My introvert lesson from school

School taught me my first lesson about introversion, even though I didn't realise

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Classic old and venerable university building with dramatic skyes and light. This is the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås ( UMB ).
Classic old and venerable university building with dramatic skyes and light. This is the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås ( UMB ).

One of the biggest lessons I took from school was how I was affected by energetic and positive teaching, by a teacher who took the time to discuss things with me quietly. Back then I didn’t know the word “introvert”.

At the time I didn’t understand it’s relevance me in 40 years time, but it’s amazing to look back. 40 years on I still reflect on this and attempt to put it in place for others.

My 2nd year at senior school.

Classic old and venerable university building with dramatic skyes and light. This is the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås ( UMB ).

Let me explain by taking your back to my second and third year at senior school. Looking that far back and thinking about school then sometimes feels a bit like watching a Harry Potter film, without the magic. Does your senior school seem like a different world?

I had struggled with learning German in my first year, but now had a new teacher. She took the time to listen to me explain my questions, without always wanting me to shout stuff out in class (something I look back on and think of as early signs of my introversion).

Her enthusiasm for the subject and the energy she applied to helping us all see why it was relevant was obvious to most of the class. She didn’t just allow the “noisy ones” to speak out, but held them back, encouraging the quieter ones to learn as well.

As a result I moved from struggling in German, to being one of the best in the class.

Getting streamed

Getting to the fourth year (I think that’s year 11 in new money) we were streamed into sets for “O level” and “CSE” – wow I must be showing my age now, am I the only one to remember these qualifications?

I moved into another teacher’s class and immediately struggled. My new teacher was the opposite, he loved noisy discussions, I didn’t get one to one time and he certainly didn’t have the same enthusiasm. I liked his sarcastic sense of humour, but that didn’t help me learn.

My scores plummeted and by the end of the year I was looking like I’d fail my “O level German”.

Thanks Mum

As a bit of a geeky 13/14 year old I was mortified at the time, as my mum intervened. She got me removed from the top set and put into the bottom set. It also means I was again being taught in the way I preferred.

A year later I passed my exam with flying colours, so thanks Mum (even if I didn’t say it at the time)

What did I learn.

For many years I just looked on this as a teacher I liked and one I didn’t.

Now I look at it and consider the importance of considering communication stlyes of introverts and extroverts different. My favoured teach gave me one to one time, held back the extraverts and gave me the gift of time. I flourished.

The other teacher did the opposite, I struggled.

My lesson brought to today

I don’t claim to know how teachers interact with their pupils and whether they understand intreoversion and extraversion. I spend my time in business settings

My research (350+) interviews show that about of third of people at work are not fully productive. The reasons for this are much the same as my time at school; too many leaders don’t understand about introversion. It can lead to a hidden productivity gap.

I implore you to understand introversion, extraversion and then to give introverts the gift of time. I see how this changes things for many staff and did for me  as a pupil.

You can read more about leadership and introversion at

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