It's tough to be an introvert in an extrovert world, especially in an extrovert's profession, like teaching. Through this blog, I'd like to share my own and others' reflections on being an introvert in the classroom. This isn't a place for misanthropes or grumps, though; I hope to thoughtfully discuss the challenges that introverts face in schools and celebrate the gifts that introverted teachers and students bring to the educational environment. If you can relate, please join me!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bring in the noise.

For the most part, the recent NY Times piece, "I'm Thinking, Please Be Quiet" is great. Part of the great student to teacher transformation trauma was all the noise, the constant buzz of people, the interruptions. So, it's reassuring to know that even when you're not conscious of noise bothering you, even background noise, it is stressing you out and can help explain the introvert's exhaustion that results from being around people all day.

I also love when authors like this article's author and like Susan Cain go back and point out that back in ancient times traits that get people like me called uptight now evolved so we could totally kick ass in the wild. We're not uptight; we're just living in the wrong time! Susan Cain writes about an experiment done with fish: the more cautious fish didn't rush out to go chomp on something new that appeared in their environment (bait, of course), while the daring, outgoing, happy fish rushed right out and got themselves caught. When I get really mad at someone extroverted, I love to imagine them as a bug-eyed, fat-faced fish panicking on that hook. Ha! That's what you get!

But there are times when I need background noise and even the nudge of the stress it creates. My husband is always flummoxed when I lug a stack of essays to grade to Starbucks. He shuts the door of his home office even when I'm upstairs and no one else is around on the first floor. He's more extroverted than I am, so he points out that it's strange that I would voluntarily choose noise over quiet when I have work to do. I thought it was strange at the beginning, too. After all, when I was a student, I always wanted quiet while reading or studying. I never even listened to instrumental music or anything.

But grading papers is different. I cannot spend the time or concentration I would like, so I need the activity of a coffee shop to keep it moving. The people coming in and out, the songs changing, the drinks being called-- that all reminds me that time is passing and I've got to keep going. Besides, I need the reminder that life goes on and everything is fine, even if I'm in the midst of a stack that makes me feel like I must've failed in some horrible way for them to be writing like this. It helps to be in a public place because you can't yell out, "Why?" or "How can this be?" or "Are you KIDDING me?!?!" or "Who SAYS that?!?!" or, every teacher's standby, "But we went over this, like, a million times!" The coffee shop atmosphere, with its perky, green-aproned workers and its vaguely cliched pop-alternative soundtrack, keeps me from getting sucked into the vortex.