Can an Introvert be a Good Teacher?

The other week, I was reading Joe Ciccoianni ‘s blog about introverted students. It is a great piece about how teachers should ensure learning opportunities and environments for introverts. Some students need more time for internal reflection; asking them to share “on the spot” can be limiting and damaging to them.

After reading his blog, I pondered not just introverted students who but also teachers. We typically don’t think of teaching as a job for introverts. Teachers are around people all day and interact with others nonstop. For a time, I wondered if I, myself, could be a good teacher as an introvert. I am not very bossy or intense; I was known as the “mellow guy” during college. Can a laid-back, calm, quiet introvert really be a good teacher? I have gazed at some of my co-workers in awe and respect and asked myself if they had something I needed to do the job effectively. One teacher in particular reminds me of the Energizer Bunny; she is always moving at a quick pace for hours on end with no apparent drain of energy. Let it be said that I am often jealous.

These insecurities dogged me for several years, but lately, I have come to accept myself in my role as an introverted teacher. Doug Robertson writes in He’s the Weird Teacher that “Teaching is an art because there are no rules.” If teaching is indeed an art, we must accept the fact that people will go about it in very different ways. Just like Michelangelo and Picasso are two very different painters, no two teachers will be the same.

I have also come to realize that I bring something unique to the classroom. Although I don’t have it in me to talk all class, every day, I can use that time to build student engagement instead. As an introvert, I think A LOT. (Trust me, consider yourself lucky you don’t spend any time in my head!) Although excessive thinking can be problematic when trying to fall asleep, I have learned to apply that to teaching to be a more reflective practitioner. In recent times, I have used moments of silence when presenting material to build suspense and interest.

I say this not to argue that introverts are better than extroverts; we all have different gifts and different talents. We have to use our abilities to create an engaging and exciting classroom. The ultimate goal is for the students to be passionate about the content. In the end, it is not important what personality we are given, but what we do with it. How do we use our gifts and strengths to connect to students and get them excited about the content? It is this answer, and not our Myers-Brigg score, that matters most in the classroom.

(H/T Joe Ciccoianni, Doug Robertson)

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2 comments

  1. I never realized how being an introvert influenced my day until I taught for a few years. (Being a parent reaffirmed it.) I acknowledge my difference and plan accordingly. The best thing for me has been creating a more student centered learning enviroment. I also take risks from time to time (go #tlap!) that force my extroverted side to shine through. I think that now is a great time for an introvert to be successful teacher because we no longer are viewed as the holder of all information. The time has come that teachers are not necessarily deliverers and demonstrators but navigators for our students. We guide them through the process of learning. Please keep the posts going! They are giving me a lot to think about.

  2. I am an introvert teacher, too. The main way it affects me is energy. I have to go to bed early and get enough sleep. I am drained by teaching and as the above commenter said I’ve created a more student centered learning environment. I believe our students love us in a different way than they love their extroverted teachers. We listen to them and we structure learning in a way that allows them to have fun in another way, not by listening to us, but by doing the fun activities we design. The only thing I wish I had that the extrovert has is the energy!

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