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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts (recommended book)

I assume the vast majority of Quiet readers are like me, relieved to discover there are others out there who go into what I call Introvert Shutdown when walking into a bustling room full of people. But I hope extroverts will read the book, too, and learn that we're "recoiling from novelty or overstimulation, not human contact."

In exchange, I'd be happy to read a book called Loud: A Guide to Understanding Extroverts, with chapters like "What's So Happy About 'Happy Hour'?" And "I Barely Know You. Why Are You Touching Me?!"

If at times Quiet reads like a pro-introvert manifesto, that's purely intentional: in fact, there's a Manifesto on Susan Cain's website with sixteen points, including:
# 2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.
# 9. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
# 12. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
And, most importantly for educators, 
# 6. The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.
[Update: Her new website has a 10-point manifesto.]

I wish I'd read this book in grad school rather than learning through trial and error, over several years of teaching, that "traditional" doesn't always mean "ineffective" and "group work" doesn't always mean "effective." 

And in defense of introverted teachers: Some of us gain enormously from reading, keeping a journal, and informal discussions with one or two trusted colleagues. But too often, "professional development" is taken as a synonym for "conference participation."  

Of course, there are benefits to group work and to conferences, for introverts as well as extroverts. The problem is the dominance of one type: Ms. Cain describes the downside to the Extrovert Ideal in contemporary western society, where at its most extreme speaking out can be more important than having something to say.

After living in Japan, I've also seen the downside to the Introvert Ideal in a society where "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down."

As Ms. Cain rightly points out, the Montgomery Bus Boycott never would have happened without introvert Rosa Parks and extrovert Martin Luther King (as well as a whole lot of other people of varying temperaments and backgrounds, I might add).

So let's celebrate both introverts and extroverts, in our classrooms and beyond.


related posts:

Self-Care Resources for Educators

Recommended Books

Mountains and Molehills: Introduction to the Enneagram

Wizards, Buddies, and Laid-Back Dudes: Teacher Archetypes in Real Life