How Teachers Can Help 'Quiet Kids' Tap Their Superpowers : NPR Ed Remember that quiet kid in class who never spoke up? In New York, teachers are learning how to make sure the ideas of introverts don't get overlooked.

How Teachers Can Help 'Quiet Kids' Tap Their Superpowers

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Think back to your days in elementary, middle and high school. Do you remember this student?

LILY SHUM: Every single report card that I ever had said, Lily needs to talk more. She is too quiet.

GREENE: Or maybe that quiet student is your kid. Or it was you. Elissa Nadworny of the NPR Ed team spent a few days with teachers learning how to make sure those quiet kids don't go unnoticed.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: When Lily Shum was little, she hardly ever raised her hand. The teacher would call on her, and this was usually her answer - yep, crickets. Lily Shum dreaded that moment, and not because she didn't know the answer. She was just quiet. Years later, she became a teacher. At school, she keeps an eye on silent kids like her.

SHUM: It was a pressure that I don't want to put on any of my students.

NADWORNY: That's why Shum, now an assistant director at a lower school in Manhattan, joined more than 60 educators in New York City, at the Quiet Summer Institute. This gathering, it's based on Susan Cain's bestseller, "Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking." Heidi Kasevich devoured that book.

HEIDI KASEVICH: You know, it was a lens through which I could view my entire life.

NADWORNY: She calls herself an introvert. She's also a historian, and she's worked as a teacher for more than 20 years. Now, she's using Cain's book as a roadmap to help train teachers to notice and serve the quiet kids.

KASEVICH: There are expectations on our kids to - to, honestly, be a charismatic extrovert. And oftentimes, our schools don't have sort of the nooks and crannies that allow introverts to recharge.

NADWORNY: Even if it's unconscious, she says, teachers tend to give more attention to the louder students.

KASEVICH: It's altogether too easy for a teacher to call on the kid who's raised their hand first. I mean, it's so easy to do. I tell you, I've been there.

NADWORNY: The training this summer offers teachers different ways to include quiet kids. That starts with re-imagining class participation, which in some schools can count for 50 percent of the grade.

KASEVICH: Being present and connecting does not have to take place through lots of speech.

NADWORNY: Why not try drawing, writing or working in pairs? Or have students walk around the room, writing ideas tacked up on pieces of paper. They can respond to each other's ideas, like a sort of silent dialogue. Erica Corbin, one of the group leaders, says focusing on the introverts also means reining in the extroverts.

ERICA CORBIN: The acronym I wrote up there, W-A-I-T, for WAIT - but what - what we like to reference as why am I talking.

NADWORNY: And with those shy kids, it's not just about paying attention to them, but thinking about why they're shy.

CORBIN: Right, because personality might be some of it. And we also might have kids that are quiet because they've been shut down.

NADWORNY: Shutting down for all kinds of reasons - stereotypes, biases, stuff going on at home.

CORBIN: When we're thinking about students who are quiet, how does that also connect with their race? How does that also connect with their gender? How does it connect with their sexuality?

NADWORNY: By understanding how to reach introverts, teachers can get at those other issues, because if they don't start to look past the students with their hands up, we're all going to miss out on a lot of brilliant ideas. Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, New York.

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