How Do Teachers Feel about Their Quiet Students?
Susan Cain
394

Thanks for your article. It rang so many bells with me. I have the privilege of teaching Social Improv classes to groups of students, primarily teens, with “exceptionalities” of one kind or another. Our first sessions are spent exploring who we each are, both individually and in relation to the group, offering pieces of information that we are comfortable sharing and building on those to create scenes and stories. Given the opportunity to contribute at their own pace, each student, no matter how quirky, begins to participate in the group once they feel safe and trust the environment. By the teen years, most of my students have learned that the social world of high school, with its teeming hallways, clubs, cliques and teachers with “Wednesday Night” expectations a la Ms Munro is fraught with problems for them. They are the quiet ones you reference.

Often these students haven’t learned to pick up social signals intuitively like their peers. Sometimes, they just don’t see the point for themselves — they have such active interior lives, why bother? No matter why they are introverts, when they start Social Improv classes, they bring a lot social anxiety about being in a group — any group! It takes a while to show them they are in a place where it’s safe to be themselves, quiet, quirky, or average. (Notice I didn’t say TELL them…they are told all sorts of things…prove it!) We slowly explore what it’s like to be a “Wednesday Night” person when it’s needed while celebrating the unique and remarkable gifts they bring as introverts. Our improv students know they will be accepted for who they are and that they are always invited to be themselves as we play and interact. Together. And our sessions are on Thursday nights.

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