Thursday, February 23, 2017

Happy Accidents Along the Way

“It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population.” - Susan Cain

Happy accidents.  I can’t think of a better phrase to define my work this school year.  One of the many struggles that I have had this school year is creating a space in which each type of learner is consistently engaged, challenged, comfortable, and progressing.  Time and time again I have designed activities and experiences that are effective at engaging some but not others.  When I redesign, the reception is vice versa.  UGH!  Why can’t I figure this out?!?  Some students want to talk, talk, talk. While others seem to prefer to lose a limb rather than say single word from 7:50-3:00!  Seriously, I am beyond over the head nodding and shoulder shrugging responses and the seemingly endless wait time for a response to simple questions. I have tried strategy after strategy after strategy to get reluctant students engaged and speaking, but had not been able to yield any game changing results... until recently.

About 2 weeks ago, I attended a 6 hour GT update training (that I really did not have time to do) on the social/emotional needs of highly able students.  Part of that training included Susan Cain's work on introversion.  About a year ago, a friend of mine introduced me to her book and, and last year, we shifted how we worked with students that exhibited characteristics of introversion.  However, even armed with that information, this year I failed to honor this type of learner in my classroom.

Full disclosure, after reflecting a bit,  I realized that I was so hell bent on creating a visibly and audibly collaborative learning space because... voice, collaboration, creativity, active creation, interaction, movement, energy, sharing, in my mind, are the hallmarks of learning and effective teaching. If an observer comes in and doesn’t SEE or HEAR this then they won't know…and that means I...

WRONG!  And, shame on me for losing focus of my priority as an educator… my students.

“I’m not saying abolish group work- I think there’s a time and a place for people to come together and exchange ideas, but let’s restore the respect we once had for solitude.  And we need to be much more mindful of the way we come together.”
- Susan Cain

Voice, collaboration, creativity, interaction, energy, and sharing do not HAVE to be overtly visible or audible to be effective.  These are 100% non-negotiables for me as a classroom educator, but we can provide opportunities for these elements in ways that appeal to all learner...introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts.  

Well, that reminder of Susan Cain’s work in a GT training 2 Saturdays ago propelled me into a committed relationship with Its Learning and, unintentionally, on a path to becoming mostly paperless. Thus far, it seems that opportunities to engage in all of the aforementioned non-negotiables can be provided through an LMS.  It has been about 2 weeks since shifting almost exclusively to the LMS and the head nodding and shoulder shrugging responses have transformed to some pretty insightful discussion board posts, open ended responses, new relationships, and ….get ready… SPEAKING (just to ask for tech or navigation help, but I will take what I can get)!

More on the paperless journey coming soon.


  1. Thank you for your open mind. You could have gone into the training with a mindset that was closed because you didn't have time to be there, but you didn't, and because of that you learned and could move your practice forward and better meet the needs of your kids. As always, super impressed with your dedication!

  2. I love Susan Cain's work. It's great to read how you are applying it as a teacher.