TOMMY FAIRWEATHER: Helping your quiet child find their voice


Introverts are the quiet children in the home and classroom. Most adults, including teachers, think that because these children are quiet, they are shy. However many introverts are not shy.

Marti Olsen Laney, author of the book “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World,” has a brief series of questions for the reader to answer to identify if he/she is an introvert or an extrovert. She says introverts and extroverts differ in important ways.

The first way they differ has to do with energy use and recharging. She describes the extrovert as solar panels.

Extroverts need people and a variety of activities to recharge their energy level. So the more they do the more they are energized.

Introverts are like rechargeable batteries. They need rest away from stimulation to restore energy. Being with a lot of people and activities drains them tremendously and they need down time to recoup.

At school, the teacher should be sure to pace the day so that the introvert can be alone and read or even put his/her head down for a rest.

Adults might want to pair the child with another quiet child when it is time to play, or allow for what is called parallel play. When parallel playing, children are playing nearby but not with each other. It is okay at recess for a child to play alone or with one friend. Most introverts need time and a quiet reflective place so they can think things over in their minds.

The second way introverts and extroverts differ has to do with breadth and depth. Extroverts like breadth. They like to know a bit about everything. Introverts like depth, so they limit the topics of interest and numbers of friends. The introverts take in information, reflect on it and then expand on it in their minds. The time spent on reflection does cause a problem in school because the introvert continues thinking on a topic even after the class has changed. The introvert is not yet ready mentally to move to the next subject.

With these two differences described, it is easy to see how introverts could have some problems at home and at school.

One problem is that the adult (either parent or teacher) could be an extrovert and not understand the needs of the introverted child. When I had introverts in a class, I would let them know I understood their needs. I told them I would never call on them as a surprise. Instead I would tell them that when they had something to say, they could signal me and I would call on them. Remembering that they study fewer topics, but cover more in depth, I would find out what their interests were and make some assignments that somehow encompass these interests.

Timed math tests are the bane of existence to introverts because they lack confidence that they can rapidly solve the problems within the time constraints. Pulling words up at appropriate times can also be a problem for introverts because they are still reflecting on what has been said while the extroverts have moved on to other topics.

Projects are sometimes a problem for the introvert. First, the grouping of students can affect the introvert. Remember to make a smaller group for the introvert. Second, the amount of time to complete the project is also a problem.

Remember introverts need more time because they go deeper into the topic.

They may be reading several sources and they need time to process what they have read. Finally, they put it all together.

Teachers can make more thinking time for the introvert by letting the introvert be the last to report. A good teacher will have specific check points during the project and will be able to tell where each student is.

For more information, check Marti Olsen Laney’s website at http://www.parentmap.com/article/nurturing-your-introvert for an excellent article for parents. As a parent, you should first identify whether your child is an introvert. Then share this information with your child’s teacher to help facilitate a better year for your child in school.

Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher, who lives in Destin and works at Smarts & Arts on Airport Road in Destin.