quiet 1. making little or no sound: silent. 2. free of noise: hushed. 3. not showy or obtrusive. 4. a fascinating book by Susan Cain.
Each year the Brentwood faculty, staff, and administration are assigned homework—summer reading around a topic that encourages reflection and professional growth. Titles have included The Madonnas of Echo Park, How Girls Thrive, Family Matters, and It’s a Boy. While each has influenced our community, this year’s selection, Quiet, by Susan Cain still has people talking…including the introverts.
Did you know that at least one-third of the people you know are probably introverts? And that where you fall on the introvert-extrovert continuum has a significant influence on your personality? Have you ever pondered where our society would be without the contributions of introverts, such as Van Gogh, Einstein, Chopin, or Spielberg? To bring things closer to home, what would our Brentwood community be like without our own introverts and what can we do to make certain we are not overlooking their talents?
It is this last question that has many of us examining what and how we do things, and which has already led to changes throughout the school. Teachers from all divisions are looking at whether class participation alone really captures the range of student engagement. Quiet persistence, thoughtful reflection, and sustained attention are ways of engaging. I am sure that you all know that person who sits in a meeting or around the table at a dinner gathering who doesn’t say much, but when she or he does everyone listens. And then there is the person who attends a meeting, sitting quietly, taking everything in only to follow up with members of the group after the fact. It wasn’t that they didn’t have anything to contribute; they just needed some time to think about the topic before chiming in. For these types, having an agenda in advance of a meeting might be helpful. The fact that they don’t think out loud does not mean that they don’t have anything of significance to share. Faculty have also been talking more about the need to use a variety of teaching methods to properly serve all students. For example, many extroverts like collaborative work, presentations in front of the class, and class activities based on contests and games that reward a quick response. Introverts, however, prefer lectures, independent projects, and the opportunity for “think time.” Since no one person is probably a “pure introvert or extrovert,” our students can benefit from varied experiences and learning approaches to appreciate each other’s different learning styles.
Based on the reaction to this book, I am confident that the “Quiet conversations” will continue throughout the year. I hope you will you find yourself with an opportunity to join in, be it at a Middle School Morning with Mark, an Upper School Coffee with Cooke, a Lower School coffee, or with your child’s teacher. We are also hoping to facilitate some parent book club discussions in the near future, so keep your eye out for dates and times. In the meantime, let’s all acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of our community…comprised of talented extroverts and introverts!