Welcome to the second installment of the “Inside my Sparkly Shell” series! You can read the introductory post here where I explained the purpose of this series and talked a little about my experience. With each article I post, my goal is to knock down barriers and stereotypes surrounding introverted personalities while helping my fellow glamorously introverted peers embrace their true nature. Why come out of your shell when it can be so fun and sparkly?! In this installment, we are talking about surviving the classroom, one of the first environments where we discover how unique we really are.
The playground is the destination for a lot of early personal discovery. It is the first place where we are put with our peers in a free environment. It is the closest we get at such a young age to be “out in the world” on our own. We naturally start to compare ourselves to other kids and begin to discover things that stand out. I remember only wanting to spend time at the monkey bars which were conveniently located in the back corner of the jungle gym away from all the action. My comrades wanted to go onto the big field to play games but I was content practicing my gymnastics skills and soaking up the sun in the quiet.
Then there comes the classroom – where the opinion of adults start to interfere. Sure, myself and my introverted classmates were great students who followed rules and handed in assignments on time and carefully checked over. But, for some reason we were still placed second behind the extroverted kids in the class. They often got better grades for being more “active participants” which was frustrating for us quieter ones. Introverts are often very active participants – just in ways that are different and less recognized.
Finding success in the classroom is both easy and difficult for introverts. Easy because most of us are very organized and intelligent individuals who enjoy learning. Hard because of the often overwhelming social aspect school can have. Here are a few tips to help you along your way…
- Recognize the difference between your weaknesses and your introversion. Sometimes, we lump the two together because we are so often told that our introversion is such a major weakness that needs to be fixed. Let’s learn not to blame our introversion for everything – getting a bad grade, not getting picked for a team, etc. We often think of ourselves as having a big sticker on our forehead saying “INTROVERT” but that is not always how people see us. Just like everyone else, we are multi-faceted individuals with numerous aspects to our personality – not just introverted.
- Understand that you are participating. Teachers often stress verbal participation, as if speaking is the only way you can participate in something. Now, I am going to assume you are a fantastic student for a second here (and I’m sure you really are). Compare yourself to that kid in the class – yes, you know who I am talking about. That kid that shows up late, sits himself in the back of the class, flips his hood up, and gets himself a good snooze. You are nothing like that kid, right? That is the true difference between participating and not participating and I only wish more teachers would recognize that. If you show up on time, pay attention, take notes, ask questions, and try your hardest on exams, then you are participating. And don’t let anyone who wants to count the words that come out of your mouth tell you that you are not.
*Side note: I actually had a teacher in high school who put a chart on her syllabus showing how many times you needed to raise your hand (and get called on) in class to get a certain grade!!
- Make a list of school goals. It can be as simple as not missing a day of school or getting A’s in all classes. Us introverts tend to beat ourselves up a lot and we can forget the many things we accomplish. This list will give you something to focus on during the year and will serve as a reminder that despite any anxiety or bad situations you have dealt with, you did get something done.
- Forge a relationship with your teacher. Some teachers are better at recognizing introverted students and challenging them in their own way. Others can be more “pro-extrovert” and threaten the introverted students with lower grades if they don’t “speak up” or become more aggressive in class. Unfortunately, we can’t always have the first one so we have to assure our teachers that despite our personality, we are invested in the class and want to succeed. If asking a question in front of the class is too daunting, stay after and ask. This will not only get you a more personalized response but it will show that you cared enough to get your question answered. You can also schedule an appointment to meet with your teacher to ask questions and you can even take that time to reassure them that you are a full participant in the class even though you may seem reserved.
The biggest piece of advice I can give about being an introvert in school as well as any other place is to remain true to yourself! Do not give in to the pressure to become something that you are not. Introverts have their own unique set of strengths that extroverts don’t have. We need to be confident in ourselves and combine those assets with those of our counterparts – that is how we will all succeed!