Last night, we had the first parent’s evening at my son’s new secondary school. My son is hardworking, conscientious and worries needlessly about getting into trouble. As with his primary, I was expecting glowing reports praising good grades and excellent behaviour.
I was right. To an extent.
The first teacher we saw reaffirmed how bright he was. How he’s working at a higher level. How well mannered and good natured he is. Kind to his fellow classmates and always considerate of others.
So far so good.
‘But.’ His teacher frowned, and sadly shook his head. ‘There is a big problem.’
My son’s eyes met mine and I saw panic slide across his face.
‘What’s the problem?’ I asked.
A lengthy sigh. ‘He’s quiet.’
‘That’s an issue.’
‘That’s his nature.’
‘We have some big personalities and frankly some disruptive students. He needs to speak up and make himself heard.’
‘Because you never get anywhere in life being an introvert, do you? If you want to succeed you have to learn to shout loudly.’
Umm. I’m an introvert and seem to have done quite well thank you, as has his father.
This set the pattern for the rest of the evening. Out of 11 teachers, 5 told him he had to be louder. More confident. Be something that he isn’t, because of course when you’re shy and insular someone telling you to be loud and confident is exactly what you (don’t) need.
Outside, in the car, I told my rather forlorn twelve year old that I was immensely proud of him. He has been predicted A’ grades in almost every subject and his behaviour is exemplary. But more important than all of that, I told him that I loved him completely exactly the way he is and that he should never, ever feel that being quiet and introverted is a character flaw. Indeed if he follows his dream career path of becoming an author being insular will serve him well. After all, who’s ever heard of an extroverted writer?