I resolved to use this dilemma as an opportunity to re-examine my own teaching methods. I sought out and interviewed other introverted teachers and parents. Kendall Hoyt—introvert, assistant professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School—agreed with my thesis and went on to offer her perspective on the use of class participation in her own courses: You don’t get a pass for your personality type.
I tucked myself away in a quiet corner of Dartmouth’s Baker Library with these interviews and my thrice-read copy of Susan Cain’s Quiet, its margins filled with my notes and its pages decorated with post-its, and wrote my Atlantic article.
I was feeling pretty confident when it went live the following week.
Over the course of my discussions with this parent, the class participation score had become a metaphor for the bias against introverts in the American education system.
As I pointed out in the Atlantic piece, I’m a confirmed extrovert, and I’m well aware that teachers tend to fall back on methods that work best for their own learning styles.
Our communication had disintegrated over time to the point that I feared we would never reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
At the time, class participation was a small but symbolically significant part of my grading.
Schultz, the author of “Rethinking Classroom Participation: Listening to Silent Voices,” posed some great questions in her Washington Post article.
These were questions that begged authentic, thoughtful answers and prompted me to re-evaluate my expectations regarding the purpose of class participation: …can students participate without speaking out loud?
The article was prompted by a specific interaction, a relationship with a parent that had gone sour over the issue of class participation.
Over the course of a year or so, I’d been engaged in a longstanding discussion with this parent, who didn’t want class participation to factor into her daughter’s grade.
How might silence be re-framed as a “productive” or useful contribution to participation in classrooms?