“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” (Susan Cain)
I’ve been wanting to read Susan Cain’s book Quiet for a little while so, when I saw her video on TED talks laziness prevailed and I decided to watch it.
The talk really resonated with me as I would consider myself more introverted than extroverted. But it goes deeper than just looking at myself. How do we cater for the introverts in our classes? Perhaps by “helping” them to become more extroverted? We value and cater for differences in gender, ethnicity and ability but perhaps not so much for introversion; mainly because extroversion is deemed such an advantageous quality for one to have. We teach students social skills, comment on their reports that they need to speak up more in class and constantly put students into groups to complete tasks.
I’m not saying I think any of this is wrong but I do think, upon reflection, that we need to offer plenty of choice in school. In terms of classroom environment, we can offer “caves” (in the words of Prakash Nair) where students can go for quiet reflection and contemplation. We can also ensure students have choice in their work habits. If, for instance, they are working on writing a report some children will work best by bouncing ideas off one-another. Others will prefer to quietly nut it out on their own. We need to allow for this to happen whilst also challenging extroverts to work alone sometimes and introverts to work in groups sometimes. Students have told me that a major difference between learning in a My-learning classroom and a traditional class is that the room is never silent. Students can collaborate as much or as little as they like. Having said this, there wouldn’t be a single child who doesn’t recognise the value of collaborating sometimes and none languish on their lonesome the entire time. The physical environment helps facilitate this but the flexible way in which students work needs to be taught at the beginning of the year to ensure productivity prevails.
Having just attended the International Conference on Thinking where the need for collaboration to help facilitate creativity, innovation and thought was discussed, I liked the way Cain mentioned that there are big problems for us now and in the future that will require many minds to solve. Her idea to contemplate on our own then bring ideas together is important I think and sits nicely alongside what we know about providing students with sufficient thinking time too.
Quiet is certainly on my next book to read list.