Meet Jake Millman

By Jake Millman

I’m an 18-year-old New York City kid and senior at the Horace Mann School, and I’m an introvert. I not only proudly admit this but wouldn’t change my temperament if I could. While today’s society tends to value extroverts, my goal is to help change all that!

I now know that my social and academic experiences have been largely shaped by my introversion, dating back to my toddler years, when I became highly focused on different toys. It started with model cars, then moved to Mighty Beanz, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh cards, then to Tech Deck Dudes, and finally to Hacky Sacks. Collecting popular toys is pretty typical for kids, but I would sit alone for hours on end, lining up my playthings and inventing my own games. My parents thought this was alternately charming and anti-social. However, I was perfectly content in this zone—just my mind, my toys, and me.

As I grew older, my interests became more varied, and I always had plenty of friends. In comparison to them, I sought more solitude and was considerably quieter. Reports from my teachers included praise for good grades and the inevitable “needs to speak up” and “we want to hear what Jake’s thinking.” I knew I was more than just a “quiet kid” and didn’t like being pigeonholed. Even if I didn’t prefer large groups, I had many small group and one-on-one relationships. Even if I wasn’t rowdy and aggressive, I played competitive soccer and tennis throughout my childhood.

One night in the sixth grade, my mom told me that she thought I was an introvert. When she explained why, I immediately dismissed the idea. Truthfully, introversion resonated with me, but I was initially embarrassed. I came to realize that embarrassment wasn’t going to change anything, and there was no reason to change anything. I started to embrace my inherent nature.

Throughout middle school, my introversion became a positive rather than a hindrance. I, like a stereotypical introvert, am a very serious student, and at a school like mine, this is really valued. Since I enjoyed a comfortable social life and excelled at sports, I was a generally likeable and happy kid. While some Horace Mann kids are very competitive, I chose to remain under the radar, excelling in my own quiet way. Things came together when—to my surprise—I was chosen Master of Ceremonies of my middle school graduation.

In high school, I feared that quiet kids might be bullied or at least undervalued, but I believed in myself, and when our Dean announced class president elections, I felt compelled to run. Truthfully, I never expected to win, given my opponents had big voices and even bigger promises, but I wanted to try. In my jittery but sincere campaign speech, I described how I would listen to my peers, strive to unify the class, and keep every promise I made. I won that first election and, despite a long line of challengers, have been re-elected class president every year since.

I realized that my qualities as an introverted leader outweighed my deficits, and this altered the trajectory of my academic experience. I acquired the confidence to put myself forward as a leader inside and outside of school. Speaking to large groups is still nerve-racking, but my peers support my leadership for what I uniquely bring.

When I read Quiet, I immediately connected with its message. I felt like a living example of “the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” I contacted Susan with my story; she responded; and I’m here today, writing for Quiet Diaries.

I feel I have a responsibility to spread the word about the power of introverts. I care passionately about valuing all students, particularly introverts, in the classroom. There is much work to be done, and I am interested in exploring how participation is graded, how and how much students work together, and even the physical structure of classrooms. I strongly believe multiple ways of learning and grading should be instituted so the needs of both extroverts and introverts are accommodated. To tackle this problem, I will be reaching out to schools and students across New York, and indeed the country, to form a coalition of Quiet kids. Together, we can determine how introverted kids’ academic experiences can be more enjoyable and rewarding.

Introversion is as much of who I am as my gender or race. I’m a quiet kid, but I’m a lot more than that, and I believe this is true of all of us introverts. Together, we can change perceptions so our qualities and contributions are fully valued.