Jeffrey Nordstrom: Openly Secular
I'm not a very confrontational person and I've kept pretty quiet about faith-stuff, all in all, for the last few years. My online presence is obviously critical of religion, and I've cultivated a digital sympathy for various atheist-folks and ideas, but I've always avoided saying anything about it myself. As a teacher, I don't want to cause an unneeded ruckus, and I really don't think "what I have to say" is any different or more articulate than anybody else out in cyberspace.
However, yesterday I broke my own general rule and posted a comparatively aggressive video to Twitter:
On teaching while introverted.
When I saw the tweet above, I started thinking and tweeting aggressively; I'm going to try to transfer that energy here.
I read both articles at The Atlantic—"Why Introverted Teachers are Burning Out" (January 25 2016) and "When Schools Overlook Introverts" (September 28 2015)—and found myself both affirmed and discouraged: affirmed because it was nice to see that other people might also see introverts' struggles with the highly social environments encouraged by 21st Century Eduucation, and discouraged because I was hoping these thoughts would continue to simmer below the surface of my daily consciousness—and disappear there.
I understand that personality labels are merely shorthand, but I share a lot of characteristics attributable to introverts. Generally, although I can be social I need time to recharge on my own; I get overwhelmed by large, continuous, unpredictable social situations. At a recent counselling appointment, when I told my counselor that I'm an introvert, she looked at me and said, "How can you be an introvert and keep yourself going in so many social situations?" I told her that I generally like people and that I generally see the good in people, that I can coast and improvise skilfully, and that I take care of myself through the day. As far as introverts go, I'm OK at bouncing between social situations and antisocial ones.
But introversion has led me to second-guess my decision to be a teacher. It's a lot of talking all day long and the performance gets tiresome. There are plenty of days when I don't really have a chance to recharge and I fall further and further behind. By the time I get home, I'm shutting down and using avoidance and emotional withdrawal tactics with my own family. And that's not good.
In the meantime, education is heading down a path of individualization. As a participant in the education system with introverted characteristics, these are some of my concerns:
Every lunch break, I spend most of my time in my classroom. At the school where I teach, the school culture doesn't really expect students to skip out on their lunch to get work done, but I like to tell people that I stay in my classroom because I want to be available for students anyhow. However, after 15 minutes or so, if no students show up, I usually close my door and keep to myself. I have had many different extroverted staff members at multiple schools ask why they so rarely see me in the staff room; I tell them it's my recharging time.
But with all the demands of teaching in schools today, I can't help but feel like it's not enough--like a lonely lunch break is just not enough for me to make it through the day.
So when I see articles like these, I feel a little less alone. And perhaps I can squeeze a few more years out of this career despite my incessant introversion. But I have somewhat high hopes that the increased individualization and destruction of classroom-based models might make more room for introverts like myself. Perhaps, beneath the rubble of the archaic content-area-based system, I and fellow introverts will find a place where we can master our learning and recharge our batteries appropriately.
15 weeks ago, according to Instagram, I received this 235° clip-on lens in the mail. It has been a dear, convenient companion since then. Although I've posted a few photos to this blog where I've used the lens before, I'm really pleased with how some of these photos turned out. So here they are.
I've had to repair it a few times; once it slowly unscrewed itself, and recently I dropped it and the lenses inside got all misaligned. However, it's a sort-of soothing thing to repair, so I don't mind.
It really is an excellent little accessory and has created some memorable photos, especially in family situations (which I do not post online). It's fun to be able to capture a photo that gathers light fromt he entire room.
I've been thinking a lot about change as of late. After many difficult situations, I've come to realize that I haven't changed much over the years, that many of my efforts at self-improvement have fallen flat, or at least gone in far different directions than I could have ever conceived.
I glanced at some old journal entries I wrote in the early 2000s and found that I'm essentially the same person I was years ago. I still care about friends and family in the same way; I still struggle with being social; I still think somewhat independently, but struggle to express it. My writing has improved, and I'd like to think that I've improved overall, but I'm still essentially the same person.
The BigThink Think Again interview with Sir David Hare filled my brain with a whole bunch of medium-sized thoughts, particularly in regards to change. Of course they excited me because they confirmed a few of my biases. Nonetheless, it's always nice when smart people can confirm my biases in a much clearer manner than I can myself.
One part of this interview that stood out to me focuses on the way we don't change very much through our lives. Hare speaks,
When I was young, I certainly thought I had a malleable character. I thought I could achieve things, and once I'd achieve those things, I'd feel better. It has never happened. And after all these years—10 or so years of teaching, 9 years of marriage, 9 years of fatherhood, 40 pounds gained and lost in 7 years, a CD "released," thousands of social media posts—I'm essentially the same person. Hell, even as all my cells have apparently been replaced, it seems like I'm the same person.
This discourages me a little.
Recently, it has been made clear just how set-in-genes my character is. I have really pushed myself to change some of my habits and ways of thinking, but I haven't seemed to be able to do it. I've tried to battle off old prejudices, old habits, old ways-of-being-in-the-world. But I'm starting to think that I'm fighting a losing battle.
Besides, a bunch of these battles might be misguided in the first place. Who am I to decide which comparatively OK traits need to be adapted in which way? And who am I to hand that responsibility over to somebody else? Just because I think, at some point, that a trait needs adjustment doesn't mean that it's a feasible, or even necessary, endeavor.
So I'm at an impasse with my own sense of well-being.
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