NB: you should watch that video from the last post first but I guess I can’t make you if you don’t wanna

TFA, and much modern teaching scholarship, believes in the power of the pod. They love group projects, and class brainstorming, and whole lessons dedicating to sharing identity trees and stories of self. We’re encouraged to change the arrangement of desks from a grid to groups of 4, allowing students to face each other and talk about the WHY of the material at hand.

They’ll understand it faster in group. They’ll learn better. They’ll be more engaged. They’ll become smarter.

A month ago I was snuggled up in my seat on that bandwagon. But now, I’m having a horrible time trying to balance everything I have learned from that video (you should read the book too!) with all of the TFA kool-aid I’ve been supplied with.

I am extremely introverted. On Myers-Briggs tests, I typically scored between 90-100% on the introvert/extrovert scale. I hate crowds, small talk, and strangers. I love (shocker) hiding behind my computer screen to share my thoughts, primarily because it gives me the extra time to think about what I’m going to say. I can draft and redraft and google synonyms and definitions and I am at peace.

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As I begin to plan out my classroom, I often think about my likes and dislikes as a student. Now, I have tried to look at my experiences as an introverted student.

I had seven classes each year in high school. Teachers were required to give personalized comments on report cards after the first and third quarters. Every year, seven out of seven teachers would comment something like this:

“Rachael is a delight to have in class. She demonstrates solid understanding of the material on tests and quizzes. I wish she would participate more in class.”

(Except in Contemporary World History Honors. Then she’d make a comment about how my DBQ grades were “improving,” but still include a jab about my perpetual silence in class.)

I hated group projects. Nothing caused me more anxiety in high school, or college or life in general, than the phrase “find a partner.” No. Let me work alone I understand the material by myself I don’t want to deal with anyone else.

I hated speaking in class. The only question I ever asked was, “may I go to the bathroom?” Thankfully I was rarely, if ever, called on in class. If a teacher had cold called me and asked what I thought about chapter whatever, I would have clammed up, mumbled, and shared a mishmash of hastily chosen terms.

I wanted to sit alone, and work alone. I wanted to listen to the teacher lecture about the Ming dynasty or polynomials, and if I had a question, I would flip back in the book and figure it out myself.

Those comments on my report card made me feel like something was wrong with me. Was I supposed to speak in class? What if I didn’t have anything to say? Did I need to participate in class in order to be successful? I was getting an A in the class without participating, so how would that help?

I don’t ever want my kids to feel like that. They and you and we and all of us are perfect exactly as we are. I don’t want to convince my kids they need go become extroverts to be successful. You are a valid human being just the way you are right now. Don’t change.

How can I help my kids believe that if I’m constantly shoving them in groups and making them tell me their deepest life stories on the first day of school?


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