Quiet Discussions

On Wednesday, August 28th, Greenwich Academy faculty members from all disciplines and divisions sat down to discuss the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

This year’s all-faculty summer read examined student temperament and the role that personality type plays in the classroom. Unlike last year’s book (Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators), which was selected by Greenwich Academy administrators, the idea for Quiet originated with a couple of GA students: Posey Memishian, Group XII, and Carley Petrone, XII. These girls first had the idea to discuss the role of temperament in the GA classroom last year in their Center for the Studies of Boys and Girls’ Lives (CSBGL) group.
“In one of our first meetings, Mrs. French asked us, ‘If you could change anything about GA, what would it be?’ After thinking about it for a while, we started talking about how an introvert experiences GA differently than an extrovert,” says Petrone.
Using Memishian and Petrone’s work as a jumping off point, CSBGL Advisor Mrs. Meryl French assigned the faculty to read Quiet over the summer. She felt that understanding the way temperament affects classroom conduct is too important a topic to be overlooked.
“If students feel safe and valued in a class, they will learn more effectively. Any insight faculty gain in understanding their students helps, and focusing on temperament supports this effort,” says French.
Upon returning from summer break, faculty members broke into groups to discuss what they had learned from their reading. They invited seven Group XII students from CSBGL to join them in order to expand the scope of these discussions and help them even better understand their students’ perspectives. Petrone found her discussion group insightful.
“I think it was really great to hear the teacher’s perspective on the topic, especially after we all read the book. I liked hearing the reasoning for why some teachers emphasize participation and their individual methods for calculating participation into students’ grades,” says Petrone.
Not only did the students gain more insight into the way teachers conduct classroom discussion, but the faculty also recognized the importance of using a variety of teaching styles to fully accommodate the students in the classroom.
Ms. Reed Minor, Group X and XII English teacher, remarks that “the book was an important reminder to me to pause – really pause – after asking a question to allow time for all students to process a response. One point our group talked about was the responsibility of teachers to respect all temperaments and styles by offering a variety of assessments, but we also discussed the need to draw introverts into discussion at times and to encourage extroverts to pause and listen at times.”
As to whether or not this discussion has been fruitful in creating a more accommodating classroom dynamic at GA, French remarks that “In just these few opening days, I’ve heard from students that teachers were more explicit in the variety of ways student participation would be considered, well beyond counting the number of times the student spoke up in class.”
As the GA community embraces inclusivity in the classroom as one of its primary goals, it seems that students in this upcoming school year will have greater flexibility in the way their voices will be heard in the classroom.