As the spring approaches, our students take part in events that showcase their many achievements throughout the year: our annual Art Show, the Vermont Young Playwrights’ Festival, our student-produced prom, and, of course, our weekend of Graduation events. These opportunities for our students to celebrate their success also allow them a chance to be seen, appreciated, and publicly praised by their peers and by the adults who’ve come to know them throughout the year.
Earlier this year, I read an NPR interview with Susan Cain, author of Quiet, and most recently of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. In it, Cain reveals a nationwide growth in understanding that sometimes quiet students are just as engaged, talented, and successful in school as their extroverted peers. Cain points out that as a culture we’ve tended to value the extroverted person for their willingness to contribute, their confidence, their assertiveness. In school, we often encourage extroverted behavior by grading students on class discussion and presentations. But this approach may have missed something important: introverted students need to be valued for who they are, and then led slowly, rather than pushed, out of their comfort zone.