Rivertown Parents Examines Introverts

Public Schools of the Tarrytowns Superintendent Christopher Borsari moderates panel featuring Washington Irving School teacher Elisabeth Hickey and Dr. Michael Alcee, Tarrytown clinical psychologist and Mental Health Coordinator at Manhattan School of Music.

Are you (or someone you love, teach or parent) an introvert? If so, do you understand how introversion impacts learning and socializing?

Rivertown Parents, a consortium of local PTAs, asked the community these questions with its most recent event, a presentation titled “Introverts: Embracing your Strength in an Extroverted World,” at Sleepy Hollow High School on April 11. More than 50 attendees learned understanding introverts can be key to parenting and improving the school experience.

“When a presentation about introverts was proposed, we quickly realized how big a topic it was,” said Rivertown Parents Co-Chair Mitch Sylves-Berry.

Dr. Michael Alcee, a Tarrytown clinical psychologist and Mental Health Coordinator at the Manhattan School of Music, encouraged discovering your “type” — introvert, extrovert or ambivert. Introverts quickly feel drained in large crowds, do their best work in quiet environments, and need to recharge with alone time after being stimulated by social situations. Introverts and extroverts can do “good PR” by learning to explain to others how they work, Alcee said.

“It would be a very bad idea to be a salesman if you are an introvert,” he explained, suggesting introverts embrace and capitalize on strengths including creativity, deliberateness and sensitivity.

The most powerful part of the presentation came when co-presenter and educator Elisabeth Hickey read answers to questions she asked introverts. Answers included, “Don’t ask ‘do you like to work with others?’ ask, ‘do you prefer to work alone?’” and  “I would rather give someone else credit for my work than give away my privacy.”

“Schools were developed to serve the masses,” Hickey explained, and there’s a potential “to get left by the wayside if you are not in the center.” She pointed out not every student feels comfortable raising their hand in a classroom or actively participating in group activities, even though that behavior is expected.

She recommended teaching students to advocate for themselves, which introverts naturally find harder to do. Teachers and parents should look for clues a student or child is an introvert. She spoke about students who linger after class alone to push in chairs or “tool around” on the computer. Hickey said these students don’t realize why they behave this way, but they feel physiologically “off” if they can’t recharge before their next class.

Hickey emphasized she doesn’t teach introverted students to change who they are. Instead, she focuses on teaching skills such as cooperative work and public speaking for when they are necessary.

The PTAs or PTSAs of Hastings-on-Hudson, Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and the Tarrytowns make up Rivertown Parents, in conjunction with Mercy College. The organization aims to provide educational resources to parents and the broader rivertowns community, particularly in regard to learning and child-rearing. Each unit puts on one presentation per year and invites the others, “making tight funding go further,” said Sylves-Berry. Past topics have included anxiety, mindfulness parenting and procrastination

The introverts presentation and following Q&A was moderated by the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns Superintendent Chris Borsari. Spanish translation was available.

Presentations are not the only advantage of Rivertown Parents, per Sylves-Berry. Organization members discuss common issues within their districts at a monthly board meeting and bring new ideas and best practices back to their PTAs and communities.

For more information about Rivertown Parents, including a schedule of upcoming events, visit rivertownparents.com.

Brianna Staudt is a Rivertown Parents volunteer and a member of the Horsemen (Tarrytowns) PTA board.

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