Care and Feeding of the Introvert



Color me ambivert. Granted, ‘ambivert’ is most likely one of those made-up pop-psychology names for those of us who scribble outside the lines. When give a choice between a tree and forest, I am a shrub. I am a personality ambassador. A party?! Yes! But I usually go home before the glass slippers drops. But most of us operate this way, on this beautiful spectrum.

But this isn’t about me. This is about love and support for my introverted colleagues and more importantly, introverted students. Those who reside closer to the violet of that spectrum, and avoid the red.

Overheard in the teacher’s staff lounge this week, someone musing about how h/she couldn’t understand why anyone who is an introvert would become a teacher, that (paraphrasing here) basically an incongruent choice. Lesson learned? Well, I tried the staff lounge this year, and since nothing has changed but a hefty serving of toxic soup with microwaved meanness, I guess I can’t eat lunch with the cool kids anymore. I was grateful my sister-in-law wasn’t in the room, she would have been mortified. She’s an introvert, and has worked so hard to work her way into the teaching profession. I can’t imagine more lucky kids than the ones she teaches.She is kind, loving, smart, and caring. She just had to get past angry, caustic adults.

Clearly this is not a representative of how most extroverts feel about introverts, at least I hope not. I’ve never heard an extrovert so clearly express such disdain for introverts, and like the king’s guard, I wisely kept my proverbial sword sheathed, and decided to use my power of contemplation and writing to sort this out. BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL! Or something like that. It made me think that maybe the issue of extrovert versus introvert wasn’t as simple as just being understanding of personality types, but maybe some folks don’t think it’s worth the time to understand. Fair enough. I never thought about this as a zero-sum game.

So, most of us have seen Susan Cain’s The Power of Introverts. It’s worth watching again: it honors our inner lives, and closest relationships.

And on the blog, What I Learned, a teacher named Jessica gives introverted teachers a few tips, “How to Survive As An Introverted Teacher.” There is really nothing in this list I think particularly resides in the Camp Introvert, because truly, all teachers need time to recharge. Unless you’re a Broadway star doing six shows a week plus matinees it’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to be on stage repeatedly per day, per week, per year. And in my experience, it’s not the students that deplete personality resources, but dealing with peers who are less than sensitive. Blaring music at a staff meeting, or a parent letting their amygdala rule the hour, or untrained, interruptive folks, dismissive of ideas and insight. But that’s the world–we all learn how to work together, and if our goals are to make progress and help students, there is nothing that a few personality quirks can harm. Point of fact, we can use these quirks to empower our teaching and our students’ lives.


Because we educators mirror the world to our students as ‘this is one way grown ups may behave,’ then we need to take care and create safe places for all our students, extroverts, ambiverts, and introverts alike.

Embracing Introversion: Way to Stimulate Reserved Students in the Classroom

How to Teach A Young Introvert –companion piece to Susan Cain’s TED talk

Introversion: The Often Forgotten Factor Impacting the Gifted

And we teachers are those grown-ups, living examples of how adults may interact in our students’ futures. The benefits of having a cadre of personality types as teachers help all kinds of students. Students of all personalities and learning styles learn so much about the world with different kinds of teachers. Ultimately, that’s the beauty and the benefit. I think of extroverted teachers that the more introverted students adore, because they see qualities and bravery they admire. I think of introverted teachers who have shown the more extroverted students a path to contemplation and peace those students desperately craved. It’s spellbinding.

quiet people

How do you approach students with different personality types than your own? How about colleagues? I’m interested to hear ideas about ways to work with all kinds of folks.