Teaching is already a challenging career by itself. If you’re an introvert, it gets even more challenging.
I speak from experience.
I’m an Introvert. I get exhausted easily by being around people for a long time. How much more if these people are high-energy children?
I’m lucky to teach a small class size, but how about if you’re handling a large class? How do you survive the day as an introvert?
Here are 4 strategies that have served me well.
1. Recharge well after your classes. Every time alone, away from the students should be used to recharge. Get a snack, do some quiet walk, or simply be alone in your thoughts would help you recharge.
2. Sleep well and eat well. This gives you the much needed boost to meet the energy of your students and for your patience to be really long. Being in a crowded, noisy classroom can be overwhelming for introverts. Keeping your body in good condition can give that extended boost to fight off the overwhelming feeling in a classroom.
3. Have your students do collaboration/group activities, instead of being too teacher-centered with all the attention on you. By having them in groups, you can go around and focus on each group. Introverts do well handling a small group, rather than one whole big group.
4. Apply the Free Trait Theory developed by Professor Brian Little. I read about this theory in the wonderful book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.
In this theory, we are all born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits, for example, being an introvert. But we are also capable of acting out of character in the service of “core personal projects”.
What this means is that we, the introvert teachers, can act like extroverts for the sake of teaching, which is our calling. So in the classroom, we play the extroverted educator, while outside it, we revert back to being an introvert.
I suppose if teaching is not your calling, this strategy would be hard to apply since it’s not a “core personal project” for you.
By apply the Free Trait Theory, it will be like doing some sort of acting, being a performer in the classroom.
Interestingly, the students of Professor Brian Little don’t believe or can’t imagine their beloved professor as an Introvert because of his dedication to teaching, his true calling.