Teaching may not seem like an “introverted” career, but introverted educators bring a lot of strengths to the classroom.
As an educator who loves working with students, I found myself singing and dancing on stage with my fellow camp counselors in front of 100+ students. On another occasion, I organized, hosted, and presented at an end-of-the-year school celebration with over 80 community volunteers, families, teachers, and students attending. These examples make it sound like I’m an extrovert… but I’m an introvert. Growing up as a quiet and shy student, I would have never imagined performing in front of a crowd, and to this day, public speaking still cripples me with fear and anxiety.
In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain writes that “introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for work, people, or anything that they highly value and care about.” This Free Trait Theory explains why I was able to perform in front of a crowd and speak in public as an extrovert would.
Of course, I still prefer the intimacy of getting to know my students through 1:1 tutoring or co-teaching with another teacher to mitigate time in the spotlight, but I have found ways to best utilize my introversion in the classroom. Here are five ways introverted teachers leverage their strengths to engage with their students.
5 Ways Introverted Teachers Excel in the Classroom
1. They automatically notice the quiet students.
Growing up as a reserved, quiet child, I understand what it looks and feels like to not be able to fully speak up and express myself among my peers, especially in front of the classroom with a crowd of people looking at me. Now that I’m on the other side of the classroom as a teacher, I find myself immediately recognizing the “younger version” of myself in my introverted students. Characteristics of averted eye contact, “I’ll come back to you later” when being called on, and the fear of public speaking are common qualities in my quiet students. Frankly, this does not mean that quiet is equated to a lack of intelligence. On the contrary, some of my quietest students are the most creative, attentive, and caring individuals that I have ever met.
One student gifted me with an Origami craft that was pieced together so delicately that it took her five hours to complete. Other times, I can always rely on my quiet students to remind me of the exact assignments and quizzes that needed to be rescheduled, or the page number where we’ll resume our lesson the next day.
2. They try to find ways to engage students who are not as vocal.
Because introverts are perceptive to the needs of others, many are empathetic individuals who are able and willing to extend their care for others. In the classroom, this looks like building an inclusive environment where all students can thrive. My sensitivity allows me to recognize the personalities of students.
During group work, I’m able to leverage this strength to pair the more energetic and talkative students with the quieter, more reserved students. By assigning at least one extroverted student to a group of four students, the extroverted student often becomes the presenter of the group, while the introverted students collaborate on brainstorming talking points. This way, students complement one another with their different working styles to achieve desirable group outcomes that play to their strengths. Other times, I rearrange the classroom so that students are sitting in rows and facing the classroom — rather than tables of four — for lessons so that they can pay more attention.
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3. They always notice the little things and find ways to incorporate them into their lessons.
One of our superpowers as introverts is noticing and remembering the little things. Because teaching is all about relationship-building, this superpower is a strength in the classroom. “Did Daniel mention liking high-speed-rail trains?” Then I will make sure to incorporate a picture of this specific model train in the lesson next week about transportation. The next time Daniel sees the picture of the train model, he immediately retrieves the vocabulary for the train model because the learning is associated with a specific memory.
Tailoring lessons to the interests of my students makes learning more exciting, relatable, and memorable. Additionally, personalizing lessons allows me to elicit attention from my quieter students, which not only allows them to feel seen, but also fosters a positive learning environment where peers can ask more about their specific interests.
4. They use their facilitation skills to classroom-manage.
Introverts are great at reading body language — they are keen observers who are able to understand and read people on a deeper level. We rely on nonverbal gestures, such as facial expressions, movements, and interactions among individuals, to understand what others are feeling. Moreover, we can also easily sense the learning environment by feeling the energy in the room. This is why introverts are such great facilitators who can step in and step out to adjust to the learning environment in the classroom.
As an educator who places students first, I have been able to rely heavily on my facilitation skills to set students up for success. On some days where I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and tired — or if my students cannot concentrate — I step down and allow my “helpers” to come up and “teach” in front of the classroom. By switching up the classroom setup, I can manage my energy levels while also allowing my students to take a break from constantly listening to the teacher and reading from textbooks. Often, my students find this technique more engaging and entertaining to learn from, as well.
5. They use their organizational skills to keep the classroom orderly and tidy.
Introverts excel at planning. Because we crave a sense of predictability, planning allows us to be “ready” when the unexpected comes up so that we can tackle challenges without feeling too overwhelmed.
In the classroom, this looks like creating systems of lesson plans with extra copies of everything, multiple calendars, and checklists of the classroom inventory supply — not to mention keeping things tidy and clutter-free. By having systems of management in place, we can easily resort to a Plan B when the art teacher cannot show up or when it is a rainy day and students need extra activities to stay engaged and inside the classroom all day.
To Succeed as an Introverted Teacher, Leverage Your Introvert Strengths
It is time for introverted teachers to reimagine and rethink the different ways to leverage our strengths in the classroom. Being quiet does not mean that we do not have our own opinions or ideas; rather, we just have different ways of expressing our ideas. Similarly, quiet students need models to channel their creativity, learning, and expression in the classroom. Introverted teachers can be advocates for introverted students to tap into their thoughts and ideas. Together, introverted teachers and students can unleash their talents to inspire a new generation of reimagined learning and leadership.
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