Going through old boxes of stuff at my parents’ house, I found this progress report from a religion class I attended in first grade, when I was about 6 years old. Classic!!!


Check it out–I’ve got perfect marks on everything, except a C in “oral participation.” In the comments, the teacher writes, “Kelly is a very quiet and enjoyable girl to have in class.” Yet, somehow the fact that I wasn’t a loudmouth got me one low mark.

Ha! I can’t help but laugh when I look at this. Little Kelly had no idea she was an introvert. All she knew is that the pressure to “participate” in class gave her anxiety. She just wanted to listen and observe and do her work quietly, and alone.

I wish I could go back in time and tell Little Kelly to not care one iota about class participation. I also wish I could tell every teacher about what it means to be an introvert.

Remember the teachers who were notorious for calling on random kids in the classroom to answer a question?? Those moments practically gave me anxiety attacks! The teacher would scan the room and I would do everything in my power to exude “don’t call on me” body language. Ooh, all these feelings are coming back to me now! Do you remember?

A few months ago, Susan Cain posted a quote about class participation from Chimanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah. Here’s part of it:

[Class participation] merely made students talk and talk, class time wasted on obvious words, hollow words, sometimes meaningless words. It had to be that Americans were taught from elementary school, to always say something in class, no matter what. [The other students were] flush with knowledge, not of the subject of the classes, but of how to be in the classes…” source

The introvert bible Susan Cain’s Quiet goes into detail about how different cultures treat class participation differently. (Seriously–this book should be required reading for everyone.) As Americans, we tend to value outgoing talkers above quiet thinkers.

school Kelly 2

“It has been a pleasure having such a creative, responsible, and conscientious student in my room.” This HSP’s 5th grade report card

I was a good student, and I think I knew deep down that class participation was bullshit. Like the earlier quote said: “Flush with knowledge, not of the subject of the classes, but of how to be in the classes.” Class participation is just learning how to play the game. A quiet kid like me learned that she had to speak up once in a while because that was what I had to do to get a good grade. Maybe that was a beneficial lesson after all, because as an introvert and HSP, you do a lot of “playing the game” as an adult, too. You learn how to make small talk, even though you detest it. You learn that sometimes you have to attend parties. You force yourself to be more outgoing even when you don’t want to. Sometimes you just have to do these things to get by.

It was eye-opening to find these old report cards. I had never thought back to when I was very young and how my introversion and high sensitivity made itself evident. It’s an interesting exercise–think back to what kind of student you were as a young child. Do you remember teachers commenting that you were quiet, shy, and kept to yourself? What other memories do you have of being an introvert as a kid?