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!

Monday, September 29, 2014

"I like your hidden red."

So, I'm a total sucker for recent years' hair color miracle called ombre, in which highlights of color are added to layers underneath rather than on the top of the hair. No roots show, ever! With the baby almost 12 weeks old, I decided to get some pampering and go to the salon for the first time since I had had her. I got some ombre streaks in my favorite color, a dark red. When I curl my mostly dark, dark brown hair, the red provides subtle, shimmery swirls of color.

A few days later as I pushed my cart down the aisle in the grocery store, a woman, after admonishing her kid to "get out of the lady's way," took a closer look at me and my brand-new ombre and said, "Oh, I like your hidden red!"

Thank you, Person in the Grocery Store, for unwittingly creating my favorite new metaphor for introversion! We may be quiet or even dark, but we all have our "hidden red."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baby Introverts?

Since my baby was born, I've been reading baby books of course, and The Wonder Weeks (van de Rijt and Plooij, 2013) had this to say in their chapter on week 12 of infant development: "Some babies are very aware of the world around them, and they prefer looking, listening, and experiencing sensations to being physically active themselves" (96). Hm, sounds like baby HSPs (Highly Sensitive Persons, to use Elaine Aaron's term) to me! But the bias is present against even baby introverts: "Most of the time, professionals, as well as friends and family, assess a baby's development by looking at the physical milestones, such as grasping, rolling over, crawling, sitting, standing, and walking. This can give a one-sided view of progress as it makes the 'watch-listen-feel' baby seem slower" (97).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

En Masse at Mass

It occurred to me one Sunday at church that the current educational establishment would think of the format traditional Sunday services as such a waste: all these people gathered together and not interacting! They're all sitting together quietly, perhaps "alone together," as Sherry Turkle might say.

I think this sort of thought comes from our modern world of isolation. We live in densely populated cities, but we don't know our neighbors. Lawrence Ferlinghetti said we were all suffering from "piblokto madness," isolatedly fighting our own demons in tiny cubic dwellings. When you look at it that way, it seems like, oh, my, all these people nearby and yet such loneliness! The irony! The tragedy! The same seems to be the opinion when you have forty students in a room and they are not talking to each other but rather are quietly reading or, worse, listening to a teacher, a "sage on the stage," one of the world's most gag-worthy educationalese put-downs for the teaching style in which the student is not the center of attention.

But for most of human history, everyone was clumped together by virtue of necessity. Tribes pitched their tents close and people huddled together for warmth. People were ALWAYS together. When church services and much later public schooling started, I would imagine that there were so few educated leaders available that people had to attend en masse; there were not enough priests or teachers to go around. In other words, people attended in large groups because they had to, not because this was the best way to do things or because the goal was collaboration. The goals included reflection, introspection, thoughtfulness--all things done better alone or in pairs or very small groups. For most of history, the wealthy had private tutors and there were no giant classrooms full of kids. Of course, this was due to elitism, but I think also because it doesn't work; those with no financial limitations chose to do education one-on-one or one-teacher-per-family. With the diversity of our student populations now, one of my ed school professors said that maybe (in a perfect world with no economic constraints) the way for education to really differentiate instruction and address everyone's needs would be to have educators work with students on an individual or small group basis, the way lawyers work with their clients.

All this is to say that the panic that ensues when we see a large space with tens or hundreds of people being quiet and not interacting with each other is uncalled for. Just because there's  no talking or collaborating doesn't mean there should be or that nothing meaningful is going on.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Culture of Blame: Or, Why I Walked Around My House Dazed and Weepy After Childbirth Class

After being in teaching for over ten years, you think I'd be used to people heaping blame upon me for things that are out of my control. You'd also think I'd know better than to take it to heart so much, knowing now, thanks to my most recent two therapists, that I'm a "guardian" personality and tend to, erroneously and unnecessarily, take responsibility for everyone around me instead of just myself. But, we introverts are so prone to rumination and self-examination that it's very hard to not turn this into self-blame.

So that brings me to yesterday's childbirth preparation class. I knew that the culture of motherhood was even more a culture of blame than the culture of teaching. But information and planning makes me feel comforted because I feel I have some measure of control over my life, so I went in excited and forgot to put up my defenses against the guilt-tripping (from without and within) that I should have known would ensue. I started the morning optimistically annotating my book, getting all the information I could use to create the optimal birth. Hm, even in that sentence you can sense the shift: now it was my responsibility to direct my birth. Despite the kind and elderly teacher's constant reminders that you cannot plan and that the baby will do what it wants, there was the underlying and contradictory implication that, nevertheless, there were a lot of things I ought to be doing, or else. This is how I began to hear the rest of the information:

  • Do the right movements and exercises and be aware of the latest developments in yoga ball technology or you'll create more pain for yourself...but don't be that crazed suburban momzilla who materialistically buys too much baby gear.
  • Your body knows what to do...but get a doula or you'll be sorry you and your clueless partner will be all alone while the overworked nurses scurry about. 
  • "Birth is natural, not medical"...but so is death, so get to the hospital on time.
  • Pack the right things in your bag or you'll make yourself more uncomfortable...but don't clutter up the hospital room.
  • If you get an epidural, you might cause yourself and your baby these harmful side effects: yadda, yadda, scary yadda...but you'll be sorry if you wait to ask for it until it's too late. 
  • Don't strut in on your high horse with your immutable birth plan...but know your patient rights and fend off the knife-happy, C-section-loving medical establishment. 
  • You need to do whatever is best for the baby, but but know your patient rights and fend off the knife-happy, C-section-loving medical establishment. 
  • You're no less of a person if you need medical "interventions," but all these could increase your risk of...yes, you guessed it: your innards cut up by the knife-happy, C-section-loving medical establishment!

By the end, I felt like every choice I could make was wrong. And instead of saying, "Forget it, I'll do what I want," like a normal person, what did I do? I blamed myself for taking the one-day class and not spreading this out over a few sessions; after all, it was my fault for overwhelming myself.

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Ay, chingao, I hate summer." The seasons and the highly sensitive.

Yesterday, basking in my lounge chair in the yard in the deliciousness of a Southern CA day that was 80 degrees in February, I exclaimed to my husband, "It's like summer!" and the above title of this posting was his reply. Well, I figured, when you are a quirky person, you marry a quirky person, and sometimes they say things that nobody else says. I mean, who hates summer?

But then I began to think back to when I had unmedicated anxiety and OCD. At that time, I preferred cloudy days because I found them calming. The sun was just too much. Too bright, too in-my-face. And of course, many a bibliophile loves a rainy day by the fire to curl up with hot cocoa. So, instead of assuming I had seasonal affective disorder in reverse, I figured people who like cloudy, drizzly cold aren't that weird after all.

I even wonder if Europeans developed a written culture earlier than some warmer, nicer places that stuck with an oral culture because there's something conducive about cold, wet weather that helps with the kind of focused work introverts and reading/writing-centric cultures privilege, while maybe nice warm weather that gets people outside and around one another fosters interaction and extroversion, which would require more of an oral culture.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Introvert Illness? "Don't make a scene."

Another thing that has taken my attention away from my beloved blog is my sabbatical project. I thought reading and writing from home, in true introvert mode, would have me writing blog posts much more often, even though the topic of my research is not introversion.

My project is on fiction (for young adults) and narrative nonfiction (memoirs and such) of mental illness. (If you're interested, my proposal is available here, via my district's website.) Overwhelmed by reading and thinking about that reading, I haven't had as many writing or blogging urges. I guess you could say my brain has been in input mode rather than output mode. Perhaps this in itself is introverted; I can think about ideas easily and with endless revision and no need to check and re-check for type-o's, etc.

But, anyway, as with most of my scholarly interests, there is some crossover. As part of my research, I've been learning about mental illnesses such as borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, in which people are given to acting out boldly, and I began to wonder: is it possible that there are introvert mental illnesses and extrovert mental illnesses?

Let me back up. Growing up in our family, a family of introverts and Italian Catholics very much interested in upholding honor and avoiding shame, one of the adults' favorite admonishments to a misbehaving kid was, "Don't make a scene." One of the only saving graces of my OCD is that most of it consisted of the "O" part and could be hidden. My discomfort and shame, distressing as it was, could at least be private most of the time. Of course, this prevented my diagnosis and prolonged my suffering for years, but that's another matter.

I've recently begun to wonder how I would've felt if I had something like bipolar or borderline and could not hide my illness. Of course, everyone, regardless of temperament, feels shame after the excesses of, say, a manic episode, but would my shame have been greater as an introvert, as someone who grew up trying to "not make a scene"? Then, I wondered, would it be possible for me or my biological relatives to get such an illness? Or do some of the same chemicals that make me an introvert predispose me to an internally tormenting, invisible psychological problem like the obsessions in OCD?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Pregnant Introvert

So, a few things have happened that have interfered with me posting to this blog as much as I would have liked to, one of which is that I am now about halfway through my first pregnancy.

Sometimes I forget I'm pregnant. It takes a second to realize that the "How are you feeling?" is different from the everyday "How are you?" I'm not used to people being so solicitous, as I give off that solitary vibe and am not used to being the center of attention. And people will notice me even more as the bump gets bigger. Luckily, no one but close friends and family have actually reached out and patted the belly yet. ;)

I'm noticing some of the same things that happened when I was planning my wedding. Now that I'm pregnant, women who I normally have little in common with feel more comfortable chatting with me. In my twenties, most women my age were driven to distraction by the care of small children while I was driven to distraction by studying and teaching. We were often too tired to really have anything to say to each other. But, in a world where everyone does their own thing and there are few rules and conventions anymore, it was a pleasant surprise, when I began planning my wedding, at age 31, that women of all ages were suddenly taking an interest in my china pattern. And as non-traditional as my life was (I lived alone and worked), compared to those of lots of women I knew, I wanted a super-traditional wedding. The idealist literary dreamer who figured for most of her life that she'd never get the opportunity to have a wedding was going to have the fairy-tale princess experience or be damned! In the process of orchestrating said experience, I found that the older ladies in the family who could never relate to the strange bookish creature before seemed genuinely interested in this facet of my personality. The same seems true with pregnancy. While I often crave alone-time, I don't like to be lonely, and it's nice to have people show interest.

While I've mostly been too nauseous to feel like a princess while pregnant, now that I'm halfway through and my life seems to be returning to a semblance of normalcy (I'm even getting my appetite back), I am going to try to make the most of all the cliches that as an academic I'm supposed to eschew. For example, in about a week, I am going to have the cutest gender-reveal cupcakes ever.