I am a 41-year-old adult educator. Since 2001, I have worked at Vilnius Gabrielė Petkevičaitė - Bitė Adult Education Centre as an English teacher. I lead a language methodology group and participate in various international projects. I love putting my thoughts on paper and sharing them with others. Thanks to this hobby, I became an EPALE adult educator in 2019.
I learned about the EPALE platform a few years ago through my colleagues and the Director of our Education Centre. I follow the platform’s Facebook posts, and this is how I found out about this initiative. I follow the EPALE platform news, articles by fellow adult educators, and I have posted three articles for which I became certified as an EPALE adult educator.
The Introvert’s Renaissance and the Top Achiever’s Illusion
Loneliness. Isolation. Despair. Turmoil. I happened to hear many similar epithets during the distance learning time under lockdown. I heard a story of a top class student who spent the lockdown in bed. After a month of lockdown the headmaster called his mother, who daily went to work and, shocked, he tried to understand what had happened to her son. The other story is somewhat different. The story’s protagonist is a silent outsider with average talent and results who began to flourish during the lockdown and to dedicate his time to studying. He neatly arranged his textbooks in order, he was on Zoom at eight a.m. and in bed at 11 p.m. The young man smiled more, and his grades gradually improved.
So, what happened during the lockdown?
I thought about this after the first weeks of panic were over, and I started perceiving the world with greater objectivity. I began taking more notice of those around me and listening to their stories. I was able to do this because I taught nearly non-stop remote English classes for my adult learners throughout lockdown, and interacted with colleagues who also told me their stories. I thank them for sharing their experiences. I compared these experiences and asked myself: What happened to the top achiever? And what made the “outsider” flourish?
I concluded that lockdown was a chance for people to discover their different selves.
For a long time, the world was generous to extroverts: flocks of learners of all ages chattering in school corridors, mass events and group work, sports competitions, a glamorous façade; these were the extravert’s success in a buzzing world. The introvert, the “loser” and weirdo, often slow and reserved, was not the one whose image humankind would crown with laurel.
Sickness comes on horseback, as they say. It comes and muddles that shiny, glamorous and fast-paced life. You do not get to choose it. It chooses you. Who would have thought that we would be locked down at home so soon, that after leaving school today we would not come back for an extremely long time. Who could have predicted that we would be squeezed into our miniature cages, and would have to re-learn how to live, in order to survive? Poor extroverts. Used to thriving in the whirlpool of attention and action, they began to wilt. No virtual platform, be it Zoom, Skype, Teams or any other, can give the extrovert the energy that he draws from the live environment. He can only marvel at the peace and the inner strength of his introverted classmate and the renaissance of his personality experienced during the lockdown.
Oops... Have I just praised the lockdown?
God forbid, and if I could choose, I would be in the front row mercilessly cutting it down with a scythe, and then burying it deep in the ground after making the sign of the cross over it. I do wonder though, why did it take the lockdown for the introverted learner to start ‘belonging’ in school? What did we do wrong to make the social top achiever, when left to his own devices, ‘forget’ how to live? The lockdown will come. The lockdown will go.
Will we have learned our lesson?
Maybe it’s worth starting to do our homework and thinking about how to enable opening up to the highest number of people, learners who will be returning to studying? We constantly discuss inclusive education in a bid to bring together learners with a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities, but this is not the only difference. Let’s consider how we can help a learner who cannot concentrate when thirty pens are scribbling away. Why does a young man, who has perfectly recited a poem to the wall, become a shell in the classroom and, after barely mumbling the poem, loses the gift of speech.
“Haven’t you learned it?” the teacher sways his head reproachfully. The student simply stays silent and is happy to be able to breathe, while the teacher, the responsible teacher asks, “Why are you silent, why haven’t you learned it?”
The sad person would happily accept a D to avoid being asked further questions, but now the teacher feels ignored and, a little angry, he gives the student a C. Still frowning, the teacher asks the top achiever who has had his hand up for about 40 minutes, to recite the poem. The student recites the poem in front of everyone, maybe with a minor mistake here and there, maybe a bit out of time, but nevertheless persuasively and with good expression. But no one listens to him. Instead they simply admire what a good build he has, how athletic and how brave he is, and of course, that he is a top achiever.