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Seen but not heard: teaching the introverted child

| April 10, 2018 | 0 Comments


The term “introvert” was coined in the 1920s by psychologist Carl Jung to describe a person who becomes emotionally and physically worn out from being around people for a long time.

New research in neurophysiology suggests that this temperament is associated with the way that introverts’ nervous systems are wired.1

It is estimated that as many as four out of 10 people will be introverts. In a class of 30 learners, that’s 12 children.2

Keep an eye out for the quiet students

While extroverted children draw energy from those around them and thrive in these action-packed school schedules, the very same schedule depletes introverted children. They are left feeling overstimulated, emotionally exhausted and ready to melt down.3

Teachers absolutely love the quiet children, the ones who make minimal demands on their precious teaching time, never put their hands up or ask questions, can sit still on their chair for lengthy periods of time and can work on a task without disruption until completion. These are the “perfect pupils” that everyone wishes for every year, because they make life as a teacher more bearable.

On the other hand, what happens if these same quiet ones are not coping academically? They are easy to overlook because they hardly ever ask anything. They literally disappear into the busy, colourful, creative walls of the classroom.

Introverted kids are often misunderstood and are viewed as standoffish, rude or anxious, and many are mislabelled as shy. Shyness and introversion aren’t the same thing.4

Clues are everywhere

How does a child become introverted? The simple answer is that they’re born that way. Introversion is part of one’s temperament, traits that are part of you from birth. Often parents introducing their child to the teacher at the beginning of the school year will say things like:

 “She’s finally starting to come out of her shell.”

 “It just takes him a little longer to warm up to others.”

 up to others.”

“She’s more of a listener than a talker.”

“He likes to take in what’s going on before joining others.”

 “She prefers to hang out with one friend at a time.”

 “He’s just quiet.”

Be a careful observer, both in your classroom and out on the playground at break time. These kids won’t be running around shouting and letting off steam. They’ll be sitting quietly on a bench either reading a book or chatting to a friend, or they’ll be walking around looking for bugs in the ground.

As teachers, we must make a concerted effort to make the classroom a safe and happy place for all personalities, including the quiet, reserved ones.


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Category: Autumn 2018

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