We talk.

Introverts at Urban

Ana Gorski , Editor of Arts and Culture

When I first came to Urban my sophomore year, I never considered introversion or extroversion to be a large factor of the high school experience until I heard a rumor that “Urban is a school for extroverts.” As an anxiety-ridden young transfer, it lead me to believe that students who were ambiverts or more introverted could not be socially or academically successful at Urban. I was concerned not just because a school should be built to support all of its students, but primarily because if Urban wasn’t a place for introverts, the world wasn’t a place for introverts. And of course, it dawned on me that I was, in fact, introverted.

Eventually, I learned that high school rumors are plentiful and often over-dramatic. Also, the rumor had to be inaccurate. Out of 124 respondents in the Urban community, 29% identified as more introverted, 47.6% identified as 50/50 and 23.4% identified as more extroverted. In broad terms, introversion is the tendency to draw energy from within whereas extraversion is the tendency to get energy from the outside environment. Introversion and extroversion fall on opposite ends of a spectrum and many individuals consider themselves to be a mix of both.

What is it like to be introverted at the Urban School? Personally, I can report that my all-time greatest fears in the classroom continue to be getting put on the spot, losing my train of thought, giving presentations, being pressured to contribute to discussions, and mispronouncing things. Not to mention I do all of these things every day. Imogen Budetti (‘18) said, “As a freshman and an introvert doing socratic seminars was terrible. I would always get called out… it happened to me all of freshmen year and it just made me not want to talk.”

Greg Monfils is a teacher who actively adjusts classroom expectations to accommodate quieter students. On class expectations, Monfils said, “I think I make it very clear that it’s okay to be quiet, in fact quite quiet, and then I say that I don’t want to change your nature, I just want you to learn a skill… I make it very clear, I hope, that I do not expect a relatively quiet person to ever speak as comfortably, or certainly not as much, as someone who is comfortable speaking in class. I ask that quiet students press themselves a little bit more to participate a little bit more and if they fall off, I might ask for a quantity. I want one or two comments per class. I tell them that someone once told me that class is an intellectual potluck- you can’t just come and eat.”

Outside the classroom, self-care activities such as watching Netflix, doing yoga, meditating, and reading are widely accepted in Urban and Western society. However, socially, the word ‘introvert’ continues to hold negative connotations as it is associated with shyness and passivity. Susan Cain, author of Quiet, wrote, “Studies show that we rank fast and frequent talkers as more competent, likable, and even smarter than slow ones.”

As the rumor demonstrated, Urban was not exempt from this bias and, although it has subsided, it continues to pervade Western thought. As I started my first year at Urban, the weight of this bias that I harbored made me reluctant to identify as introverted and all the more scared for my future. Would people listen to me? Would they value what I had said even though I could feel my face turn bright red? I was the one getting in the way of my own progress. I had to learn that being introverted and outgoing, or even successful, were not mutually exclusive. Regrettably, I still have not learned how not to blush.

To not perpetuate this bias comes from being patient and generous with your time, embracing silence and recognizing that there are other ways of interacting with the world than just your own. In a follow up email, Monfils elaborated on the equity issue of why it’s important to include quiet voices. Monfils wrote, “Some kids come from backgrounds which reward/expect being quiet. Their k-8’s might have also rewarded quiet. Urban expects a more verbal engagement. Capitalism does too, broadly stated. People like me, white males, have always taken charge in discussions and have been expected to do so. We talk; you listen. So people like me need to defer more often and leave space for others. When that space is available, quieter folks might feel more inclined to move into it. They should try.”