This afternoon I listened to Susan Cain speak on “The power of introverts.” Like any TED talk I’ve listened to before, the message was thought provoking and caused me to ponder on what we are trying to do in education today. I’m a great advocate for ensuring that the competencies of the 21st century are well established in our schools. In fact, any chance I get, I’m talking and presenting about the need to transform education to prepare our students for their future and not our past.
One of the 21st century competencies as defined by Alberta Education that I’m most comfortable with and believe is most critical to solving problems that are yet to exist is collaboration. The ability to work in a team structure, share ideas, and create synergy is a strong component of my leadership belief. I would suggest that my sports background has much to do with this belief. I’m especially driven to eliminate the culture of isolation that exists in many schools and classrooms. There is too much research that supports teacher collaboration as a successful strategy for improved student learning. And so, if we really want to be bold then collaboration has to modelled by the adults and taught to the students.
And then, I listen to Susan and am reminded that not everybody fits the mold that we want to establish. And I’m reminded that no sustainable improvement in education or society is an all or nothing. It is always a delicate balance. In our desire to meet the needs of the 21st century learner we’ve forgotten that they are as much different and as much individualized as the 20th century learner. They are all unique! Just as we must develop collaboration in all students, we must do so by recognizing the unique gifts of both the extrovert and the introvert.
People that know me, know that I’m far from an introvert but, when do I do my best thinking? When do I reflect or think critically? When do I write? My wife is downstairs watching TV and my daughter is out with her boyfriend and I’m left in our home office in…silence! Maybe that’s not introversion but it works for me and I’m sure it works for many students. I would hate for us in education to take that away from any of our students for the sake of collaboration. So remember the next time you’re organizing group work or collaborative activities and you have a student or two that likes to work on their own in silence…let them. Don’t allow it all the time but allow it enough to honor their own power as introverts.