True, contemporary classrooms are meant to be bustling hubs of activity. At all grade levels, the expectation is students will learn by doing and interacting. Keeping these classrooms humming would seem to require an extroverted person who exudes a certain communal energy. Not every teacher who steps into a classroom has that. Many will, as the profession lures these types. Others will be people who’ve always disliked group work while preferring to sit and absorb a lecture. Contemporary education still has a place for such souls.
A culture shock of sorts might first ensue. If the introverted teacher gets through the pedagogy courses without deciding the field is a poor fit, meeting students might change that. A significant number of students might become immediately bored and thus turned off to learning if they’re not entertained or doing something in class that feels like a game. Furthermore, administrators might demand lesson plans built around social learning experiences. The introverted teacher can feel radically out-of-place. What should this teacher do?
Reconciliation is possible. The introverted teacher might feel most comfortable teaching according to how he or she would feel most comfortable learning. This could work some of the time, but it won’t work often enough to use as a default. Recognizing the need to adapt is the first step in reconciliation. What follows is a list of additional considerations for the introvert trying to teach in a system built to foster extroversion.
1. Adapt – Restating the first suggestion, the introverted teacher must change his or her approach from what might feel most comfortable. As much as this might hurt, it will be necessary to reach the maximum number of students to the maximum extent. A person can’t simply assume a new personality, but that same person must look at what tools are available and use these in the spirit of doing the job effectively. Teaching is a job, after all. The introverted teacher needs to accept that to do the job, reaching out beyond the comfortable and familiar is a requirement. This is a step in its own right.
2. Watch How Others Do It – Introverted teachers might have a fondness for learning by watching. Here is an opportunity to do just that. How to actually foster social learning activities might not naturally occur to the introverted teacher. He or she should observe those teachers in the same school who have this natural touch. Purposeful observation of colleagues is something more teachers should do anyway. Here is the perfect reason for this to happen. Observing won’t automatically lead to skillful replication, but it’s a good start.
3. Co-teach – Going a step beyond watching, the introvert might wish to partner with a more extroverted teacher. This could facilitate a balance in a classroom. It also might be a disaster. Co-teaching, though becoming increasingly popular, demands chemistry between co-teachers. The introvert and extrovert might gel and they might not. The school’s organization needs to allow for a co-teaching model to exist for these teachers to even have the chance to work together. Should this environment exist, the introvert might do well to work with a more extroverted partner to take advantage of one another’s skill sets and add to their own.
4. Take Professional Development to Heart – Professional development days can be dreadful for introverted teachers. Workshops frequently involve group learning that teachers are expected to turn around and use with students. Even when lessons aren’t meant to be replicated later by the participants, the activities at these sessions invariably involve group learning because educators think they must incorporate social learning into everything. Annoying for the introvert, yes, but it could be an opportunity to take something back to his or her practice. The introvert might need these professional developments more than most teachers do. They really should take the tools used during these sessions and give them a try in the classroom.
5. Imagine a Reversal of Roles – Once again, the introverted teacher needs to accept that not all students will learn the way he or she feels comfortable teaching. To underscore this, the introverted teacher should imagine the roles being reversed. Thinking about the relative discomfort the introvert feels when forced into social learning can provide a window into how a more extroverted student would feel in passive learning scenarios. Realizing this can help motivate the introvert to do what is necessary to meet the needs of those students who need something different. The introvert will likely find students who are similarly introverted and might indeed relate well with these students. Everyone else deserves the same consideration, though.
6. Teach Elsewhere – Schools aren’t the only places where learning happens in today’s educational landscape. The introvert might want to teach, but might find the culture of today’s schools to be just too jarring. These teachers might wish to look for opportunities working for cyber schools or as tutors or homeschooling instructors. Connections could be made in these arrangements that might be a better fit for the introverted teacher.
Introverted teachers are an uncommon lot, but they can find a place as contemporary educators. Some adjustments might be necessary to expectations and practice. With some flexibility, introverted teachers can find ways to put student needs first while balancing their need to feel at ease with their craft.
Written by Jeff Hartman