Magazine article Momentum

The Care and Feeding of Your Introvert

Magazine article Momentum

The Care and Feeding of Your Introvert

Article excerpt

Along with the schizophrenics, the kleptomaniacs and the obsessive-compulsive, not to mention the hopelessly phobic, the compulsively violent and the senselessly anxious, h the American Psychological Association apparently considered it suspect and serit t deranged that a guy might enjoy an afternoon alone, on a couch, with a book.

In 2010, the APA considered adding introversion to the checklist of disorders in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. A letter-writing campaign from various mental-health professionals persuaded the organization otherwise (Anxowitz, 2012).

Beware the introvert - those ranting and raving, straightjacket-wearing souls, such as J.K. Rowling and Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates and Laura Bush.

And maybe Jesus Christ. Consider our Lord's sojourn into the desert (Luke 4) or his withdrawal to a solitary place before suggesting the crowd hang around for a while and enjoy some fish and bread (Mat. 14:13). He slipped away to pray alone in the garden (Mat. 26:36) and had been bunking away from the 12 when a nasty storm began tossing the boat (Mat. 4:38). Like other introverts, Jesus doesn't seem the type who would waste valuable time chatting about his plans for the weekend. Introverts can be good on stage and on the mount, but it is the nature of the introvert to recharge in isolation, the batteries drained by banter and hob-knobbing.

Just as psychologists and the Pharisees might misunderstand the introvert, so do many in our society today, especially parents and teachers. Don't think shy, aloof, rude, socially awkward or moody. Don't misread her pensive gaze into nowhere as attention deficit.

Our schools are often built around extroverts, with pod seating and group activities based on brain research that suggests the best learning takes place through communion and continuous collaboration. Professional development is often delivered through peer learning communities or speakers who pause and ask everyone in the crowd to turn and share something meaningful with the person sitting next to him. Retreats and spiritual formation require young people to express, in small groups, their feelings on this passage from Scripture or to reflect upon how God has touched their lives.

Our educational community continues to grow in understanding of individual learning and personality styles, as well as how to respond to cognitive disabilities and other challenges. Our informed appreciation for the brain and the chemistry of the body continues to help shape classrooms that better facilitate understanding. Some students need subtle sensory stimulation and others benefit from physical manipulatives in math class. Almost all of them perform better with some water to sip on and opportunities to get out of their seat and move around.

Introverts will make up a minority of most student groups, but the introspective among us need to learn to successfully interact with an unapologetically social and network-dependent world. Not only are classrooms built around extroverts, but the workplace often is, too. One's personality type is not typically something a child - or an adult for that matter - simply grows out of, and adults shouldn't put pressure on a child to defy what is inherent in his makeup. The blood flows differently in the brains of introverts, with scans showing more activity in the cranial areas responsible for planning, recalling events and problem solving (Bennington-Castro, 2013). They are hard-wired to think inwardly, rather than outwardly. They can banter and mingle just fine, but it takes a toll and requires emotional reset, whereas extroverts find their energy in company and interaction. You'll find both introverts and extroverts at the family reunion. One of those groups will most likely need a day to recover.

So this essay isn't about adjusting one's classroom to accommodate introverts or excusing them from interpersonal activities. It isn't about medicating them or developing service plans. …

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