I recently learned that roughly one third of the population is introverts. Crazy, right? I always believed that one third would be a high estimate for teachers who were introverted. But based on conversations I see on Twitter, Facebook, and my relationship with numerous teachers, I believe one third of teachers as introverts is likely spot on.
All introverts tend to underestimate their value in education, and are misunderstood in a world designed with the extrovert in mind. It’s not just teachers, it’s the students as well. How much better off would we be if we all understood and valued each other more?
Teachers everywhere—whether extroverted or introverted—need to know the four pillar truths of the introvert. These come from the enormously popular book—among introverts—“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.”
Introverts are easily stimulated and over-stimulated. Introverts prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments, while extroverts need higher levels of stimulation to feel their best.
The difference between introverts and extroverts has a lot to do with the level of sensorial input that feels comfortable. Whether introvert or extrovert, how we choose to spend our time, where, and with whom, reflects how we seek that comfortable level of stimulation.
Introverts are good listeners and deep thinkers. The saying goes that “still waters run deep.” Introverts listen more, and talk less. They prefer the company of one or two close friends with conversations that have meaning.
Notice when you’re in a meeting or working with a small group. Who has a tendency to dominate the conversation? Usually, extroverts who are quick to provide their input—extroverts thrive with the stimulating conversation. Introverts are thinking and reflecting about the points of others, and processing before they respond.
Introverts are not shy. This is a very common misconception. I grew up with my entire family of extroverts good- naturedly ribbing me for bringing a book to family gatherings. They would call me the “shy one”.
However, shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Shyness is inherently uncomfortable but introversion is usually not—unless forced to work or learn in an over-stimulating environment.
This usually surprises people. “Shy” and “introverted” are commonly used as synonyms. They may overlap—picture a Venn Diagram—but they’re NOT the same.
Introverts perform best alone and in quiet. Yes, we want to encourage group discussions. Yes, we want to have relationships. However, introverts—-aka Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Spielberg, Rosa Parks, and JK Rowling just to name a few—work best and most creatively without external stimulation and in a solitary environment.
It’s a bit overwhelming to consider all the implications for one third of our kiddos, administrators, and colleagues being introverts! As He-Man always said, “Remember, knowledge is power.” He-Man did steal the line from Francis Bacon—famous scientist and—you guessed it—introvert!
As teachers, we need to consider and respect the neuro-diversity of our students and colleagues. One action you can take right now—this very moment—is to share this post with other teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches.
As educator, author, and the introvert Robert John Meehan said, “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspective.” Now, isn’t that the truth!