately we choose where we “fit” on the spectrum of experience.

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  17. The education system is really about conformity. Extroverts, or those who can mimic them, get to make the participation rules. Raise your hand and speak up or get a negative label. Ugh. I did well in school, and thanks to drama got a little out there, but I really have an overall bad impression about school. It tended to deprive me of creativity, because the answers were all predetermined. No room for thinking outside the book.

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    1. I didn’t have a great school experience either, and I tend to agree with you. A certain kind of student was wanted, and if you didn’t fit the mold, you didn’t do as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Let kids be the way they are. Parents, teachers should only be there to guide them. Don’t impose unnecessary expectations on them. Let them bloom the way they are mean’t to.

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  19. “I remember parent teacher conferences. I would get glowing reports about how smart my child was, how she would outscore her peers on most things. They would tell me how polite she was, always listened to the rules and was never disruptive.”

    No, I can’t say this is familiar…

    My thoughts, based on observation, are that the ones who put their hands up all the time are just insecure kids trying to look brighter than they really are and seeking approval from teachers and parents. They should not be encouraged as they are the ones who grow up to be politicians.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah….I tend to veer towards your angle…most of the kids the teachers loved for raising hands are at let’s call it a standstill as to where they are going….they went from the stars to all of a sudden late bloomers…but I admit this is a biased sample solely based on observations

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  20. Yes to all your questions. I definitely experienced this as a child and even as an adult in work performance reviews. I’ve also heard people say I may not talk all the time but when I do, it’s worth listening to. Fortunately, I was smart enough that I didn’t get lost in the crowd. I wasn’t shy; just needed time to think. The good teachers know that. The other negative for me was that my last name starts with “A” which meant always being first. I never had enough time to think!!

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  21. I never experienced this problem myself or with my children, they always told me that it would be good if they let the other children answer. I can’t speak to how people view children and adults that are shy or quieter than most, but I always remember that saying “Watch out for the quiet ones they have a lot to say” “Still waters run deep” I think quiet adults who know their worth get along well though.

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  22. Oh this one is a sore point with me who went through my entire grade school with “Joni gets excellent marks but fails to participate in class” as a comment on every single report card. I had one (male) teacher (grade 7) who picked on me because of it, and my grades suffered that year, but he was an unhappy man and a few years later committed suicide.. And my mother would shake her head at those comments because her kids were not introverts at home. I remember reading the book Quiet about introverts (which I blogged about) and the last chapter was directed at teachers and how they should be dealing with children who are introverts who are basically half of the population!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! Accept that kids are introverts and don’t worry about the good students who respect others but happen to be introverts. If that’s their worst crime really, is following your heart a problem if you are harming no one?

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  23. Her voice isn’t the loudest in the room but it’s always the strongest. I love that phrase. It’s not impossible to make an introvert into an extrovert, but it’s hard. I know because I was that introvert in high school who decided it would serve me better to be a bit more extroverted. I hated speech (with a passion) but loved debate. I rarely spoke in class but did well on all the tests. Now, as a college instructor, I see students who are extremely outspoken and those who never participate. It’s harder to assess those who have no voice. Especially in a class of 20+ students. Perhaps part of your daughter’s leadership success lies with those teachers who were insisting she speak up more? Albeit, some may have taken it too far. I’ve taken many a student aside to tell them they have excellent ideas and need to have the confidence to make their voice heard in their team. Sadly, most of these students are women. As with everything, having a balance between introvert and extrovert is advantageous. It sounds like your daughter found here balance and is being true to herself. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Her thing was that she knew the answers, she just didn’t need to be center if attention. She said she would raise her hand if it was clear that no one else knew. Part if it for her, despite this negative commentary, was that she was always a teacher favorite…from pre k on. She didn’t want to look like too much of a suck up either.

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