Being the typical geek that I am, I love NPR. I don’t have a chance to listen to it as much as I used to since I have a three-year-old in the car most of the time and he really picks up on everything he listens to. I usually get to catch a few stories in the morning, however, and I recently heard two really interesting pieces I thought were worth sharing. These are not directly related to child development, but I think you’ll see their relevance to education and child-rearing in general.
The next story holds particular relevance to me. It points out the struggle introverted students face in today’s often group-oriented classrooms. I tend to be on the more introverted side and I remember the anxiety I experienced in classrooms where “class participation” was a big emphasis. Even in college, I remember my heart racing when the professor would announce that large group discussion was the focus of the day. This article points out that for introverted students like me, the recent shift toward group work presents difficulties. Quiet students often find it hard to contribute and the teacher may see them as unprepared or not as bright. While there are many benefits to classrooms set up in pods instead of rows, and students learning to work together, there also seems to be a need for solitary time as well. As with many educational approaches, it seems the need for balance is evident. Yes, I think introverted students need to learn to speak in front of groups (at times), but extroverted students also need to learn to work alone at times too. I think it’s a great lesson for students to learn that individuals learn and function well in different ways and it’s good to value these differences. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking recently presented a great TED Talk on this topic.
I spoke with Susan Cain about her wonderful book and suggested to her, as I am here, looking into Montessori education. In Montessori schools, the quiet lead, and although there is much collaboration in Montessori learning there is also freedom of choice–one can choose to work alone or in a group or one-to-one with another child. Everyone is offered respect–adults and children alike–and therefore everyone is heard. It is a noncompetitive environment, so children are not graded for participation in discussions. I am a Montessori parent and educator, and introvert with introverted children and I cannot say enough about how great it is. But look into it early–an infant/toddler program but at least by age 3, for a child to get the most benefit out of a Montessori education.