Hate Being Shy?

I’m gonna go ahead and kill two birds with one stone… And this may happen for the next little while.

In the class I’m taking this semester towards my Bachelor  of Education, we’re required to journal about the interesting topics we talk about in class. I might post some of these in here. That is, if the topic of that journal happens to be of actual interest to me rather than just being something I had to write for a submission mark.

In class today, an interesting point came up. We debated whether technology is overall helpful or harmful in classrooms. Someone said that online forums, IClickers and texting in answers, could benefit those students who wouldn’t otherwise choose to speak up. Somebody else replied that as teachers, we shouldn’t “baby” shy children. We shouldn’t tell kids it’s okay to be shy by providing them with alternate means of communication. Rather we should limit the use of technology in attempts at forcing these kids to be social, raise their hands, and give their opinions.

I disagree with that last opinion. Although I understand the general concept behind this “sink-or-swim” approach to getting kids to speak up, I feel like a larger issue is at stake here.

Who ever said that it’s not okay to be shy? Western society clearly favours those who present themselves in an extroverted way. Logically it somewhat makes sense… somewhat. Those who are verbal in their opinions are more likely to be heard, and thus more likely to be followed, or looked upon as a leader. And so, loud people gain a heightened status, and naturally kids are encouraged to be loud so that they can similarly gain a heightened status.

But if you really consider it… (And I don’t pretend to have come up with this alternate perspective on my own…. I read a refreshingly reassuring book called Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain.) Just because loud people are heard more often, doesn’t mean that their ideas are better. In fact, if a person verbalizes everything that comes to mind, their ideas will be disorganized and flawed.

Asian cultures, so I hear, have a higher acceptance, even a respect towards introverts. They’re considered wise. They think before they talk, and so they respect others by not making unnecessary noise.

Now, I’m not qualified to say one culture breeds more success than another. But I definitely think that this alternate mindset, of valuing introversion rather than trying to weed it out, may be a better approach to creating a learning environment geared towards all children, outgoing and shy. As teachers, we should keep in mind that encouraging self-esteem doesn’t necessarily mean encouraging extroversion. And although we can safely aim to increase self-esteem amongst our students, whether or not we should increase extroversion is a up for debate.


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