3 Areas Introverts Struggle With in Class (and How You Can Cope)

As an introvert, first-days at school used to terrify me. What can possibly be worse than being shoved into a room occupied by a motley of strangers? What if they’re all terrible and jarringly noisy? What is they all don’t like me? What if I’m all alone in the end?

introvert first-days at school

If this resonates with you, fret not- school isn’t at all that bad for us introverts, and there are many simple ways for us to make school life more comfortable.

Projects

School projects can be miserable. If groupings are pre-assigned by your tutor, there is a good chance that you will end up being stuck with a bunch of strangers you don’t even say hi to when you see them. Even if you are allowed to choose your own group, you and your Best Friend will probably end up being absorbed by another group in order to make numbers. Even after all that mess, you may still have to deal with free loaders, empty vessels and really loud control freaks. You’re trapped.

Although dealing with strangers can be quite a pain, it is something you have to deal with at some point in your life anyway. I find that treating your new project mates as new (but probably distant) friends instead of mere co-workers helps a great deal. Yes, you most likely disdain even the concept of a distant friend and may be you want to stick almost exclusively to that small, tight-knit circle of friends, but thinking of your project mates as distant friends rather than just colleagues makes it a bit easier for you to feel included and so speak up, and it also makes it easier for you to forgive them for their loudness and other similar transgressions.

School projects

As an introvert, you are also more than likely to prefer doing the back-end work like data collation and writing, rather than fronting the project. Hence, you should make this clear at the start. The nature of these types of work, coupled with your quietness, will probably make it seem like you are doing less work as well, however. One way to make it obvious that you are pulling your weight will be to periodically update your group on what you have completed. If you are an idealist as well, you will probably have cringed at that thought, but this may be quite necessary if you have been, or are on the verge of being accused of shirking your duties. Peer appraisals put a further premium on maintaining a good image. The alternative, of course, will be to do so much work (of great quality) that your work ethic is absolutely unequivocal.

Presentations

Alright so these are the worst-you have to open your mouth and confront an apathetic audience at the same time in a gladiatorial battle for some marks. We introverts tend to be poorer at presentations than our opposite number the extroverts, partly because we dread them so much and partly because we lack practice (which is mostly because we hate presentations, which in turn is because we are not very good at it, which is because we lack practice; I think you get the idea by now).

Although there is no quick fix for this, you can alleviate this by putting your head in the grind and practicing your speech or presentation ad nauseam. Constant practice allows you to be less uncomfortable with this foreign aberration that is presentation and it also allows you to become better at your speech or presentation (obviously). It is also worth noting that your practice should not be merely in your head or even at a lower volume than usual- I too find it much easier to recite my script and improvising inside my head, but spitting the words out with all the relevant gestures is quite a different matter.

Inevitably, you may feel somewhat disheartened by your relative lack of ability in this field. Thankfully, we introverts can find a great deal of motivation from the fact that we are making progress in our craft and also bettering ourselves, and this is fantastic given that this is intrinsic motivation. As such, whenever you feel down during your practices, it will be of help to remind yourself that you have improved a great deal from the time you first started.

Class Participation

This is a particularly touchy topic to me because it is widely acknowledged that introverts are penalised when it comes to class “participation”, and I personally find it questionable whether class participation should even be graded. Again, there is no easy remedy, and it may be necessary for you to allow your tutors to extort some words from you from time to time. However, it is probably quite a bit easier to “participate” in lessons about topics you are passionate or well-versed in, so it will be of great help to do your research when it comes to subjects you are more unfamiliar with, and  freely volunteer your opinions in classes you find interesting.

class participation

In addition, here are some helpful tips to ease you into speaking up in class:

  • Prepare your response and rehearse it as best you can. If it is a verbal response, it should be helpful to first think of exactly what you are going to say, and even mouth the words before you raise your hand. Not only will this allow you to better craft your response, more importantly, it will relieve some of your apprehension that you are likely to harbour.
  • If your friend is beside you, quickly share your potential response with him. The subsequent affirmation from him will allow you to build some confidence.
  • Treat your response as a conversation with your tutor. Yes, you are probably expected to share your answer with the entire class, but I find that this usually intimidates us introverts a bit too much. We usually feel less uncomfortable in a one-to-one conversation with a stranger as opposed to a sharing session with an audience of foreign faces.

Alright folks so that is all from me, hope it helps you in some way. Remember that introversion is a personality trait and nothing much else- it certainly is not an immutable characteristic and it is also very much tied to context and your environment. Try to make your environment comfortable for yourself, but remember to step out of that cosy circle periodically, and speak up when you have to.

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