Schools Are Failing Introverts

Cartoon by Nicholas Schade ’22

by Anna Haas ‘23

Pods of desks, group projects, a spot on report cards that grade for class participation. All of these and more are ways that schools align themselves around extroverts. MCPS has even been pushing to get away from lecture-style teaching and teacher-led instruction in favor of groups, projects, and socratic seminars. Extroverts reading this are likely jumping for joy at the prospect, but introverts reading this are feeling their social battery draining just thinking about this new learning model. 

Contrary to popular belief, introversion and shyness are not the same thing, and it is imperative that people understand this. Shyness is more a fear of social judgment, while introversion is when a person prefers to be in quieter and more solitary environments. Extroverts, on the other hand, prefer to be around lots of people and in situations that offer high stimulation. These differences are important to know in order to understand the repercussions that an extrovert-built environment has on introverts. 

As an introvert myself, I have seen the ways schools tailor themselves to fit extroverts throughout my school career. Most often, classes group desks together, so students can work with at least one other person, but usually more. At Sherwood, pods of desks and group work are very common. Now, I’m not saying that schools should do away with grouped desks or group work. It is always beneficial to bounce ideas back and forth and work with other people. However, these extensive practices should be dialed back. Routinely forcing introverts out of their comfort zone is not beneficial to them or society. Again, I’m not suggesting that people should never be put in uncomfortable situations; they are how we grow. But schools cannot force introverts to be more extroverted. The world needs the balance of introverts and extroverts because each side brings a different kind of creativity that will benefit society. Introverts do need practice being in social situations, but what is often overlooked is that extroverts also need practice being in solitary situations.

A third to a half of the population are introverts. One out of every two or three people you know. So, if the number of introverts is so large, why are schools favoring extroverts in their teaching styles? Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” explained in her TED talk that society entered the “culture of personality” in the 20th century where it became more necessary to be outgoing and charismatic due to the transition from an agricultural economy to big business. After this transition, people began to forget the importance of thoughtful solitude and began seeing energetic extroverts as the ideal personality type. This belief bled into schools and workplaces and led to what we now see all the time as students: introverts being left behind and overlooked. 

The extrovert-tailored style of teaching does nothing to help anyone on either side of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Most colleges teach in a largely lecture style. Therefore, the constant group work from elementary to high school does little to truly prepare students for college, particularly extroverts. They will have had no practice dealing with how to learn in a solitary environment and will likely struggle, all because an extroverted style of learning was seen as the ideal.

Schools must realize that teaching in ways that tailor to extroverts is not really benefiting anyone. Extroverts and introverts alike will struggle at one point or another if the teaching style does not change.