I like to see my students quietly getting on with a bit of work. Perhaps looking in a dictionary from time to time. Making a few notes. Looking out of the window. These all strike me as probable signs of productivity.
And signs, too, that I am successfully managing their collaborative overload, a term I am delighted to have learnt from the Harvard Business Review.
Various bits of ‘research’ have determined that the emphasis on collaboration and teamwork in organisations has reached a zone of insanity (I paraphrase) wherein workers are forced against their will to spend the majority of their time interacting with their co-workers. The more you interact, of course, the less you actually do, and, if you are an introvert, the more you suffer.
It is a bad business probably signalling the end times. I speak from experience. Teachers of English as a foreign language are especially prey to the fallacy that students must be engaging with each other in order to be learning a language. We put them in pairs and small groups (we love small groups) and get them chatting and worry if they don’t chat enough. But if I’m honest, all this runs directly counter to my experience of language-learning, where a significant proportion of my time was time spent alone – reading, memorising, processing, writing, even drilling myself on pronunciation. For adults, learning a language, perhaps counter-intuitively, is not a particularly social practice.
Or perhaps I just think so because I have strong (off the scale?) introversive tendencies. Another article I read yesterday suggested that introverted high-school teachers are far more likely to quit the profession than their extroverted colleagues, because, very reasonably, they can’t stand how much they have to actually spend with other people, not so much in class (which, in fairness, they signed up for), but between classes – the emphasis on collaboration and teams outside the classroom is denying them the time they need to recharge.
For a social species, I am forced to conclude, we have a strong line in misanthropy.