An Introduction to Vertical Edu

“You’re so quiet. You need to participate more in class.”

“You need to sit down and stop talking.”

Children in classrooms everywhere hear these words everyday from well-meaning teachers who are trying to create productive learning environments. (Susan heard the former statements in her school years and Johnny heard the latter!)  How often do these words actually change a child’s behavior long-term? Hardly ever!  Why not?  The answer probably lies less with behavior management and more with human dispositions that are very hard to repress.

If you’ve spent any time in classrooms as a student or as a teacher, you know that teachers spend much of their day working as an orchestra conductor, trying to bring out perfect contributions from each child. But some kids seem to blend into the background and if not careful, we might not even notice them for large chunks of the day. Other students are talking and moving around much of the day. We try hard to tamp down their constant interactions.  And truthfully, the students are probably trying hard too.  As a child (and still as an adult),  Susan had a constant internal struggle with speaking to the group, trying to think of something to say to join in, but really wanting to think alone. And Johnny worked hard to remain focused through class lectures and tried not to  be too loud, get distracted, or be redirected because of active behaviors.

But fighting against the traits of introversion and extroversion is not only frustrating , it’s probably not in anyone’s best interest.  Do we really want to send Johnny the message that it’s wrong to use talk as a way to flesh out ideas, especially when that’s how he develops his best ideas? Do we really want to lose Susan’s best thinking by not allowing her the time and space she needs?

We feel that if teachers had an awareness and a better understanding of these dispositions, schools could be more comfortable and more conducive to learning for everyone. So in this post, we’ll touch briefly on what it means to be introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between.

What is Introversion / Extroversion?

Medical Definition of introversion

  1. the act of directing one’s attention toward or getting gratification from one’s own interests, thoughts, and feelings
  2. the state or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life—compare extroversion

Medical Definition of extroversion

  1. the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self—compare introversion


What it is NOT……

What it IS……

  • shy    vs.   outgoing
  • needing solitude to recharge your energy battery  vs.  needing social interaction to replenish your energy
  • antisocial   vs.   social
  • preferring less stimulating and more familiar environments vs. preferring stimulating and novel environments  
  • serious   vs.   silly
  • brains that respond less to the thrill of risk-taking and novelty vs. brains that respond more to rewards from risk-taking and novelty   


From the Introvert: Susan’s Perspective

I’ve lived in the world of education my whole life. From my earliest days in elementary school to my years as a teacher, I’ve had a love/hate ( mostly love) relationship with my time spent in schools. On the one hand, I look forward every August to going back to school, to getting a fresh start, to feeling part of a new community (because school communities are new every single year!) On the other hand, every time I’ve missed a day of school over the last 40+ years, I’ve struggled to go  back the next day. As a child I would fake sick, to get one more day of being at home.  As an adult, I would “worry about being contagious” to get one more precious day of solitude at home.  What is it about school that can cause a school-lover to try to avoid it??

I’ve taken inventory of the loves and the hates.  What makes me comfortable: reading books, writing in notebooks, daily routines, seeing friends each day, helping other people, learning, feeling a sense of daily accomplishment, and feeling that I belong. What makes me uncomfortable:  the noise, the organized chaos of playgrounds and cafeterias, required group work, presentations, constant togetherness, the need to think on my feet in front of others,  participation grades, and gym class (the worst!)

So many of those school activities seem to deplete my energy and cause me stress. Worse than that, though, are the many times that I haven’t felt able to contribute my talents or ideas because I can’t think as well in front of others. Now obviously, my positive experiences have outweighed my negatives or I wouldn’t have become a teacher.  But throughout all my school years, I have struggled to find my place of comfort in the classroom.

A few years ago I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. That book was a game changer for me. It was the first time I felt understood and the first time I understood that there are a whole lot of people out there who operate the same way I do.  And they are sitting in our classrooms, next to their extroverted friends. As teachers, how do we bring out the strengths and talents of both our introverted and our extroverted students?

You’ll meet my good friend and partner Johnny below. Through our years of friendship and partnership, we have come to understand each other and our different learning needs. He gets it when I need to be alone to think and I get it when he needs to move around and talk things out.  We think that together, we can help teachers create learning environments that lift up both the Johnnys and the Susans in our classrooms. In each blog post, we will address a different aspect of classroom instruction and explore how teachers can provide opportunities for introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between to reach their full potential.

From the Extrovert: Johnny’s Perspective

I consider myself to be an extrovert. I like to be loud, have conversation, and I am very animated when I am passionate about the work I am doing. I don’t believe there is a single person who knows me that would say I am introverted in the least. I was a cheerleader and am now a cheerleading coach. Cheerleading is the epitome of extroverts, by standing in front of thousands of college fans, yelling, jumping, tumbling around, and getting everyone around you amped up for the game!

When I think of myself as a teacher, I think the same thoughts. I have to, sometimes, jump around, yell, and scream to get my students excited about something they are learning. Teachers are on stage about 7 hours a day, and when they are not on stage, they are thinking and planning of ways to get back on that stage for the sake of their students. At the end of the day, it’s all about the students, right?

I have a lofty hope for this blog. I hope that throughout my own journeys I can help teachers better understand how they can touch the soul of each and every extroverted student. They may appear to be “bossy” or have ADD/ADHD, but they are our students and it is our responsibility to help them progress in this ever changing world. Asking an extrovert to sit and be quiet can kill their love for the topic being introduced, but by allowing them to be themselves the whole day can drain the entire class. I hope to find ways to find balance in allowing every student to live to their personality potential and stretch them out of their comfort zone to help learn the importance of working with others.

“extroversion.” 2017. (21 August 2017).

“introversion.” 2017. (21 August 2017).


55 thoughts on “An Introduction to Vertical Edu”

  1. WOW! Amazing first blog on a much needed topic. As educators we often tend to use an egotistical lens in looking at the world from our own perspective. I love how your two voices are coming from a unique perspective and yet they merge so beautifully. Well done my friends. Well done!

    1. Thank you for your kind words Mary! We really hope to explore introverts and extroverts much more deeply to offer insight to these 2 unique worlds!

  2. I love this! Seeing two different perspectives is always valuable. I can’t wait to follow you! Proud to have worked with both of you and now to watch your new journey!

    1. Thank you Karyn! Your kind words are always appreciated! So excited to continue this journey to see what new ideas we can explore and uncover in the process!

  3. Don’t they say, there are 2 sides to every story?! Congrats on your first co-blog post! I love the is and is not chart. I’m somewhere between intro and extroverted. Your perspectives and focus on the learner are spot on. I can’t wait to read more.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Laura, I am beginning to wonder if we can firmly say we are one or the other because I exhibit qualities of both depending on the situation. So glad you are joining us to watch our journey!

  4. Love your first installment, you two! Great perspective for all on a commonly misunderstood topic! Can’t wait to see what’s next!

    1. Thanks Stacey, so glad you stopped by. This is often misunderstood. Being an extrovert I was completely misunderstood as being too “social” it’s just how I learn!

  5. Susan, thanks for the wonderful first blog. As a pancake has two sides so do our daughter’s twin sons, age: 4 1/2. Love the perspective as one is definitely dominant/outgoing/dare devilish is a fun loving way and the other twin loves being the independent player, often times likes looking at books, putting together legos, learning about the planets etc. and just being himself. Looking forward to following your blog and will definitely get Susan Cain’s book.

    1. Hey Cathy, we’d love to hear more about your experiences with the twins — observations, how they do in pre-school, what works well for each of them….. If you’d ever be interested in guest-blogging or being interviewed, email me! : ) Susan

    1. Colleen, we’d love to hear your perspectives! You were an introverted cheerleader, weren’t you? If you’d ever like to guest blog or be interviewed, we’d love to hear from you!

  6. Introvert and extrovert kids awake right now in this house-
    11 year old daughter reading, brushing teeth, on her way to bed with one phrase: Good night
    7 year old son reading book after book after book to 3 year old brother who is trying to sleep.!
    When had daughter’s conference last year, teacher told her she couldn’t mark part of the evaluation on her because she was too quiet. She couldn’t get to know her. What what?!
    Son gets comments from art teacher that talking is interfering with his work completion.
    Could write so much more about them, students, and me….but will save for the next time.
    Looking so forward to reading more posts. So important in our journey of getting to know and supporting every student.
    Congrats, Susan and Johnny!

    1. Hannah,
      I want to hear more about how this relates to personalized learning in your classroom and how your experiences with your own children have affected your teaching. Would you ever want to guest blog?? : ) Susan

  7. I really enjoyed reading this blog! I’m looking forward to learning more about how to reach these different personalities! Excellent work!

    1. Thank you Courtenay! I am so glad you dropped in and found it interesting. We are looking forward to taking this journey and documenting our exploration!

  8. I LOVE this… seeing both these sides in my own 4 boys! Being extroverted myself… sometimes I “don’t get” my introverted son… you guys are awesome! Thanks!!

    1. Thanks Jenny! You probably have a very interesting position on this topic. It is interesting to think about ourselves as learners but I am sure it is more interesting to look at your own children. Maybe your son will bust out of his introverted shell someday and act like one of your others that I so enjoy! 🙂 -JD

      1. I’m hoping he doesn’t bust out! Maybe his introverted thinking will someday help solve one of the world’s problems! Ya never know!

        1. I don’t see him “busting out” EVER, but I have so come to love his quiet, sincere spirit…. if we were all loud and obnoxious and spunky … we might kill
          Each other!! Ha! Love this blog-thank you both!!

  9. I loved reading this! Not only is this topic so important to me as a teacher, but it’s relevant to my own kiddos, too! Looking forward to learning from your journey!

    1. Thanks Cara, so glad you stopped by and found something for your life and for teaching! This is such an interesting topic to Susan and me! We can’t wait to continue exploring introverts and extroverts!

    2. Thanks, Cara! I’m interested in your story as well. I taught with your mom when you were a cheerleader and then decided not to continue with it — it made me wonder if you were introverted and just didn’t enjoy it…… (How’s that for a blast from the past?!)

  10. Very interesting to read Susan’s story. We were there but maybe didn’t fully understand at the time.
    We are extremely proud of our daughter, Susan, for her total dedication to her students and to the teaching profession in general.
    She is the real DEAL!

    1. Thanks Mom and Dad! : ) My dad = introverted but moving in the other direction in his senior years My mom = always the perfect ambivert who enjoys solitude AND parties!

  11. Wow, loved your first post! Thank you for sharing your voice with us. As an outgoing introvert, sometimes I need different things on different days. Thank you for sharing both sides of the coin as we all reflect on how to best meet the every changing needs of all learners.

    1. Love to hear about the complexities such as “outgoing introvert.” I’ve had people act surprised that I’m an introvert and I think “HOW could you not think I’m an introvert??” But maybe I don’t always act it……

  12. Can’t wait to read more. As an introvert student I am constantly wondering how to meet the needs of these two groups. I seem to gravitate towards the students like me and struggle to find what the extroverts need from me to learn. Hope to get a lot of ideas from your blog.

  13. What a great blog! I see both sides in my own kids, and I love your comparisons of the introverts and extroverts. Susan’s insight is so similar to my youngest! Being more of an extrovert myself, I have to make a conscience effort to respect the needs of the “quiet child!” It is food for thought for any teacher & parent, and I can’t wait to read more! Fabulous work!

  14. I’ve always been so proud of my extrovert, you are so your mom. I loved reading your blog and can’t wait to see what’s next. johnnysusan, you’re a perfect pair.

  15. This is so great! Love it! Good to read for Hannah…the constant why is she so shy? Quiet? Or I have never seen Hannah so animated before! Or she needs to toughen up! (Are you seriously kidding me?!?! ) I guess for me she is being labeled so many times…not that she is not these things…I think the key is understanding ALL kinds of personalities and intergrate them in the classroom in a loving, caring way. Does genes play a role? Absolutely! I am definitely more extroverted…but I was not always that way in school…very much like Hannah. I still definantly need my down time….Tony is extremely introverted…the key is to never shame a person….anyway, congrats Johnny Do and Susan!!

  16. Howdy are using WordPress for your blog platform?

    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own.
    Do you need any html coding knowledge too make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

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