Saturday, May 4, 2013

QUIET by Susan Cain -- a Book for Us All

Fascinating! Susan Cain's Quiet is a book that we all should read. Some of us will nod in recognition. Others will gain an important insight into the hearts of those we love

All these years I've thought I am an ex-introvert. Come to find out, I've just learned to pretend to be extroverted in situations that really matter to me. When I feel passionately about what I'm doing, I'll willingly step out of my comfort zone and act like an extrovert. But, afterwards, I hurry back home to sit in my chair, with a book...that is where I recharge for the next foray into the loud world.

Makes sense. Makes a lot of sense.

I appreciated the balance of narrative and research. Cain hit the right chord time and again. The stories connected me, and then the discussion of the research behind the stories solidified it.

Our world, especially European, especially American, has as a foundation the belief that extroverts are superior, better able to make decisions, more sure of themselves, even perhaps smarter....and we have gone down some unfortunate paths believing that...Cain shows how Group Think, that led us into the latest financial disaster, is not the best way to make decisions. Only the loud people participate, and quieter members, IF they speak at all, are likely marginalized. And then, there's that overweening confidence that some extroverts display in competitive situations -- that drives prices up, and makes ventures more risky.

As much as I enjoyed those discussions, I perked up the most when she talked about schools and children and teachers. Again, most schools, with their crowded classrooms, emphasis on group work and free-wheeling class discussions, favor extroverts. I was that kid who, during discussions, would NEVER speak up, but I knew who was right and who was wrong. When this is the default classroom style, we ignore the needs and gifts of up to a third of our students. I know...I was one of them.

As I look through Cain's lens, I realize I have been drawn to reading because of my active internal life...I don't feel lonely reading; I feel energized. I plan my class for Quiets...I apologize to my kids who want more interaction, less predictability, more moving around. I do build in some interaction for that reason. But mine is a class that is designed to find that quiet, and to become comfortable there. Some of my more extroverted students squirm from the first to the last day, but they try. And they read great books. My quiet students find comfort. They often tell me how peaceful they feel in my class. I'm glad to know now I'm doing a service for all students in providing this space quite unlike other high school classes.

Cain gives teachers and parents advice on how to nurture and encourage quiet kids. She tells horror stories about extroverted parents who tried to 'fix' their introverted children instead of celebrating them. We all need to read this, no matter what our style.

When I shared this in class, many of my quiet students perked up and were very interested...They need to know they don't have to change to 'fit into' an extroverted world. They need to find their passion which will inspire them to be assertive and honor their need for...quiet

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