Thursday, 6 July 2017

Introverts need a whole new generation of role models, but also support at home and in school too - Today's ReadItTorial

Today's ReadItTorial was partially inspired by Abby Hutty, and her hugely inspirational speech about finding new STEM role models for kids to look up to - and partially by coming across the same problems again and again when it comes to how society deals with shyness and introversion.

Abby Hutty, one of the senior engineers responsible for the hugely successful Mars Rover project, is a self-confessed introvert, and though she rather bravely took to a public forum to put forward her cause, her words rang loudly in our ears.

For a long time, it's felt like there has been a none-too-subtle shift in the way the world enjoys pushing people to believe that success only comes through being wildly extrovert, pushy, sharp elbowed,  shoving your ideas, and your social media feeds on anyone and everyone until they damned. well. like. them (or at least follow you / fave you).

Abby's speech talked about the common STEM role models identifiable today. For each and every Elon Musk (who seems to love any talk about him being a "real life Tony Stark") or Bill Gates, or for that matter Mark Zuckerberg, there are more introverted folk who shun the public gaze and just flipping well get on with things. Quite often the real innovators, the real folk developing amazing technology, ground-breaking medicines or pushing the boundaries of science ever forward are not doing so while shouting "LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!" through a megaphone.

One of the main reasons for today's blog is because this has parallels with what often happens at Charlotte's school.

Since she joined in Reception class, it's always been clear that the pushier parents with the shoutier kids are often favoured over those of us who like to hang back a little bit, let the teachers do their thing while we do our thing, and let the kids learn and enjoy learning at their own pace.

It sometimes feels like the school detests introversion to the point where they're doing the exact logical opposite of what you'd hope they would do.

Take as an example anything where the kids are expected to read out loud to their classmates (or even as part of school plays or nativities, to parents and other adults). You would expect that teachers and heads would work to encourage the quieter kids to take part, and allow them to try and overcome their shyness and introversion by being given roles in plays where they do get to read lines out, do get to perform, and do get to work on their introversion with a ton of encouragement.

It never really feels like this to us. It always feels like the school takes the easy way out, and just shoves the shoutier noisier more extrovert kids up there, letting them blare out their lines with no skill or finesse purely because these kids have taken cues from their parents, and never miss an opportunity to bray loudly at their peers wherever possible.

Sorry, getting into personal rant mode there for a moment.

Back to this idea that we need more positive (and perhaps not quite so showy) STEM role models, Abby's thoughts are well worth a listen. Looking at her talk, obviously passionate about her expertise and subjects, obviously a hugely inspirational person that you'd really hope your son or daughter would take cues from, but with that obvious 'ill at ease' look that all us introverts fix to our fizzogs whenever we have to do this kind of stuff, who could help but agree with her.