Educators should teach students who are introverted how to speak up in class, middle-grades teacher Jessica Lahey writes in this article.  “As a teacher, it is my job to teach grammar, vocabulary, and literature, but I must also teach my students how to succeed in the world we live in — a world where most people won’t stop talking.”

Next week marks the beginning of parent-teacher conferences. I can count on a few issues to come up: how I calculate grades, the degree to which I am willing to chase students for late work, and individual parents’ expectations about the flow of information between school and home. But this year, I am hearing lot of questions about how to best educate introverted students and, specifically, the fairness of class participation grades.

I have experimented with many different grading strategies over the years, but class participation remains a constant in my grade book. It counts for a lot because we spend a large percentage of our of class time in dialogue. How does Pip change once he receives his Great Expectations? What does Edmund mean when he says, “Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law / My services are bound”? 

When it comes time to assess my students’ engagement with these questions, I could quiz them daily and force them to write reams about the topics I want them to consider. Or I can ask them to open their mouths, turn on their brains, and share their ideas with the rest of the class. I opt for a happy medium, and require a little bit of both.

This is no problem for the extroverts, who live for the opportunity to talk about their ideas. However, I also teach introverts, who live in fear of being asked these sorts of questions. There are a lot of students populating the middle ground, of course, but I don’t tend to hear from those students’ parents at conference time. The parents of introverts complain that I am not meeting their child’s unspoken educational needs, or that I am causing serious emotional trauma by requiring their child to speak up in school.

I am aware that as an extrovert, I naturally teach to and understand the needs of extroverts. Consequently, I have worked very hard to research and implement teaching strategies that work for introverted students. I have a personal interest in the subject as well, as I am married to one introvert and mother to another.

Continue reading about how teachers should teach quiet students how to speak up in class.

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