The power of introverts not so powerful with this lot

Yesterday I tried to show a group of 17-year old boys — on a hot summer’s day on the second last day of term — a TED talk on the virtues of being an introvert. I’ve been feeling bad about that decision ever since.

This was part of a workshop I was running on Emotional Intelligence and the video clip was, I thought, an easy and hopefully interesting, end to the two sessions.

I still think it’s a good talk but it was totally wasted on this lot. Perhaps I shouldn’t take it so personally. Firstly, most of them don’t read unless they have to. Secondly, trying to sell them on the idea of staying at home with a good book when they could be out meeting girls and partying with their friends was so far away from where they were yesterday that no wonder there were very real rumblings of discontent. Thirdly, I should have been home in bed but came to school out of duty. One boy even tried to crawl out of the venue to escape having to listen to someone who perhaps reminded him of his mother nagging him to read a book?

I looked round from the screeen and saw one of the leaders of the group shaking with laughter so I stopped the video clip and asked what was so funny. Three boys then turned around and looked pointedly at the door. There was one boy (whom I knew, fortunately, let’s call him Mike) leopard-crawling for the door.

Pete: Uh, Mike, what are you doing??
[Boys laughing. Boy freezes, pulls himself up into a sitting position.]

Mike: Sir, can I go to the bathroom?

Pete: Of course. There are only 10 minutes to go but if you need to go, then sure.

I’m convinced that a more seasoned teacher would have made good capital out of this incident and appeared cooler in the eyes of the boys. I was, unfortunately, still sick (sorry for any boys who haven’t had roseola) and not in a bantering mood. I was also a bit shocked that someone would dislike this talk so much that he needed to leopard-crawl out of the workshop!

We struggled on and I managed to get to 17 minutes before pulling the plug. How did I get it so wrong? Well, I was sick for a start. And the boys were restless and just wanted to be out in the fresh air and not sitting inside watching a woman talk about how much she loves reading and writing.

Anyone read this book? Seen the TED talk? I think I need some reassurance that it’s actually a very good talk and a worthwhile book.

Postscript: I think I’m generalising from a few vocal boys to the whole group. Some of the boys seemed quite interested so maybe Susan Cain’s message got through to a few of the quiet ones.

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3 Responses to The power of introverts not so powerful with this lot

  1. litlove says:

    Well you know, you tried, and frankly that’s all you can ever do with a roomful of 17-year-old boys, which must have its own personal ring of hell in Dante’s inferno. They are a thankless audience to have at the best of times, let alone sick. If you want to make any boy that age think about emotions (and as I said, it’s brilliant that you tried) you have to pick them off individually, alone. In a group the pack mentality takes over – and it’s not pretty.

    The thing is, we never know when learning takes place. You can go through what feels like a great lesson, and the students walk out happy but empty headed. Who knows but one of those boys, forced into behaving like all his peers, won’t think twice about what he saw some day in the future. Sowing the seeds – it’s all we can ever do. You did that.

  2. Pete says:

    Thanks Litlove, I do feel a bit better about it now that I’ve had a couple of days to think it over. Even if the majority thought it was a waste of time, I think a few of the quieter ones were interested. I also realised that I need to take a more accepting view of typical adolescent boys’ emotional functioning. Denial, joking, playing things down. That’s what they do. I’ll try again next year 🙂

  3. smithereens says:

    Oh my, what a terrible experience, no wonder you’ve been thinking about it again and again. Probably all those who reacted this way are extroverts. But I’ve just listened to the talk and it is great, no mistake!

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