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Interview with Christine Fonseca about Introverted Gifted Students

Gifted Education and Support

The following Q&A about introverted, gifted students was written by Christine Fonseca, an award-winning author, parenting and life coach, speaker, consultant and school psychologist. She discusses temperament and how these traits present themselves in school and classroom settings, and how temperament impacts peer relations.

How does being an introvert or an extrovert affect students’ behavior at school or in the classroom?
The temperaments of introversion and extroversion refer to more than just behavior. It refers to the way a child processes energy, renews at the end of the day, interacts with the world and even learns. Introverts require solitude and a calm environment, while extroverts thrive in the social excitement that typically occurs on a school campus. In learning, the introverted child prefers to think about information before outwardly engaging with the material. Often very deep thinkers, the introverted child enjoys learning a lot about a few topics. Extroverts, on the other hand, often process information quickly and may appear impulsive in class. They like a survey-approach to learning and require significant stimulation throughout the day. Behaviorally, the introvert may appear hesitant in class, “shy” or aloof. He or she may get agitated in a noisy classroom or during loud assemblies while the extrovert is often socially engaged and will thrive when things are busy.

How are giftedness and temperament related, and what do teachers need to know about this topic?
In some respects, they are not related at all. The gifted child may be either introverted or extroverted. That said, research suggests that introversion occurs at a significantly higher rate among gifted individuals. In my own practice, I see this to be true. This prevalence of introversion among gifted individuals can further alienate gifted individuals in the typical classroom setting. As stated previously, introverts often reflect prior to outwardly engaging with learning material. In a typical classroom, this may be interpreted as not understanding the material. With a gifted introvert, nothing is further from the truth. In addition, introverts tend to pour themselves into their passions and are reluctant to transition away from preferred activities. This is true for gifted individuals as well. In the classroom, this can prove problematic. Many gifted introverts are viewed as rigid as a result—something that may not be true. The take-away message for educators here is to reserve your judgment of your student’s potential until you have mediated for temperament. Allow a longer wait time than is typical (more than two seconds) for your students. Do not pre-judge the reserved or cautious nature of a student as indicative of a problem with social skills or lack of motivation. And don’t assume that a student’s discomfort with a noisy and vibrant classroom means there is a social skills deficit. It could be you are just dealing with introversion and perhaps even a gifted introvert.

How can educators support introverted students?
There are a number of ways a teacher can support introverted learners. First, create a balanced environment—one that allows for a mix of group and individual activities, and one that enables movement for the extrovert and periods of rest and calm for the introvert. Next, create safe zones for introverts, places they can use for respite as needed during the day. My favorites include the library and a preferred staff member’s office. Focus on teaching social skills like asking for help and initiating conversations within your classroom as well as embedding social competencies (problem solving and anger management, for example) into your curriculum. Finally, create a culture of caring for all students by openly talking about temperament and learning style. The more children understand their own unique truth about their personality, learning style and temperament, the more they accept themselves and others.

In terms of peer relations, is there anything that teachers can do to assist introverted students?
Relationships with peers are tricky for gifted children in general. Add the aspect of introversion and it is easy to understand why friendships are such a large area of concern for educators and parents alike. Fortunately, there are many things teachers can do to support introverted and gifted students. First, understand the differences between shyness and introversion. Many introverts are not shy—they do not fear social humiliation. When they avoid the playground at lunch, it is not always because they fear social interactions. Usually, it is because they prefer the quiet atmosphere of the library instead. Furthermore, many introverted children are very good at forming one or two close relationships. If introverted students are struggling with developing social connections, focus on teaching social skills like conversation initiation and problem solving. Also, pair introverted children with similar interests together. Finally, encourage introverted children to use their safe zones during lunch or recess, and bring a friend along. This will enable them to get the respite they need while also enhancing their social development.

What are some commonly asked questions by educators regarding introverted, gifted students (and your responses)?
I get many questions from educators regarding teaching introverts and encouraging participation without draining their energy. My advice, allow introverted children to learn through a balance of group and individual projects. Furthermore, allow introverted students an opportunity to study areas of interest at a deeper level. These considerations, as well as the previously mentioned suggestions, can support the wide variety of learners in a typical class, including the introvert and the gifted introvert.

A more thorough discussion of temperament, introversion and supporting both introverted and gifted learners can be found in my books, Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in and Extroverted World and Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings and the upcoming Raising the Shy Child: A Parent’s Guide to Social Anxiety (Prufrock Press, March 2015).

Authored by Christine Fonseca, an acclaimed and award-winning author of nonfiction and teen novels, parenting and life coach, speaker, consultant and school psychologist. She has dedicated her life to helping children and adults find their unique voice in the world. When she isn’t crafting new worlds and new stories, helping kids, or playing with her family, she can be found sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her local coffee house.

 

Comments

Robert McClintick

Excellent points. I feel as if we are trying to force all students to be extroverts.

Dawn Johnson

The introvert is the quiet, solid backbone in our classes. They know the answers, but frequently don't feel the need to prove their intelligence.

Misty McCarty

Great ideas!

Miriam Mercer

We need to embrace the introverts as well as the extroverts in our classrooms. There is a place for everyone and we can all share the learning in a classroom setting.

Flores Dulce

very interesting information.

DULCE VAZQUEZ FLORES

Great suggestions for all teachers to support their students.

Laura Alexander

Great ideas! I am an extrovert all the way so I definitely need to try to put myself in my introvert students shoes.

Lemilia Musosha

I'm an introvert and love working alone.

Brittney Lambert

Introvert loves working alone, I'm complete opposite; I love being around and working with people.

Pam Creel

I teach at an Early College High School that has many students who are listed as Gifted and Talented. They have ben asked to often to lead groups, take charge or be in charge. I am learning that sometimes it's okay to let them do their own thing.

Craig Roberson

Introverts have been some of my favorite students and I enjoy helping them come out of their shell.

Craig Roberson

Introverts often compartmentalize their lives. There are times I feel where they actually become extroverts.

Sonia Renteria

As an introvert, so teaching to them is somewhat more relatable. In many ways, GT provides a way to add learning tools that best serves the introvert population in a GT setting

Kellen Monreal

Great Ideas and ways to plan.

Sara Wilder

Great Ideas

Maria P Rodriguez

I am kind of both, introvert at times and extrovert at others.

David Kilpatrick

I am an introvert and like to work in a quiet place

Ruby Martin

I am a bit of an introvert so I understand the need for a child to work alone or have a quiet area to work.

Jedi

I relate to this too

Brittany Cawthon

Focus on building relationships with your students and learn what they need to be successful.

Tammy Duke

Great ideas

Renise Metts

I totally agree. Excellent ideas!

Elizabeth Agis

I have found it helpful to pair the introverted student with a friend that I see them spend time with during recess. This lowers their filter and creates a safe environment where they are more apt to participate and share their responses.

wally Marrero

Introverts need that time to be creative, I believe we should give introvert the space they need so creativity come naturally from them.

byron a northrup

great ideas and article

Patrick Daugherty

Great ideas!!

Patrick Daugherty

I think a good classroom or rather a successful one needs to provide opportunities for both introverts & extroverts to learn the same material in different ways.

Pam Creel

That's where the teacher building good relationships comes into play. The teacher needs to recognize and understand different learning and teaching styles.

Tamara Huffman

great ideas!

Tamara Huffman

Enjoyed the article. It gave many helpful tips to use in the classroom for all my students.

Billy Alexander

GT students are able to experience success through various types of presentations. Teachers of introverts find ways to include and praise these students.

Kemle Fallad

Classrooms need to provide opportunities for both introvert and extroverts.

Mary Fallgren

I believe classrooms need to provide opportunities for both introvert and extroverts.
There are some situation that an introvert will thrive if given the opportunity. If they are passionate about a subject they can share that with the class with great enthusiasm.

Jaime Regas

Yes! When I was a classroom teacher, I had opportunities for both introverts and extroverts. I am very much an introvert and sympathize with them in group activities.

Darla Kay Foster

In the past I have tried to offer the information in interactive methods as well as reading quietly, it is just very difficult for my extrovert students to remain quiet in order for my introvert students to have that time.

Barbara Lowe

I believe that a successful classroom should provide opportunities for both the introvert and extrovert. There should be opportunities for the students to work individually as well as in groups.

Lisa Smith

Introverts like working alone. I am the opposite. I love group work.

Lisa Smith

Teaching social skills would be beneficial. Providing group activities and activities that can be done alone. The classroom should be a place where all students can feel successful.

Karen Horne

As an extrovert myself, I need to be more aware of the introverts in my gifted classrooms. It makes sense to allow both groups of students to have solitude and then come together to share ideas.

Susan Douglas

Introverts definitely have a place. I am more an extrovert or at least in the middle. I love being around people and even have been told I don't meet a stranger.

Diana Guzman

Introvert gifted students are variety of learners that typically enjoy to work in individual activities. Is very important to create a culture of caring for all students by openly talking about temperament and learning styles.

Kenneth Connelly

As an introvert, so teaching to them is somewhat more relatable. In many ways, GT provides a way to add learning tools that best serves the introvert population in a GT setting.

Palina Vial

Focus on teaching social skills like asking for help and initiating conversations within your classroom as well as embedding social competencies problem solving and anger management, for example into your curriculum.

Billy Alexander

Great suggestions for all teachers.

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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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