If you are an introvert, you are probably exhausted right now. And that’s because the system isn’t designed for you. It’s designed for people to be hyper-social and to process things externally. You spend hours working with others. You are asked to be on duty in the morning, meet with parents before school, be “fully present” throughout the day, allow students to visit in the spare hours, and collaborate with your PLCs during your prep period.

You’ve probably heard that the best teachers build relationships with students by coaching and by attending sporting events. You might feel the pressure to volunteer for every field trip or school dance or community activity.

But the reality is you need to recharge. You need time process things on your own. The truth is that you have gifts to offer your community as an introvert. So, with that in mind, we will be exploring what it means to thrive as an introverted teacher.

  1. Carve out introverted times in your teaching practice. One strategy that works well involves student-teacher conferences. As a middle school teacher, I met one-on-one with every student once a week. Instead of wandering around monitoring the class, I pulled students aside to talk about their progress. I kept the direct instruction short and scheduled lots of one-on-one time. This kept me from burning out and it helped students get valuable face time with their teacher. Confession: I often hit a point in March when I couldn’t be as present. I would zone out a little and that’s okay. When my students wrote blog posts and articles in journalism, I would crank out a few of my own. Perhaps I wasn’t as “on” but the upside is that they saw their teacher as someone passionate about writing and they knew I was quietly available to help them as they worked independently.
  2. Cultivate an online community. Being a classroom teacher could feel isolating. However, I didn’t thrive on the hours of face-to-face collaboration. So, I still need community. I still needed people. That left me in a bit of a jam. Enter social media. Although I would go on Twitter and Facebook, I also enjoyed the conversations on the margins, in direct messages or Google chats or Voxer conversations. To this day, I have a few close friends as a result of this PLN and they are the ones who I have deep conversations with. One of my best friends here in Oregon is Luke Neff, who I met through collaborating on visual writing prompts.
  3. Find an introverted hobby. I chose an introverted hobby. I write often. If I’m not writing blog posts, I’m working on a novel or a column. It’s my chance to process things internally and creatively. More recently, I’ve gotten into video creation. I also enjoy Minecraft.
  4. Limit the noise. I always had a basic noise limit in my room. This might sound harsh. However, I couldn’t handle really loud classrooms. I created experiences where extroverts could thrive as well. My students got a high level of peer-to-peer talk time and they can listen to music on headphones during independent project time. They were often excited about our hands-on projects. And yet . . . our room ran on a gentle hum more than a loud cacophony.
  5. Give yourself the permission to be alone. Give yourself permission to withdraw. I used to feel like I had to attend every sporting event to support my students. I felt like I had to coach sports. I felt the need to allow students to come in before school and hang out. Eventually, I realized I was a better teacher when I wasn’t exhausted.  In the same vein, I didn’t go to the staff lounge for lunch. I rarely even turned on music. I would eat alone and read or maybe go for a walk. Man, I miss Phoenix sometimes. It was always so sunny.
  6. Volunteer for introverted projects. I was the first to volunteer to design a logo or a website. I would design curriculum or write a proposal or edit a video. People assumed this because I was tech savvy, but that wasn’t the case. I just enjoyed work that allowed me to be self-directed.

It’s possible to thrive as an introverted teacher. You just have to rewrite the rules of what it means to be a passionate, dedicated teacher.

Watch the Video

The following video is a short reflection on what it means to thrive as an introverted teacher. If you are interested in seeing more videos like this, you might want to subscribe to the New Teacher Academy on YouTube.


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