Teaching is a rewarding and amazing job. Working with young people, teaching a subject we love, and teaching kids to love learning is a huge task to take on, but it’s so worth it. It’s never an easy job, but when you’re an introverted teacher, the constant stimulation can be a real challenge. It’s really important to make sure you get that time for yourself, or you can burn out very quickly!
Before I became a mom, I’d just push through and make it to the end of the day. Then I would shut my door, turn off the lights and sit in silence. As life changed, I got less and less of that quiet time. I became more and more stressed just meeting the demands of my teaching schedule and family life. I began to wonder if I’d chosen the wrong profession, because WHY would an introvert choose a job where being around people all day is a must?
Are you an introverted teacher? Here are some effective ways I’ve found to not just function as an introvert, but to flourish!
1.Carve out time in the day for a quiet space.
It isn’t easy to be around people all day. Even the students you love and your own teacher BFF can drain you if you don’t take some time to refill your energy. It’s okay to shut your door and sit in the dark. It’s okay to revel in the silence for just a few minutes. Can you go outside for a few minutes of your plan? Can you read a book and eat lunch in your classroom? Can you sit alone at recess duty for ten minutes? When and where can you find a few minutes of calm? Find a way to recharge so you don’t end up frazzled, and don’t feel bad about your need to do so.
2. Know what overstimulates you so you can find ways to calm your senses.
For me, it is a lot of noise, bright lights, and working with others. I can’t avoid working with others, because that is just a part of life, but I can try to work with those who are task-driven like myself. I don’t want to dawdle and discuss things. I just want to get to the task at hand and finish it. For me, what works best is discussing ideas and retreating to my room to work on my part alone. Group settings make my mind shut down.
The lights are easy. I have never kept on a full set of lights during the day. I kept the shades open to get natural light, and when I’ve not had a bright room, I’ve kept a lamp in the room so I can turn of those florescent lights for some (or all) of the day.
As for the noise, I’ve only ever taught languages, and those classes are bound to be noisy! Language learning means a lot of talking, which leads to a lot of noise when 25 people are talking to each other. This is unavoidable, so I just made sure I got some quiet time in during that same lesson. It’s a big help to the introverted students, too. 🙂
Want some strategies for working with introverted students? Read this!
3.Volunteer for projects that allow you to work quietly on your own.
One hard part of being an introverted teacher is wanting to help but not necessarily wanting to work in a group. You want to be a team-player, but you know your limitations. The best way to contribute meaningfully is to wisely select the activities that you can commit to and do without draining yourself.
I like design, and I’m quick with technology, so I used to volunteer to make the team presentation at parent night. One or two of my less introverted teammates would take charge of presenting so that I didn’t have to. It was a win-win.
4. Speak up for yourself.
I’ve been accused of being standoffish or snobby, and this isn’t true! Being quiet or staying on the sidelines can give others the impression that you are mad, snooty, or just uninterested. It’s important to speak up and let others know that while you are quiet, you do want to connect. If you like to write notes or emails, you can reach out this way. During development time, could you work in small groups or with a partner rather than be on a large committee? There are ways to include yourself in events without necessarily putting yourself in the middle of a lot of commotion.
I talk about this a lot, because it really helps me. I get easily overwhelmed and anxious. Spending so much time with people leaves my head spinning. I’m a runner, so I make sure to work in a run a few days a week. That alone time is vital so that I can be around people when I need to. For me, it’s like hitting a reset button so that I can move on to other things.
6. Get some quiet time in before work.
Before I was a mom, I would get to work an hour early so that I could organize, drink coffee, and just be still. Once the mornings got crazier, I just could not do this. I felt like I was constantly surrounded by other people. I started getting up a half hour earlier to sit and read, drink coffee, or just appreciate the quiet of the morning. Starting the day running is really hard on me, and allowing that quiet time at the start of the day is a huge help. Surviving as an introverted teacher means getting the quiet time you need, whenever you can get it.
7. Schedule time to see your friends.
In the beginning of my teaching career, we were rehabbing our house. I was also finishing my Master’s, so I was either in class at night or at home surrounded by people working on our house. I almost never saw my friends. I didn’t have the mental energy to even reach out to them, and I suppose they got tired of reaching out to me. I never saw anyone other than workmen, my co-workers, my students, and my husband.
I made a goal to reach out to a few friends a month and schedule time to see them. That is something I have stuck to for a long time now. I’m almost never up for last-minute invites, but if I plan for time with someone, I can build in the quiet time I need before heading out into the world.
8. Don’t feel like introversion is a character flaw, but don’t let it be an excuse, either.
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Introverts make up about 1/3 of the population, so to “keep up” with the other 2/3, we often force ourselves to act as extroverts. We push ourselves hard and don’t say no often enough. We keep on going until we are mentally exhausted. I have personally shut my classroom door and cried more times than I can count. It was not because anything specific was wrong, but usually because I was just so over-stimulated that I couldn’t think.
Being an introvert is just a part of who you are, and there is no shame in loving and needing some quiet time. However, it is really easy to say no to opportunities simply because you’ll find them mentally draining. Make sure to put yourself out there sometimes. Whether it is for a quiet dinner with a friend, working with a partner on a project, or making an appearance at the holiday party, don’t entirely shut out the world.
From introverted child to introverted teacher
My mom saved this “Happiness is…” activity I did in second grade, because it was so true of me. I made this at 8 years old. It says (8 year old spelling included) “Happiness is when I am alone and it is quite and know one is around me so I am really happy.”
If I knew this about myself then, why would I feel the need to change myself later? I am who I was born to be, and I’m okay with that. It took me a while to get here, but I’m okay with that, too.
If you love to read, I recommend the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It’s not a light read, but it does provide a lot of insight into introversion. I know I used to blame myself for it, as if it was something wrong with me. This helped me wrap my head around it a lot better and understand what I needed to so that I could flourish and not just function. Her website also has some great resources for schools that you can download.
Are you an introverted teacher? What do you do that helps?