A Guest Post by @
I’m guessing that most of you have a fairly good idea of where you are on the introvert- extrovert spectrum. If you’re an extrovert, you get your energy from being with people, you come away from large gatherings energised and alive. You love noise and bustle, and you’re not keen on being on your own for too long.
If you’re an introvert, you’ll come away from those same large gatherings like Parents Evenings exhausted. You get your energy from being on your own. You hate small talk and prefer to have intense one to one conversations about ideas.
In truth, I think we move about the spectrum depending on who we are with. When I am with my extrovert actress friend I sometimes feel tiny in comparison to her, like a shadow to her sun. When I’m with my web developer, I feel much more extrovert.
So what does this mean for how you and your pupils in school?
In schools we and our pupils are constantly surrounded by other people and this can be hard work for introverts.
I’m an introvert. I’m not good with noise, I can’t think straight when 2 people are talking to me at the same time and I like my work space to be uncluttered and stream lined. You might think that teaching is the wrong career for an introvert?
Over the years I have learned that it is all about awareness and balance.
Before I had my own children, I would come home from school and sleep for an hour to recover. Anyone I was living with knew to leave me alone until I had had time alone to re-charge. I used to run school trips, take kids camping and run after school clubs. Then when I had my own children I found that I had no extra energy for the fun things I used to do in school as it was being used on my own children. I went part time and moved away from teaching young pupils as the demands they made, combined with the demands of my own children, were too much.
At break times and lunch times you will often find me going for a 5 minute walk on my own; to stretch my legs, clear my head and to have some time alone. These are some of the ways I honour my Inner Introvert in my job.
An extrovert co-worker loves the radio on, she’s always on the phone, she’s great at front of house, going and meeting new clients and building relationships. Her energy is endless and she is still bouncy even at the end of a day filled with people. She is charming and chatty for more hours in one day than I can manage in a week. She is energised by people and has a large social life outside school as well as inside.
Here are some questions for you to consider:
* Do you have the right work environment for you?
* Can you shut the world out when you need to if you’re an introvert or do you have enough opportunity to meet with people and engage with them if you’re more extrovert?
* Do you have enough noise, enough silence, enough solitude, enough sociability to make your work day a pleasure?
* Have you got the right balance in the work that you do?
* Does anything need to change in the work that you do or the time you spend doing it?
* How do you think best? Just because brainstorming or meetings are common, doesn’t mean they have to be the best thing for you. Do you think better alone? With one other thinking partner? Or do you really get your best ideas when you are hanging out with people by the coffee machine, just chatting.
* How can you create more high quality thinking time that suits you?
Then of course there is your class and your colleagues. How do they like to work? How can you accommodate their different needs?
So much of what we do in schools is around group work and team work and although they are essential skills for life, introverts can find them overwhelming and tiring. We tend to teach in the way we like to learn if we are unaware. Over the years I have included introversion and extroversion in my planning so that I have quiet parts in a lesson as well as group work.
* How can you acknowledge and support extroverts and introverts in your lessons and school?
Finally, how do we balance our needs with the people in our personal life? If you have kids and you’re an introvert who’s had a day full of meetings and people, it’s going to be tough going home to more people who need you, so how can you take some quiet time before you get home so that you have some energy left for those nearest and dearest to you?
Similarly, if you’re an extrovert who has had a day of marking, tests and data entry you’re going home to an empty flat; your needs for social contacts are going to be unmet so could you arrange to meet friends for dinner at the end of days when you’ve been on your own too much?
The more we become aware of our own needs, the more able we are to support those we teach and work with which has to be a win-win.
Dr Julie Leoni is an author, life coach and psychology teacher with over 25 years’ experience of training and facilitating groups. She has worked with organisations to develop Emotional Intelligence and has experience and training in bereavement, domestic abuse, mindfulness and meditation as well as a number of therapeutic approaches. She has 2 sons who she loves loads and who sometimes drive her crazy. You can check out her blog, coaching, books and courses at www.lovebeingme.co.uk and download free information guides to how to spot domestic abuse and get support for people living with it at www.togetheragainstdomesticabuse.com.
Her new book, Love Being Me is out in paperback and kindle.