Introverts withstand modern learning

The school system seems to benefit extroverts more than introverts

February 17, 2021

Many+introverts+enjoy+time+away+from+others+to+recharge+themselves+and+tend+to+think+before+they+act.

Malina Wong

Many introverts enjoy time away from others to recharge themselves and tend to think before they act.

Six hours.

That is one-fourth of the day spent in exhaustion from interactions made that day with students and teachers. This description matched how sophomore Francesca Brocchieri described her typical day at school.

“School is draining because you’re around people all the time, and you constantly have to make conversation and have things to say,” Brocchieri said. “It’s nice when you’re alone because you don’t have to think about having other people with you, or talking a lot to other people.”

However, Brocchieri still enjoys socializing and said she misses the human interaction that comes with in-person learning. But how is that possible? She is an introvert.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines introversion as “the quality of being shy and reticent,” or in terms of psychology, “the tendency to be concerned with one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.”

But Susan Cain thinks differently. Cain, the author of the book Quiet and co-founder of The Quiet Revolution, described the distinction between shyness and introversion in a Ted Talk discussing the bias towards extroverts.

“Shyness is about the fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, ‘How do you respond to stimulation—including social stimulation?’ Extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and most switched-on and most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments,” Cain said in the Ted Talk.

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The science

According to psychotherapist Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, introverts are more responsive to dopamine, a chemical related to human pleasure, than extroverts. Correspondingly, introverts generally use the acetylcholine neurotransmitter, a dopamine-like chemical that is influenced by turning inward. The acetylcholine pathway is the longer thinking path that introverts take; it passes through brain areas linked to reflection, planning, and determining memories.

Many may agree that there’s a preference towards outgoing and social people, and as Cain explained, “Here’s where the bias comes in; our most important institutions—our schools and our workplaces—they are designed mostly for extroverts and the extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation.”

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POV: Francesca Brocchieri

Brocchieri said she often doesn’t have the desire to socialize during in-person school yet feels the need to be talkative during online school. Still, Brocchieri finds working alone to be the better option for her.

“I like to do my work in my room by myself,” Brocchieri said. “I go through my work without having to stop and talk to people. It’s distracting when I’m around people and I’m doing my work because then I’m not fully focused on what I’m doing.”

Pullquote Photo

I feel like classrooms are mechanical, and contributing in kind of a robotic way is not very helpful.”

— Francesca Brocchieri

Because introverts generally take the acetylcholine pathway and have a higher sensitivity to dopamine, they tend to work in a more meaningful manner when alone. Considering this fact and an introvert’s tendency to be quiet, Brocchieri feels that class participation should not be a large portion of grades.

“It makes you feel bad that a personality trait is causing your grade to go down; just because you’re quiet, it’s affecting your grade in a negative way,” Brocchieri said. “I feel like it’s not something that you grow out of; it’s just how someone’s personality is.”

According to Introvert Dear, introverts are constitutionally born introverts. A study involving babies reacting to new content showed that the highly reactive babies grew into more cautious adults, while the lower reactive babies grew to be more risk-taking adults. Brocchieri shared her thoughts about introducing groupthink at a young age.

“If you’re not forced to answer questions, then you are more inclined to want to do it because I feel it’s the basic nature of people—especially kids. If you tell them to do something, they’re going to want to do the opposite,” Brocchieri said. “If you were let in naturally, you would end up starting to talk and contributing your opinion. It wouldn’t be so forced, and it wouldn’t cause so much stress either.”

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POV: Athea Koester

Sophomore Athea Koester also believes groupthink and socializing at an early age affect one’s current experiences.

“In kindergarten and first grade, socializing is really important, but also for a lot of students, they might not be ready,” Koester said. “If they didn’t enjoy socializing at a young age, they might still not like it now. If they did have positive experiences with it at a young age, they might like to be more social… but it also doesn’t affect your personality in some ways. I didn’t have bad experiences, but I am still an introvert.”

Koester noted that frequent group activities in school are not as suitable for introverts as they are for extroverts, adding that online learning and working with others this year felt overstimulating for her.

“I think online school requires less effort than talking to people at school, but at the same time, it’s draining because you’re talking to people you don’t know well at all,” Koester said. “And you have to constantly prove to the teacher that you’re engaged by talking to them; even if you finish a discussion and you have nothing else to say, the teacher will come into your breakout room and ask, ‘Are you guys done talking?'”

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POV: Michelle McKee

Types of Introverts by Malina Wong

Michelle McKee, the Advanced Placement (AP) psychology teacher at Carlmont High School, has tried several different activities and groups for breakout rooms to meet her students’ preferred learning methods. She described how introverts might be handling online school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think many of them are probably struggling because they’re being put in situations that are zapping their energy. It not only takes energy away, but it doesn’t re-energize them in any way, shape, or form at the same time,” McKee said. “For an introvert, if you are constantly having to be in breakout rooms, do group projects in breakout rooms, and be in breakout rooms with people you don’t know at all, that can definitely be a very scary prospect.”

Regarding school participation and breakout room activities, McKee believes engagement is a major component in the classes she teaches, but doesn’t think it should be a significant part of the grade.

“I don’t think that it’s always the introvert’s job to conform to an extroverted world — or to an extroverted assignment, like a seminar. I think there needs to be some balance and opportunities for introverts to be able to shine in their natural habitat,” McKee said. “I think we need to not just automatically assume that every student knows how to not be introverted. At the same time… if you really aren’t able to hang a little bit in a seminar-type atmosphere, then I would not encourage you to take a seminar-type class.”

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Which one are you?

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Introverts represent 50.7% of the general U.S. population; however, many still experience a more stimulating school life than their ideal amount.

“It shouldn’t be the norm for people to have to be outgoing. It’s okay if you’re quiet and you’re not always talking with everyone, and saying what you are thinking. School perpetuates the idea that you should be always talking, speaking your opinion, and contributing to the conversation,” Brocchieri said.

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About the Writer
Photo of Malina Wong
Malina Wong, Podcast Producer
Malina Wong is a junior at Carlmont High School and in her second year of journalism. Her interests include film, art, and writing. She is a member of Carlmont's art club.

See here for her portfolio

Twitter: @malina_wong
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