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The Dilemma of Calm and Serious Children – How to Survive in Schools Adapted for Extroverts?

Brightly decorated classrooms, group work desks, tasks and activities designed to engage all students – these examples show that a significant portion of the practices, lesson plans, and class curriculum used in schools are geared towards extroverted children.

“Typically, learners are divided into two groups – extroverts and introverts. People with pronounced extroverted traits enjoy socializing, spending time with others, they are active and full of energy. People with pronounced introverted traits are often reserved and serious, preferring solitude or a small circle of people,” says Rūta Žiaunienė, a psychologist at Erudito Licėjus.


What difficulties do introverted students face?

The psychologist emphasizes that the difficulties arise not for children with a more reserved character in general, but for radical introverts for whom this trait is a significant obstacle in life and learning. Introverted children often doubt their abilities. They may feel that the world and its rules were created and imposed by extroverts.

“Indeed, many modern trendy teaching methods are a result of extroverted thinking – leadership, public speaking, and so on. Introverts, unlike extroverts, seek to thoroughly and meticulously understand a subject or topic before giving an answer or starting a task, so they may find it challenging to actively engage in classroom discussions. Especially when it comes to articulating their opinion, defending it, or even disagreeing, working in a group, or with specific people,” explains R. Žiaunienė.

For introverts, the fear of giving even slightly incorrect answers can feel like a disaster. In contrast, according to Marti Olsen Laney, an expert in this field, extroverts do not experience stress from incorrect, baseless, or non-factual speaking because they perceive such conversation as ordinary communication.

“Introverted students can often feel tired, even exhausted. They may crave a quiet, peaceful room and solitude. As M. O. Laney points out, social interactions can completely drain an introverted person and, conversely, serve as a stimulant for an extroverted student,” emphasizes the psychologist at Erudito Licėjus.


All students can feel good in the classroom

However, specialists note that labels cannot definitively define a student’s limits or abilities. “Working as a teacher, I have noticed that in certain cases, students’ identities can change. For example, with a change in class composition, someone falling ill, or creating a warmer, more secure environment, introverted students may reveal previously hidden qualities: telling jokes, asking questions, actively participating in the class. This means that a person can be ambiverted – depending on the situation, they can demonstrate both introverted and extroverted traits,” says Dr. Donatas Šinkūnas, a history and theory of knowledge teacher at Erudito Licėjus.

The teacher emphasizes that the student’s personality should be respected, but it does not mean that challenges should never be presented to introverts. “Just as extroverted students are expected to quietly engage in tasks, the same should be demanded of introverted students when it comes to speaking in front of the class. Public speaking is a valuable life skill – uncomfortable but necessary,” highlights D. Šinkūnas.

How to achieve maximum benefit with minimal harm? Specialists advise giving introverts time to prepare or even rehearse what they want to say. “For presenting in front of the class, which may seem like the worst nightmare, it is possible to prepare by setting small goals and discussing them with the teacher. First, you can ask the teacher to allow reading from a pre-prepared text. Second, prepare both the text and its outline. Initially, try speaking according to the outline, and if it doesn’t work, you can always glance at the text. Third, if the second stage is successful, for the next presentation, bring only the outline. If you forget the flow of the presentation, there’s no need to be afraid to take a pause and think,” advises teacher D. Šinkūnas.

He suggests that in order to feel more confident, one can try to anticipate the topic and discussion object of the class in advance and prepare it in detail at home. When the opportunity arises during class, it will be much easier to ask a question or share a comment. “It may seem like an imposition of extroverted norms on an introvert, but you should honestly ask yourself how many times you haven’t understood something because you were hesitant to fully clarify it,” emphasizes the teacher.

Specialists also recommend that introverts monitor their energy rhythms and perform intensive tasks when they have the most energy, while leaving simple, technical tasks for when they feel more tired.

“Set realistic goals for yourself and leave the unrealistic ones to Hollywood movie characters. Don’t blame yourself for perpetually insufficient quality. Remember that you haven’t witnessed the perfectly evaluated work of another person, the effort, time, and nerves they invested to achieve it. You only see the end result and don’t know how much they sacrificed to achieve it. Finally, the most enjoyable part – properly rewarding yourself after achieving a small goal, don’t forget to treat yourself with a favorite author’s book, TV series, or delicious dish,” suggests Rūta Žiaunienė, a psychologist at Erudito Licėjus.