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The Power of Introverts: An Essential Understanding for Teachers

The Power of Introverts: An Essential Understanding for Teachers

3 October, 2016

Introverts Defined

Susan Cain writes, “At least one third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams.” At the core of the definition of introversion and extroversion is how we get our energy. Introverts are energized when they’re alone or in small groups; extroverts are the opposite.

Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not necessarily shy.

Cain suggests that those who answer yes to the following questions are most likely introverts:

  1. Do you have a horror of small talk?
  2. Do you do your best work on your own?
  3. Do you feel energized by being alone or with one or two other close friends?
  4. Do you express yourself well in writing?
  5. Do you like to focus on one task at a time and tend to work slowly and deliberately?
  6. Would you prefer a vacation reading on the beach to partying on a cruise ship?

In Quiet there’s a quick self-assessment to help you identify where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.

There are such things as ambiverts or those who are an introvert in some situations and an extrovert in others. Introversion and extroversion also intersect with other personality traits and personal histories. Some introverts are shy while others are charismatic public speakers; and some introverts are also “highly sensitive. An extended definition of introversion is necessary.

Advice for Teachers

If you’re a teacher, enjoy your sociable and participatory students. But don’t forget to nurture the shy, the gentle, the autonomous — the ones with single-minded enthusiasm for chemistry sets or parrot taxonomy or nineteenth-century art. They are the artists, engineers, and thinkers of tomorrow.

Considerations for Introverted Teachers

Here’s a story that an introvert teacher shared:

“My introversion simply wasn’t compatible with teaching 70 kids each day. Teaching always exhausted me — by the end of each day, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck, and by Friday evening, I’d crawl into bed at 7:30 and be unable to form a sentence for at least 18 hours. That was what I wanted to do, but with a husband and young child, I couldn’t. So I left full-time teaching for a job as an instructional coach.”

“I really wanted to coach and soon realized that it suited my personality. Sitting with one person or working with a small team of three or four teachers didn’t exhaust me — in fact, it energized me. Coaching is cognitively and emotionally demanding, but I now see how my introverted tendency makes coaching a much more compatible role for me.”

For introvert teachers, you need to ask yourself: Does your job suit your temperament? If not, what could you do to change things? There are a number of deeply committed but struggling teachers (who are suspected introverts) wherein classroom teaching might not be the best fit. Some are encouraged to think about teaching in smaller settings, for example in a special education context, or tutoring or counseling. There are many ways teachers can participate in the education world without being with 130 kids every day.

For those who are often need to show up as extroverts, it is suggested that “restorative niches” should be created for them. Find ways to create time and places where batteries can be recharged after, for example, a long meeting with dozens of people.