Confessions of an introvert teacher

Confessions of an introvert teacher

Teaching scares me to death. It makes me nervous. But it’s also like a roller coaster ride, and it’s exhilarating. That disconnect is OK, though. (Flickr / Quinn Dombrowski)

Teaching scares me to death.

I know, that’s not something that teachers are supposed to say. We should be excited for every opportunity we have to help shape the future of the kids we teach.

And I am. Those opportunities make me excited. Just pretty nervous, too.

Sunday nights are generally the worst — a slow, constant, building uneasiness that generally climaxes before I go to bed. As I go over my lesson plans for the week, those thoughts start creeping in my head.

What could go wrong? How will students respond? Is this the best experience I can create for them?

You see, I can put on a great front as an extrovert in my classes, at conference sessions I lead and in my everyday life.

Even though I have a small streak of extrovert, I’m an introvert at heart. Extroverts get energy from being around people. It’s like a natural high that they can’t get enough of. Introverts like me draw energy from solitude, from being alone with our thoughts and our work.

Being around lots of people all day feels like a long roller coaster ride for me.

I arrive at school in the morning and it begins with students greeting me — or not greeting me — in the hallway. How will I respond?

It continues through the school day. How will students respond to the material I present — and the way I present it? Will it be interesting or engaging to them?

Then, at the end of the day, the final bell rings. Students exit my classroom. I collapse in my desk chair and take a deep breath. It’s over.

The roller coaster has ended.

See, if this roller coaster was all fear and no fun, I would have found a different line of work a long time ago.

Teaching is scary, but it’s also exhilarating.

Let’s go back through that day. As I greet students before school and they greet me back, it’s like going over that first big hill on a roller coaster. It’s a rush. But if they don’t greet me back, I remind myself that they’re probably dealing with something and my interaction might be something positive that helps them. (Little rush.)

As I teach and get students interacting with and in Spanish, it’s as exciting as a series of tight corkscrews when they get it and enjoy themselves. If they don’t get it — or if they’re bored by it, the exciting rush of the roller coaster starts to disappear.

Then it becomes a puzzle (sorry if I’m mixing metaphors here!). I have to figure out what wasn’t interesting. Was it the presentation? Was it unclear? Or was it affected by factors (life at home, friends, sickness, etc.) that I have no control over?

The rush starts to come back as I have hope of getting it right the next time. Then the next class comes and it’s off to another steep hill on the roller coaster.

Let me be clear: I LOVE roller coasters. I love real roller coasters at theme parks and will stand in long lines to ride them. But I also love this figurative roller coaster of teaching. Here’s the difference:

Real roller coasters last for a few minutes and they’re over. It’s just enough of an adrenaline high to make me want to scream and giggle and jump for joy.

The teaching roller coaster lasts for seven hours. It has its exciting highs, but at the end, all of that stimulation wears me out. I need to draw back into the “cave” (a little bit of solitude) to get calmed down and recharged. Then I’m ready to get back on the roller coaster.

So, you might be thinking, “How does this fit into the ‘Ditch That Textbook’ mold?”

My focus for this blog is to write about using technology and creative teaching in the classroom. But it’s also to ditch those textbook assumptions that many people still have about teachers and teaching and education.

We don’t have to be outgoing “people people” (that’s a “people person,” but plural) to be great teachers. If we’re nervous before a day of school, that doesn’t mean we should be looking at another line of work.

I decided many years ago that I would embrace that uneasiness. I’m going to keep creating lesson plans and getting on the roller coaster each school day even though there’s a level of discomfort with it.

Why? Because I believe in education, and I believe in kids. And I also believe that embracing things that make you uncomfortable is a great way to become the best version of you that you can be.

What level of introvert or extrovert do you think you are? And how does it affect what you do as an educator? Please leave us a comment!

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