When history teacher Dror Yaron immigrated to the United States from Israel at the age of seven, he struggled to assimilate with his new classmates. He said his name, which means “sparrow” or “freedom” in Hebrew, and his limited knowledge of the English language set him apart from his peers.
“I was quite introverted [as a child],” Yaron said. “My name, Dror, is not a common name; I felt somewhat like an outsider. That was very healthy, though, because having to surmount the challenge of feeling different and shy, which are actually positive attributes, lets you experience more of an internal dialogue. [Introversion] also forces you to compensate and to make a greater effort to be able to learn to assimilate into the broader scheme, whether it’s society or the classroom.”
Yaron said that his experience breaking out of his shell informed his teaching style, which empowers more introverted students to vocalize their opinions. Instead of creating safe, controlled environments, he said he believes teachers should help reserved students push the boundaries of their comfort zones.
“I think a job of an educator is to help students feel comfortable articulating their ideas, not just through technological mediums, but verbally,” Yaron said. “[I want students] to be comfortable with being uncomfortable in saying something possibly erroneous because it’s part of the process when you get into your college classroom, pursue higher education, and enter an actual field. You want to become a go-getter.”
Students discuss the advantages and disadvantages of voicing out their opinions.
Julien Roa ’20 shares Yaron’s perspective, saying that learning to actively contribute his opinions in class has played a significant role in his education.
“Willingness to contribute to class is often scary, but going ahead and doing it anyways has always been rewarding and important for my development,” Roa said. “School doesn’t exist to satisfy every student’s utmost comfort, so pushing students beyond that comfort seems to be a large part of the educational experience.”
World Languages Department Head Derek Wilairat, who considers himself an introvert, said that participation remains a pivotal part of students’ experiences in the classroom. Wilairat also said that participation assumes various forms, from volunteering in class to simply being respectful.
“It’s okay if different classes or teachers have different expectations when it comes to participation, as long as those expectations are communicated if a teacher feels that a student is falling short of them,” Wilairat said.
English teacher Jocelyn Medawar agreed with Wilairat, but said that participation standards must not be universal, as requirements vary from subject to subject and even from classroom to classroom.
“I don’t have a grading standard for participation,” Medawar said. “I would vigorously protest anything being instituted across the board. Each discipline is different. Even within a class, students participate in different ways.”
Teachers and students discuss the school’s policy of participation in class.
However, Medawar said that students should take advantage of the school’s learning environment to build their confidence in speaking out, a skill essential in both upper education and the professional field.
“It’s a vital skill to learn how to make yourself heard in the world, and the classroom is a good place to practice it,” Medawar said. “This skill is indispensable in our private and professional lives; we need to know how to speak up for ourselves effectively.”
Science teacher Heather Audesirk said she cautions against instituting a school-wide grading rubric for participation and supported teachers’ autonomy in forming their own standards. However, she also said that extroverted students tend to dominate discussions, preventing introverts from contributing , a phenomenon that she tries to avoid in her classroom.
“I don’t think that students who are uncomfortable participating should be penalized for being introverted, and I don’t like it when participation becomes a contest, especially because it tends to be a contest that only the extroverted students can ‘win,’” Audesirk said. “I think that teachers should be allowed to make their own policies, but I hope that they are mindful of different students when they do so.”
Students and teachers express their opinions about the impressions surrounding introverts and extroverts.
Walt Schoen ’21 said he feels that introverts’ contributions are often undervalued, as teachers tend to notice extroverts more. For example, each year, faculty members vote on the recipient of the Lester Medvene Award, given to the sophomore who possesses an exceptional curiosity and generosity towards his or her classmates.
Schoen said that last year, the awardees were mostly extroverts, which he found disheartening but unsurprising.
“I think teachers do favor extroverts a little more, and they perceive an extroverted person as someone who is more enthusiastic about the class, when that’s not the case,” Schoen said. “I just noticed that last year, when they handed out the sophomore awards, the recipients were both very extroverted people, and I had an issue with that. As an introvert, I felt that the other side of the spectrum was not being represented as well, and their accomplishments to the community were not being as appreciated.”
Maddie Boudov ’21 said discussion-based classes, in which she can participate actively, better suit her personality. Boudov also suggested several ways that introverts can participate in the class.
“As an extrovert, I really enjoy participating in class because for me, it’s easiest to learn when I’m speaking since I’m a very auditory learner,” Boudov said. “Participation should be part of a grade because I think people who can speak up and contribute ideas to the class should be rewarded, but I also think there should be an option for introverts to receive a grade boost like an extra online discussion they can answer.”
Yaron said that teachers should evaluate a student’s engagement from not just questions asked in class, but from interactions out of class.
“I aspire to be as encompassing in my evaluation as possible,” Yaron said. “There’s a tangible grade and an intangible respect and relationship, and the intangible is always fundamentally more powerful than the tangible.”