I often get asked how I survive as an introverted teacher. To tell you the truth, I had never really thought about it until a few years ago when I came across the wonderful book, ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’. Prior to this incredible book coming into my life, I knew that I had often come across as being aloof and somewhat anti-social at times. This book changed my thinking and really helped me understand myself as a social being. The bottom line is … Yes, I enjoy socialising but it drains me. I need peace, quiet and solitude to recharge. Which is somewhat at odds with the teaching life. Each day is spent with 24 little beings who all want a piece of you. Also, the teaching profession is moving more and more towards a collaborative model. Which is fantastic for the learning of students but energy-sapping for an introverted teacher.
Just last week, I stumbled across this fantastic article, ‘Reimagining School for Introverted Teachers’. It gave me a few ah-ha moments and inspired me to reflect upon some points about being an introverted teacher in an extroverted teaching world.
Introverted teachers need time to think. It is difficult for introverted teachers (perhaps anyone?) to be put on the spot to come up with their best thinking. Introverted teachers appreciate a heads-up on the topic of conversation in a meeting so that they can prepare their thoughts before being asked to contribute.
Introverted teachers do their best thinking alone. During collaborative planning, I never come up with my best ideas. I come up with my best ideas when I am walking the dog, taking a shower or driving to and from school.
Introverted teachers need solo work time. When I am not teaching, I need time on my own to get tasks done without interruption. Pernille Ripp writes about an unwritten policy that her school has – if a teacher’s door is shut, it signals that they are working and don’t want to be disturbed. Imagine how productive introverted teachers (well, any teachers) could be if this was the case. Don’t get me wrong, I am interested in hearing about your weekend or discussing the great movie or book you’ve seen/read, but when you interrupt my work time, you interrupt my flow. Let’s have that chat later.
Introverted teachers should be allowed to work on some professional development activities alone. Time spent reading, pondering and discussing is excellent PD. Whilst I enjoy formal PD opportunities, they drain me. I much prefer to read and discuss with small groups of like-minded educators. Professional reading groups are a really enjoyable form of PD for me. This summer, Pernille Ripp’s Facebook book club has been fantastic – read and think about the text, jump online and contribute to the discussions.
Introverted teachers need quiet time during the school day. When we don’t spend break times in the staff room, we are not being anti-social. We are recharging quietly and preparing for the next teaching session. For me, it’s a quiet cup of tea whilst thinking about the previous or the upcoming lesson. Or, at lunch time, a solo walk around the block enjoying 1o minutes of movement and sunshine.
So, my answer to those who ask how I survive? As much as I can, I implement the strategies that I know work for me – taking a walk, closing my classroom door, quiet professional reading and thinking – at school. Outside of school, these strategies seem to work:
- I try to leave work at work. I don’t check email or correct work at home. If I work at home, it’s the reading, thinking and writing work. The stuff that I enjoy and recharges me.
- I meditate daily.
- I do yoga several times a week.
- I exercise daily, even if it is just a walk with the dogs.
- I don’t overschedule my social life. I leave time on the weekends for me. Time to be by myself and recharge.
I prioritise these things because I know I’m a better person to be around when I do. These things recharge me and allow me to be the best I can in the classroom, with the students, where it matters.
Are you an introverted teacher? How do you ‘survive’ in an extroverted school environment?