This post is the result of my thoughts on reading this entry by Matt Walsh on introverts and extroverts. His entry got me thinking about the benefits of studying in a class environment instead of studying at home, but then my thoughts moved to my actual students who exhibited introverted and extroverted qualities and what I’ve been doing for and with them.
I’m not a proponent of homeschooling, but I’m not against it either. I’ve had homeschooled students who, when they were integrated into a classroom setting initially had difficulty dealing with their classmates. Complaints would arise about how this homeschooled kid would either NOT participate at all or would be TOO rough in how they dealt with classmates because they were overly excited at spending time with people their age instead of adults. Now they’ve either opened up some more or learned to monitor themselves so as not to hurt their classmates.
I’m lucky that the community in my school is very understanding of the differences of the students. Yes, there are students who are so noisy and fidgety that they disturb class work and discussion. They need to be disciplined. Does this mean that we’re teaching them to rigidly and blindly conform to societal norms? No. We make them understand that because of their actions, they are also “suppressing the right of [their] peers to education” (quote from a student). They complain and ask questions, and we answer.
I have this student in class who is almost the shyest person I know. I can’t get her to recite in class with a voice louder than a whisper or without covering her face. I “force” (encourage? nudge? prompt?) her to speak louder, to not cover her face with her hair or whatever she’s holding in her hand not because I want to turn her into the next Kris Aquino or Oprah or Ellen but because I CAN’T HEAR WHAT SHE’S SAYING. When she covers her face with her handkerchief or a book or her worksheets, the covering muffles her voice even more. I don’t expect her to shout, nor do I expect her to dazzle me or her classmates with a sudden onset of the gift of gab. I just want to literally HEAR her and understand her and know, through her responses, if she has understood the lesson.
I’ll be honest, though. I do want her to overcome her shyness enough to give a decent presentation or report at least for this school year. I’m worried that when she begins her work or even go to college to defend her thesis, she’ll give the impression that she’s not confident about her work and therefore lead people to believe that she can’t be trusted because she does not trust her own self. She does better in writing, though. She has a developing voice, and I can observe that she has ideas brimming in her head, but the problem is not the confidence but in finding the right words to express herself. Here I do my best to encourage her as well.
As an introvert and as a kid who grew up really shy, I understand her. I understand how terrifying it can be to have my classmates’ and teacher’s eyes all on me, as if they were waiting for me to make a mistake and therefore laugh at my expense or think that they were all better than me because I was dumb, stupid, and incompetent. But I also understand that one cannot allow herself to be crippled by such thoughts or else she’d never get anything done the way she wants it to be done. So I push her.
I have another student who is the complete opposite of this girl. He is LOUD. He is talkative. He can be obnoxious. He also can be funny and insightful. He has a lot of questions about the world and annoys his classmates (and his other teachers, too, I believe) because he constantly interrupts discussions with (sometimes) completely unrelated questions like when he suddenly asked why the Titanic movie was colored but the clip I showed them about our first elected president’s inauguration was in black and white even if the inauguration happened after the Titanic’s sinking (my class’s reaction was pure win at that time. If they were in an anime, their faces would’ve all been on the floor. BUT HE WAS SERIOUS WITH HIS QUESTION, so they kept themselves in check and I firmly told him it was a question to be answered after class because it was unrelated to our topic). Anyway, I LOVE his questions, to be honest, because they’re DIFFERENT and they force me to think about how he got that certain crazy idea and how I can give the answer in a context he can understand, but I can’t waste his classmates’ time by answering ALL his irrelevant questions DURING class.
We have an expression that goes, “walang preno ang bibig,” which literally means that the mouth has no brakes. It’s the perfect description for him. He says anything and everything that comes to his mind, and sometimes he’s not aware that he’s already being disruptive or offensive. And when he thinks, he thinks aloud. His recitations are basically his think-alouds. As an introvert, I am drained when I have to deal with him. And he just sucks all our energy up.
Do I hate this extroverted kid? No. Do I make him shut up in class? Yes. Why? His voice can sometimes be louder than mine, which is distracting and overpowering. Do I tell him his questions are stupid? No. Do I make faces at his questions giving the impression that I think his questions are stupid? I hope not. I sometimes put my head in my hand when he asks the umpteenth unrelated question during class and I tell him for the umpteenth time that I can answer his questions AFTER class but not during. Sometimes I find a way to connect his unrelated question to our discussion, but it can be taxing on my mental engine.
What am I trying to say, basically? I guess what I’m trying to say is that as an introvert, I could completely relate to and agree with all of Mr. Walsh’s experiences and points except for the implication that the classroom setup is somehow inferior to the homeschool method because the former forces introverts like himself to “come out of their shells” is a bit unfair. I think that both styles are equally beneficial, but mainly IF the student “fits” the system and is therefore able to grow. And the teacher also plays a large part in facilitating that child’s growth. There are some students who do better in a classroom setup and go on to become successful in their own chosen careers. If the student does not grow in that environment, then maybe homeschooling is better for him, and vice versa. But I must add that however great each system may be, if the teacher (whether in a homeschool or class setup) just belittles the student or prevents the child’s ideas to develop, then it’s not the system but the teacher who has failed the child.
The lengthy comment by a certain Braden at the end of Mr. Walsh’s post certainly gave me pause for thought. I haven’t yet processed my thoughts on his comments, but they’re certainly making me think about and recall the actions of my extroverted friends.
Look at that. I just spent more than an hour writing down my thoughts when I should have been finishing up on checking papers. But this has recharged me, and I think I’ll be able to work until late at night to finish my work. On one hand I regret not being able to start my work at once, but at the same time I’m glad that I was able to get this out because otherwise it’ll be stuck in my head and I’d just get frustrated at not being able to entertain my own thoughts.