Summer Reading: ‘Quiet’

Quiet Book imageNext on my summer reading list is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  by Susan Cain.  This book was a recommendation of one of my students’ parents.  I had watched Susan Cain’s TED Talk on this topic so my appetite was whetted.

Some of the main points in ‘Quiet’ are that:

  • we live in a world largely geared to extroverts
  • introverts make a up a large portion of society
  • emphasis on extrovert characteristics means that we often overlook the important contributions of introverts
  • there is evidence that some of our cherished extrovert focussed methods or strategies are actually not as effective as we might think (eg. group brainstorming)

As I read the book I realized that my classroom was really extrovert focussed despite the fact that I know that I have a lot of introverted students and despite the fact that I am moderately introverted.  I cringed when I read that group brainstorming is not as effective as individual brainstorming; I spent quite a bit of time on group brainstorming this past year.  

Looking forward to the new school year, what I have learned from reading ‘Quiet’ will definitely influence how I do things in my classroom.  I won’t toss all of the ‘extroverty’ things that I do, but I will definitely try and provide an environment that is more accommodating to introverts.

If you’re a teacher, do you think that your classroom environment meets the needs of both introverts and extroverts?  Regardless of your job, does your workplace provide an environment where people all along the introvert-extrovert spectrum can flourish?  Let me know in the comments.

Previous Summer Reading Post: Summer Reading: ‘The Code Book’

9 comments to Summer Reading: ‘Quiet’

  • Jenny Cho

    “Quiet” was on my summer reading list too.I try to give my students choices between individual work and group. Both have value and students need to practice strategies for dealing with any discomfort they feel. Part of that is giving them the freedom to voice how they feel and involve them in coming up with ways to adapt. We often chat about what optimal learning conditions are, multitasking, motivation & self-regulation. I’ve decided to add introversion-extroversion to the list. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that introversion is

  • Jenny Cho

    “Quiet” spoke to a problem that arose in my business course last year. Introverted students who were expecting a more traditional book-oriented approach to learning found the experiential (and mostly extrovert-oriented) approach somewhat challenging. Some adapted, some struggled and a few were outright resistant. We had a lot of informal talks about motivation and self-regulation, a lot of individual goal setting. In the upcoming school year, you can bet we’ll be talking about the introversion-extroversion spectrum too (along with some changes in how the course will run). There’s a place for both. Like Cain points out in her book, a partnership between the two can produce wonderful outcomes (e.g. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak).

    • Hi Jenny,
      This year I was very aware that I was consistently pushing certain students outside of their comfort zones with what I now realize were very extrovert oriented activities. I think I was placing too much emphasis on those types of activities. This year I’ll be looking at providing more of a balance as well as trying to modify the extrovert activities to be more inclusive–perhaps by providing different roles that appeal to different types of learners.
      You mentioned that you’ll be talking to your students about the introversion-extroversion spectrum; that’s a great idea. It would be helpful for those on both ends of the spectrum to realize that different people participate and share their ideas differently.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • That is another book I had not heard of that I now want to read! I love the idea of talking to students about introversion-extroversion – we talk to them about other aspects of their learning, why not this as well?

    As I read your post, I thought about First Nations cultures and the Aboriginal students I teach. Many of these students are very quiet in large group settings and rarely contribute to large class discussions. I’m always keenly aware of the voices I hear loud and clear and the voices that I rarely hear at all. I like the “Whip Around, Pass Option” so that even if a student chooses not to share, their voice has been heard – it equalizes the room in a nice way. I’ll be thinking about your, and Jenny’s, comments on introversion/extroversion as I once again try to reach all the students in my class equally next year.

    • Errin,
      I like your connection to Aboriginal cultures and students. In Quiet Cain explores east Asian cultures in order to demonstrate that the emphasis on extroversion in American culture is not the norm. It seems only natural that we honour our students’ ways of learning.
      Thanks also for mentioning the “Whip Around, Pass Option”. As you mentioned it is an equalizing strategy.

  • While waiting for Quiet from the library (looong list of holds when there was lots of buzz about it), I read two other similar books on introversion, and then Quiet too when it finally came in. I found it so affirming, and referenced it with my (introverted) kids throughout their school year. I wished that all of their teachers would read it, and internalize its message. It seems that even introverted teachers have trained themselves to try to “fix” themselves and others.

    • Hi Jeremy,

      Did any of the other books that you read on introversion have specific suggestions for the classroom? In ‘Quiet’ Cain made a few suggestions, but I’m keen to find more strategies that work well for introverted students. One of the aims of the gifted program is to help students to be able to communicate their ideas. What I’d like to work on this year is to provide more options that appeal to both ends of the introvert / extrovert spectrum (and in between.)

      Thanks for commenting!

  • No, I don’t think there was much specific advice for teachers — other than the bit you mentioned from Quiet, which really resonated with us. The other two (with terrible titles: Introvert Power and The Introvert Advantage) were very focused on helping people embrace their own introversion, and primarily as adults. I do remember studying personality type in education, which is certainly related, and much of the Gardiner stuff on learning styles could also apply…but I don’t remember any specific references. I’m a fan of Myers-Briggs types, and there’s a fair bit of literature applying it to education — as the I/E axis is central, you may find it helpful.