I was chatting with a friend recently about what I see as “commentary culture.” I think that there is an emerging social imperative to commentate on everything, particularly online. Anyway, I made my friend laugh with the following: “Sometimes, I just want to think about systemic oppression… by myself.”
You see, I am quiet and introverted person.
Last summer, I read the book Quiet. While I’m not into the author holding up people like Bill Gates to say, “Look! Quiet people make great business leaders!”, I do think her history of the shift to an extrovert culture is a useful one, and that her discussion of the ways in which quiet folks bring different skill sets to the table is valuable.
What does it mean to be an introverted academic? While I can usually put on a good show in my lectures, I make decompression time for myself afterwards. This usually means sitting in my office for at least 20 minutes not interacting with others right after class. I need that downtime. Being an introverted academic also means that I might need a little more time than others to make a decision, but that I will likely have a well-thought-out rationale for that decision once it’s been made.
What accommodations, if any, are we making for quiet students? Do we assess participation in ways that acknowledge different ways of being in the classroom? Do we accept that there may be a variety of reasons why students might not wish to speak in a classroom, and that this silence may not be due to a lack of interest in the material?
I’m not advocating for leaving us quiet folks alone, but I also want to complicate the discourse of speaking up and speaking out, of commentating. Are there ways that we can talk about speaking up and out that acknowledge multiple ways of being in the world and that also acknowledge that speaking up and out can be done in a variety of different ways?