Being an Introvert in the Classroom

Do you often speak up during discussions in seminars? Or do you ask questions to presenters or speakers at conferences? Sharing your ideas, raising questions, engaging in someone’s talk, etc. are crucial part of graduate student life, or at least we often believe so. If nobody talks in a seminar (or a tutorial) at all, being there is indeed unproductive. But speaking up at every occasion is a really productive act? After watching an Ted talk by Susan Cain, some of us may pause and wonder what a productive discussion in the classroom is.

During my undergrad, I was an introvert in the classroom and barely spoke up in tutorials. When I started my MA, though, I started sharing my opinions once in a while during discussions only if topics were relevant to my own research or David Bordwell. Since I often had the same cohort from my year in the classroom, I felt relatively comfortable speaking up occasionally, but I still feel butterflies in my stomach when I think that I have to say something during discussions.

Being an introvert in the classroom tends to leave negative impressions on professors who often expect their students to share their opinions and ideas actively. If you’re an introvert but a great writer, that is great: your papers will likely compensate for your quietness. If you’re an average student and an introvert, you will need to make an extra effort for not speaking up during discussions. If you’re severely shy, informing professors about your shyness is a better way for you to succeed in courses since they could avoid obliviously (or not) picking on you during discussions. As Cain points out in the video, other students in the classroom may want to hear your opinions and ideas; they may even need yours because they are lost and the ideas or opinions that you’re keeping with yourself may be able to open up different directions for discussion.

When I had a meeting with my MA supervisor this summer, she jokingly told me that she would text me a reminder to speak up in class before a mandatory course in our Ph.D. program. Should I try to speak up more in the courses that I take during my Ph.D. program? I do have a desire to share my ideas and opinions, and responses to them often help me refine my thoughts, I am going to do my best to speak up when I am relatively confident of what I am going to say or when everyone is remaining quiet.

How do you deal with your introversion in the classroom?  Do you have any tactics? If you do not identify yourself as an introvert, what kinds of reactions do you have to introvert behaviours in the classroom?


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