We all know about learning styles and differentiating instruction for our students, but what about differentiating and highlighting the many different ways we as teachers thrive in the classroom? This question of differentiating for teachers came as a result of learning how many of us are introverts trying to disguise ourselves as extroverts to make it through our school day…and when we’re only acting as if, it’s not necessarily working or healthy for anyone. In fact, this “fake it til you make it” philosophy could be leading to an increase in teacher burnout and consequently many wonderful teachers simply leaving the profession.
So what’s an introvert to do in an extroverted environment where we are constantly being asked to facilitate collaboration among our students, create a bustling room where there is much activity, and continue the spirit of this collaboration with our peers in professional development time and perhaps even during our planning periods?
Well first understand that there is nothing wrong with you. As Susan Cain put it in her famous TED Talk, introverts simply “feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.” So how do you cultivate this kind of environment in a classroom or school so that you can continue to thrive?
Schedule Restorative Niches
This term was coined by Dr. Brian Little, a psychology professor at Cambridge University. In a 2005 article, he wrote that “for a biogenic introvert who has been protractedly acting out of character as a ‘pseudo-extrovert’ the best restorative niche would be one of solitude and reduced stimulation.”
What are some ways you can integrate restorative niches into your schedule?
Some activities could include driving a longer way home, going for a walk outside, taking a few minutes for some breathing exercises or other kind of mindfulness activity or meditation, reading a book, going for a run, listening to music, or sitting in complete silence.
Create a Classroom Environment that Works for You
If we’re going to be our best selves for our students and schools, we need to create classroom environments that celebrate our gifts and work with our personalities. If you become ill at the thought of lecturing or don’t want the students working in stations every day because the noise level becomes too great, honor this fact. This is not to say that you don’t include a variety of learning opportunities for your students, however if there are some that are better suited to your personality style do them more often. Remember that many of your students are also introverted so they may be going through the same kind of daily struggle that you go through and may appreciate some quiet, independent time to work.
Perhaps you allow students to quietly listen to their own music while they are working, while you conduct one on one or small group conferences. Create an opportunity for a restorative niche at the beginning of each class. Start with a couple mindful moments to get everyone focused. Although the introverted student may love the quiet, perhaps the extroverted student can appreciate a few minutes of quiet too to get settled and focused for the rest of the class.
Create a classroom that honors all personality types and by building this community, you will be respecting your needs, lessening your potential to burnout and also giving your students a new experience.
So it is possible to thrive as an introverted educator, it is just important that you give yourself what you need, creating an environment that works with your personality type, not against it. Schedule regular restorative niches throughout your day coupled with creating a classroom environment that honors some of the ways you can be your best self with your students.
If you have any other suggestions that have worked for you as an introverted educator, please comment below! We’d love to hear real solutions from the field!
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