Quiet and ignored

Quiet children aren’t valued in many classrooms, this Christian Science Monitor story says. American culture values outgoing personalities; the studious, thoughtful child may be seen as slow or socially backward.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. With quiet kids, it can be very hard to tell if they are engaged or learning anything during class. Sometimes they are quiet because they are totally spacing out.

    My students are mostly shy introverted types and their perfectionism makes it hard for them to take risks. They will not speak in class unless they *know* the right answer. I give my students a choice between speaking in class and writing – but I wonder if I am shortchanging them.

    The reality of the situation is that contributing to discussions is a skill that most people have to learn to get by in the workplace. Those who do not speak up are marginalized, have credit for their ideas stolen by others, and fail to contribute to the creative gestalt that helps projects progress. Industry leaders frequently complain that the graduates of my department, while technically skilled, cannot work with others easily to finish a task.

  2. Bluemount says:

    I think shy kids should be encouraged in technical areas. While a gregacious person appears to have broader opportunity, a persistent person can always find a niche if they are persistent and good at their job. Industry needs people willing to do grueling, tedious work that requires technical vigor. It pays very well and very often the job security is good. This is also true when people have language barriers.

  3. I didn’t realize that “studious [and] thoughtful” and “outgoing” were mutually exclusive. Silly me. This misunderstanding is probably because I didn’t get a degree in education.

    Students can and should be developed in both [read: many] ways because there is an appropriate time and place for each type of behavior. It is a disservice for us to identify a child as having certain traits and then perpetuating them or tailoring methods to foster them.

    Yes, the business world in which I have worked rewards the gregarious, outgoing, confident personality, but in those other pesky areas of life – you know, relationships and other ‘non-career’ arenas – it is important to have a broad range of skills, including being silent, listening, etc.

    It is unfashionable to suggest that schooling even at the undergraduate level concern itself with more than preparing students for certain jobs, but articles like these remind us that education must also develop men and women.

  4. Maybe it’s not so much a question of what is valued by “American culture” but of what is valued by “education culture”…a culture that seems to be generally rather anti-intellectual and oriented toward the imposition of conformity.

  5. Also: the relationship skills that are important in business involve a lot more than being outgoing and confident. In sales, for example, listening skills are extremely important.

  6. Some children are simply terrified of being in the overcrowded yet impersonal “sardine can” atmosphere of a typical school. Add to that insecure, undereducated, anti-intellectual teachers who discourage true expression, creativity, and diversity. Add to that political persecution in the name of correctness. I said it before, I’ll say it again: some kids find it safer to keep their mouths shut, and avoid unwanted attention from teachers and peers.

  7. Sorry, courier. I didn’t think that anyone would assume “business success” could be boiled down to confidence and being outgoing. I’m sure most of us are quite aware that it’s a bit more complex, but I appreciate the reminder.

  8. Beeman –

    It’s interesting that you bring up true expression and creativity, since the first paragraph really caught my eye:

    Sara is a quiet child who loves to draw pictures in exquisite detail. But Sara’s reserved manner troubles her kindergarten teacher. She worries that Sara focuses too much on the details in her drawings and projects and not enough on the other children around her.

    Anybody who really got creativity would realize that it’s all about the details. Says a lot about that teacher.

  9. What is “all about the details?”

    I’m not trying to give you a hard time, Quincy, I’m just not clear on what you’re trying to reduce.

  10. Why not drug the “shy” children up with “happy pills” to make them outgoing? I mean, that seems to be what every pharmaceutical company that has a psychotropic drug is suggesting for shy adults… (/sarcasm)

    I was a shy kid in school but I am quite certain my teachers knew I was engaged. The fact that many of them would say hello and stop and talk with me if they saw me in the supermarket or public library YEARS after I was in their class tells me that they noticed I was there.

  11. Bluemount says:

    In the technical workforce, I tend to think of the studious person as a worker bee. While it’s true that people who work are historically competing with aristocrats, the hive doesn’t have a lot of queens. Skilled labor is very powerful whether it’s a tiler or system’s analyst, it’s reputation. A more social person may claim credit for work they didn’t do, but they can’t maintain. When departments shrink from 100+ to 5 people, the worker bees have the longevity. Why not encourage the class to discuss their art and see if Sara is more interested in the conversation (and encourages the others to be more interested in their art).

    People who tinker with the detail like to make things work, new things are difficult to express socially. The process of invention is all about perfection and watching things grow; it’s labor. If it’s easy and stable, it’s outsourced. I think it’s unfortunate children are not encouraged to develop diverse natural strengths because we need minds that grasp and articulate complex issues. The basis of articulating an issue has to be understanding the detail. It’s the difference between managing numbers and innovation.

  12. Jack Tanner says:

    From the experience I’ve had with my kids in primary education obviously the most important skill is their ability to stand in line with their mouths shut. Everything else is secondary. Any behavior deviating from standing silently is problematic.

  13. Matthew –

    Creativity, real, fulfilling creativity, is all about the details. That’s why I was taken aback by the teacher saying the girl put too much detail in her drawings.

    Many educators have this concept of creativity that boils down to “do anything you want, so long as you’re expressing yourself.” The corollary to that is “it doesn’t have to be good, just expressive.” This young lady, who was expressing herself and satisfying her desire to do it well by paying attention to the details, ran counter to this idea. The young lady was hitting a lot closer to the kind of creativity that professional creative people use.

  14. Many educators have this concept of creativity that boils down to “do anything you want, so long as you’re expressing yourself.”

    More like, “do anything you want, as long as it’s something that doesn’t require extra attention or work on my part.”

    The corollary to that is “it doesn’t have to be good, just expressive.”

    And politically correct, most of all.

    And “social”, which means receptive to the natural social domininance networks of our clean cut natural leaders and their pecking order. These guys and gals are going to be the future presidents of the US of A, or of Wal-Mart, or at least gang leaders in their barrios. We gotta show them respect and tolerance; their all-important self-esteem is at stake!

    This young lady, who was expressing herself and satisfying her desire to do it well by paying attention to the details, ran counter to this idea. The young lady was hitting a lot closer to the kind of creativity that professional creative people use.

    Unfortunately, professional creative people, whether in the arts or sciences, are seldom the ones teaching at schools, much less running them. This is especially true of elementary school, where detail, deep knowledge, and intellectual correctness are sacrilege!

  15. Matthew…I’m sure *you* understand that there are other attributes important to business success other than being “confident and outgoing” and so do most of the other readers of this blog, but I suspect that many educators have a stereotypical view of “leadership” combined with a lack of business experience, and fail to understand this.

  16. They may not be educating very well then, yes?