1. I find this debate in education so intriguing. In my ‘previous life’ before teaching, I worked as part of a committee to find preventatives for alcohol and substance abuse in small communities. Research at that time suggested that many people who were abusing substances felt significant discomfort being alone. Many experienced anxieties about being solitary and thus used substances to numb their discomfort. Further research suggested that adolescents who were comfortable spending time alone were less likely to engage in harmful or self destructive behaviour.
    When I see someone sitting having a coffee at a cafe alone or going to the movies alone, I don’t assume “lonely” (they could easily boil the kettle at home, or watch the movie on their couch at home), I think there’s a person confident in their own self.
    I believe if we want our students to be confident and creative, we need to support them to develop their sense self alongside their abilities to work with others.

  2. This reminds me of R.L.Moore’s methodology in Mathematics “The students in Moore’s classes were forbidden from talking about anything in the course to one another — or to anybody else — outside of class. Moore’s idea was that the students should discover most of the material in the course themselves.”

  3. I really like this post because I am the kind of person that really, really needs time alone to process my world. I find being with others often exhausting and being on my own is how I recover and recharge my batteries. It allows me to think, process my world and generate creative ideas. I often recharge my batteries by reading, writing, running, biking, walking or lifting weights alone. I enjoy doing those activities with my children or with friends but I also really value being able to do them simply alone.

    • Teach2Connect

      Agreed. As an introvert, I get my energy from time spent alone and in reflection. It is hard to explain to my family sometimes why I don’t want to talk at the end of the day, but they are starting to “get me”. (After 34 years…)

  4. Thanks George. I think you’ve highlighted that balance is the key. When we let students reflect on what they do during collaborative learning times it enables them them to process and hopefully sythesise any new discoveries. Then, let them apply their learning and test it in a collaborative environment to refine it.

  5. Frances Barnes

    I am an extrovert who loves being around others. At times though I find I need to walk the dog or read a book or just sit alone in the hot tub. We also need to recognize this need in our students. Thanks for writing about it and making me recognize it as a need.

  6. I’ll be sharing this with our 5th graders. We spend so much time working in teams that we often forget the necessity of alone time. We are starting a positive disruption project where individuals must write a script and produce a five-minute presentation about something that are passionate. They will be able to rely on peers only after the creative juices have started flowing all over our three rooms and some drafting of the project has started. Plus, we begin state testing next week, a solitary endeavor.

  7. I’ve said this many times to folks…my best ideas come when I’m at the gym, or in strangely enough…in the shower. I guess that is when my mind is most free….not bogged down with “i have to do this” or “this has to be done now.” At any rate, great post.

  8. Just to make sure I have this right, you are saying we need a healthy balance of both isolation and collaboration, correct? This I can understand. We all need private time for reflection, to sum up our thoughts. We often don’t provide enough of that in school settings for our students. We hurry them to give an answer so that we can move on to our next question or piece of information to share. We don’t take the think time or reflection time needed for deep thinking. Still, I do think that many brains are smarter than one and that if we collaborate and connect we can extend the learning (or at least examine it from another angle) we have done on our own. Thanks again for reminding me of the extremes people can take on an issue. We all need to find a balance in our approaches.

  9. Kaila

    This post resounded with me—ironic that thoughts on isolation would have such a “loud” impact. I am enrolled in a Masters program and last week’s readings on reflective practice are reinforced in your post. In the education profession we can often get caught up in the business of teaching, the fast-paced momentum of terms, initiatives, networking…in fact, I have often missed the critical piece of pausing, coupled with a little isolation. I am inspired by your thoughts…thanks!

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