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.
Although The Atlantic maintains an excellent online archive, I made a couple PDFs of the articles for reference.
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