A few years ago I wrote a post on my first blog about the struggles I had being an introvert.
At the time, I enrolled in a digital marketing course through ADMA.
It was a course I put myself through and paid for. I was working in a role that did not require me to learn or even understand digital marketing but I knew it was the way of the future.
(You’re reading this right?)
The course ran for 12 weeks and it was full of corporate types.
I remember feeling so small and insignificant because the majority of people worked for these amazing global companies whose bosses were PAYING for them to be there.
I worked for a little known association and I was forking out a LOT of my own money to do the course.
After the first night I came home feeling so annoyed and disillusioned because I found out a small but significant percentage of the course was graded on class participation.
I thought to myself, “WHY?”
And what did this mean exactly?
It meant that I had to raise my hand and participate in class discussions.
It meant I had to willingly offer my thoughts so openly in front of the class.
I also found out that we were required to present, not once, but twice, in front of the class.
Once on our own and the second time as part of a group assignment (more on that in a future post).
As much as I despise group work and presentations, it was the class “forced” participation that bothered me.
I understood that courses do require presentations (and dare I say group work) and I suspected this before I enrolled.
The forced participation infuriated me.
When I arrived home that night I wrote a post on an earlier blog called An Introvert Living In An Extroverted World.
You might be thinking why it would bother me so much and that I’m probably making it a bigger deal than what it is.
I mean it’s only 10% right?
Well 10% is nothing to sneeze at and I disagreed with it on principal.
And I’m not the only one who disagrees.
An article in The Washington Post validates my point on the back of an article written that introverted kids need to learn to speak up at school.
Jessica Lahey, a high school teacher and writer, argues that students should be required to speak in class. She suggests that in order to be successful in today’s world, introverted students must be taught and coerced to participate in class discussions.
Not only that, this is dangerous.
As the writer in the Washington Post points out, there are many reasons students may choose not to verbally participate in school.
Some students are painfully shy and others choose their moments to speak.
But more importantly, sometimes a student’s silence protects him or her from ridicule or bullying.
And I agree with the writer’s assertion that Lahey’s advocacy for grading classroom participation overlooks the myriad of other ways students can participate.
Here’s why I disagree with forced class participation.
- I’m the type of person (as are many others) that prefer to learn by listening and absorb all of the information being shared.
- I love nothing more than to learn. I LOVE learning. But I need to be comfortable in my environment. I’m happy to sit back, observe and listen to what’s going on. I choose my moments to speak carefully. That should not be perceived as learning any less effectively.
As I explained in my post, it reinforced to me that we live in a world created by extroverts for extroverts and I felt a sense of loneliness and despair after that first dreadful night of the course.
There were a lot of strong personalities in the class.
Since primary school I was never one to generally ask a lot of questions in a class environment because I learn more effectively by observing and absorbing all of the information.
As a result, those of us that have a quite nature are made to suffer the consequences.
I felt it was unfair to punish me because I have a quiet personality.
In my view, I also felt it was unfair that I would potentially be penalised for being a quiet person.
So for the next 11 weeks I went to class with my anxiety levels so high I was barely able to focus and concentrate in class.
So now my learning style was affected too.
The experience made me realise that we really do live in a world catered to extroverts.
I mean schools and organisations are conditioned to respond and reward extroverts as the teacher Jessica Lahey blatantly does.
I guess this experience was also the beginning of my journey to becoming an entrepreneur.
I always felt misunderstood by my previous employers and that there was pressure to conform in a certain way.
I’m not one to consider myself anti-establishment or anti-authority (not without good reason) but this experience certainly did change my outlook and view on life and on the corporate world in particular.
It also occurred to me that, unless I dramatically change my personality, I was never going to have a successful career.
I was already in my early 30’s at that point and my career was hardly a picture of success.
That’s how I felt anyway.
What about you? Do you agree that students, whether adults or children, should be forced to talk and participate in a class environment?
Are you an introvert that has felt similar pressure to conform or face negative consequences?