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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Introverts... your kids need you.

First, I'm an introvert, as anyone who has had a conversation with me longer than 2 seconds will tell you.  I enjoy going for a run or working out by myself. I rarely speak in a meeting unless I know my words will improve the conversation or the action coming out of the meeting. At a party I'm the guy in the corner having one on one conversations with people and loving it. I stay after school for over an hour partially because it's quieter. I have built up a tolerance for small talk. It's still exhausting when I need to carry it on for longer periods of time, but that's OK, it's the reason I sleep 6 hours a day. I can do the stage, no problem because I prepared myself for it, but I'm not great at the chit-chat afterwords.  It's easier for me to form relationships with the introverted kids in my classroom. I think before I talk, sometimes I over analyze my words. I feel most alive when I get time to think and be creative. I can come up with a lot of ideas very quickly, and with that, I know that most of my ideas will not work when they hit the ground. I'm totally OK with that.  It's an idea, it's not tied to who I am and I'm not going to spend energy or time getting preachy on it. Forward momentum is WAY more important than my ego, and it's slightly painful for me to write this much about myself and publish it to the world, so let's move on.

I read an article yesterday that I'll admit has me a little ticked.  The article was in the NEA magazine titled Q&A: Introverted Teachers and Burnout.  Immediately this caught my attention I'm already asking... Why are these introverted teachers burning out?  What's their problem?  The article is written by Jessica Honard who has made a name for herself on this topic when she stopped teaching because her introverted nature could not handle the daily pressures of teaching, so she started writing about it.  Good, fantastic, I'm sure her book has helped people and if her thoughts and her message has kept even one person in the field, awesome.  I've never written a book so props to you Jessica.

Introversion has made big news especially since Susan Cain's Book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.  This is all good, I'm glad it's getting more attention and if you haven't seen Susan's TED talk it's pretty great.  However, what I have a hard time with, in this article especially, is the soft hands, introversion as an inconvenience, approach to introverts that articles like Honard's legitimize.
"It's generally believed that the teaching profession is better suited to extroverts"
Really?! A. This is not encouraging B. Does this mean about 1/2 of the teachers I know have the deck stacked against them? 16-50% of us are introverts.  Let's re-write this.  How about, it's generally believed that the teaching profession is better suited to people who like kids and want to help them grow and succeed.  There are as many ways to do that as there are teachers.  No one way is right or wrong.  The extroverted way is not the model we should all strive for.  I had an extroverted teacher in high school and I dreaded going to his class because he made it his mission to pry me out of my introverted nature.  When it got to the point that I felt nauseous upon entering his classroom I played the grown up and had a one on one conversation with him about it.  He stopped pestering, and I got to be me.
"I needed to take 5-10 minutes in the teachers lounge to recuperate, they (other teachers) would watch my class... during passing period... a colleague would cover my post if I needed the quiet of the classroom... students would be at my door before school started which was usually my time to focus... so teachers would hold them off a few minutes."
Introverts, get over yourselves, you are not at school for you, you are there to serve, guide, and care for the kids in front of you.  Other teachers should not have to accommodate for you and add more to their load because you are an introvert. I am at school during school hours for kids.  I'm not there for my comfort and my needs, I am there for kids.  I will get what I need during plan time, when kids are not in the building, or on my own time.

Every introverted teacher I know has not only found a way to deal with their introversion, but most have become awesome teachers because it is more in their nature to be reflective, and build solid relationships.

Find a way to deal with it, other than escaping.  Your kids need you.

When adult comfort trumps kid needs, relationships 

and therefore learning suffers.

If you are an introverted teacher making excuses.  Get over it.  The world is not going to give us soft hands just because we need alone time.  If you stop treating your introversion like a disease others will too. Take care of yourself, build your own support network, because no one else will, and when you're at school your kids need you.


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