Thrive As An Introverted Teacher
What It Means To Be An Introverted Teacher
Being an introverted teacher can be exhausting.
Having to be “on” all day, with little to any breaks, surrounded by students with varying needs, all demanding your attention, it’s all part of the job. It’s what we sign up for, but it can be overwhelming for the introverted teacher.
The term introvert is much more complex than just another word for shy.
Introversion is a common disposition. If you’re an introvert it doesn’t mean that you are shy, that you have a personality or social disorder, or even that you are shy. Many introverts are great at socializing. However, they also have a strong need to balance that socialization with alone time.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine if you have introversion tendencies:
- Do you feel drained from highly social situations?
- Do you sometimes feel anxious when thinking of the very full school day ahead of you?
- Do “Ice-breakers” (like at the beginning of staff meetings) and networking (think education conferences) make you uncomfortable?
- Are fueled, energized, and refreshed from alone time?
- Can the demanding nature of the school day stifle your joy in teaching?
The school day is not designed to support the needs of an introverted teacher.
A typical school day is micro-scheduled down to the minute. There is a barrage of meetings and little time left at the discretion of the teacher. Classrooms are at times noisy and lively- all which can be draining to the introverted teacher.
The need to perform (here’s more on the performance of teaching) can lead introverted teachers to burn out quicker than extroverted teachers (here’s more on that). However, with some resilience-building and thoughtful practices, introverted teachers can thrive.
How To Thrive As An Introverted Teacher
The career in education may appear to be well-suited for those who are extroverts. However, introverted teachers offer a unique approach and perspective that is an asset to their students and school.
Introverted teachers need to consciously protect themselves from the potential drain and burnout of a career in education, while also recognizing that their disposition offers unique strengths that benefit their teaching.
Below are tips to consider if you are an introverted teacher in order to thrive within your career in education.
Contribute in ways that make sense for you
Being part of after-school life at your school can take a lot of energy and be extra-demanding to the introverted teacher. However, you don’t have to be the glee club sponsor or wrestling coach to be a part of your students’ extracurricular activities. Choose activities to take part in that make sense to you and who you are.
Consider getting involved in different ways. Maybe your school has solo projects that need attention – editing the school newspaper, maintaining a/v materials, changing displays – these are still meaningful contributions. Or, perhaps there are activities that are one-on-one or involve small groups. Mentoring student and their projects, working with small niche clubs, and offering “office-hours” can be a great way of still working with students, but in a more introvert-friendly manner.
Schedule mini-breaks give yourself permission
Schedule a few moments in your day. Maybe a few minutes before the students come in the room, or before you head down to the teachers’ lounge for lunch. Consciously planning small moments will give you time to recharge before facing the rest of what the day has in store. Adding mini-breaks into your day ahead of time holds you accountable for taking them later.
Set limits on your class
Define your classroom expectations to support your students’ needs and your own.
Build in quiet time so that everyone has a moment to decompress – quiet reading or group mindfulness work quite well.
Define your space to limit unnecessary movement so that students don’t wander and to support productive collaborative work. A combination of group and individual seating help students to know how to work where.
Establish clear noise level expectations. There are all sorts of ways to do this. Assigning numbers to noise levels, using hand signals, or even implementing an electronic noise meter.
Connect with students in ways that make sense
There are teachers who facilitate spirited full class debates, who thrive in lively large discussions where students blurt out responses and interrupt each other. Just because that works for some doesn’t mean it has to work for you.
Connecting with students through mini-conferencing, sitting and talking with them about their day and getting to know them can build meaningful relationships that facilitate learning and boost the community of your classroom – as well as let you be successful in your own way.
Rely on the strengths of introversion
Don’t view your introversion as a weakness. Those who consider themselves introverted are also often highly aware of their surroundings and empathetic of others. Consider these strengths.
Take joy in the little things you notice, bring them to the attention of your students, use your intuition and empathy to connect with your students and be sensitive to their needs. These are things that you can do well BECAUSE of your introversion. These are things that benefit your students and their learning.
Lean on you support system
Consider who your support is, who you can turn to to vent or at least help you forget about a tough day. For some their support system is at work, a close colleague, supportive department, or reliable professional community. For others, their support system is their family, tried and true and always there for you. And, for some, their support is in friendships. Defining who makes up your support system is important so that you know exactly where to turn when you need to.
Decompress after work
Give yourself time after work each day to decompress. Make the most of your post-work commute, head to the gym after work, draw a bath, watch a show, or just have some quiet time – whatever refreshes and recharges you to enjoy your evening and take on the school day all over again tomorrow.
Remember self-care is not selfish, especially for introverts. You are no good to your students if you let yourself burn out. So set yourself as a priority along with your students and your loved ones and you will thrive as a teacher introvert.
If you enjoyed this article then you should check out the Joy in Teaching book – click here.