Introverts and Extroverts in the Classroom

(This post originally appeared in my former blog, “” in August 2015, and since I only post to this site, I am moving some of my more popular posts.)

We all make resolutions and decisions this time of year about how we will handle our classrooms in the upcoming year. One of the decisions that I have made that will profoundly affect both me and my students is this: I will learn how to communicate more individually with my students.

I have not always approached my students as individuals. Image1There. I said it. Sometimes teachers feel like there isn’t enough time in the world for lesson planning, committee meetings, and all of the other pulls we have on our time to really get to know our students well enough to treat them as individuals. I have come to believe that their learning and ultimate success depends on this, however. Especially the shy, introverted ones.

You see, I identify easily with the bold, brash, outgoing extrovert students who are like me. The shy ones, the introverted ones are a different kind of challenge. Since many times they are not behavior problems and they NEVER interrupt class, it is easy to let them be.

Recently, I came across a reference to author Susan Cain and her website while listening to a podcast by the Bedley Brothers . I found their site by following them on Twitter @BedleyBros . She presents a strong argument for teachers not to try to get introverts to “get over” their introvertedness and become more extroverted. In fact, she says, most of the really wonderful things that have been accomplished by introverted people through the years have been done because of and not in spite of their introvertedness. Check out her interview on the Bedley brother’s podcast site, or for a more complete treatment of the subject, her TED talk “The Power of Introverts”.

Having completed a week-long bridge camp with my incoming ninth graders, I have already begun to identify some of my introverts (as well as my extroverts) and wondered about how to connect with them at a level where I can help them learn best. Here are a couple of ideas that I have worked on during my prep time this week:

Diversity in my Lesson Strategy

I will allow for self-paced and individualized learning by encouraging individual learning goals and allowing students to work on their own instead of in groups all of the time.

Find time for 1:1 Communication

I have joked with some about my “Student Conference Kit” that is composed of a baseball and two baseball gloves. I have experienced that tossing a baseball back and forth in the parking lot provides a wonderful time to talk about “stuff” unrelated to class. I keep the items on a shelf in the back of the room, and students know how they are used, and they have the freedom to ask for some baseball time. I also feel free to invite students when I sense the need for some 1:1 time. Male students and female students both have enjoyed it in the past.

Sometimes my introverts are also my “tough” kids. Abuse of their introvertedness in past classroom settings is one reason that they are sometimes tough to handle. For help with that, I am reading Serena Pariser’s ebook, The Simplest Way to Win Over the Tough Kid!  Check out this California educator and conference leader’s website at  You can actually get a free copy of that ebook by joining her mailing list. 


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