Introverts make excellent eavesdroppers.
I overheard one of my more senior colleagues complaining to another senior colleague awhile back that his post-tenure review committee didn't seem to appreciate all the time he spent doing scholarly writing. He viewed that work as the bulk of his service to the college and professional development. Instead, the evaluators wanted him to participate on more committees.
I admit that the colleague making the complaint is notoriously curmudgeonly. He knows he should make nice and show his face at a few more meetings and the occasional holiday party.
But, with that said, I was still bothered by his situation. In a sense, the evaluators were suggesting that the only real professional development, the only meaningful involvement on campus, was the kind done in groups. Going off by yourself and writing couldn't possibly be helping anyone.
So, while professors at the four-year schools, especially the research institutions, are cracking under the weight of expectations to publish, we at the community college level could now be chided for it. While they were living the old "publish or perish" ultimatum, was publishing going to perish among those of us in the "basement of the ivory tower"?
It reminds me of a little meeting all new hires had to participate in when I first joined the tenure-track faculty at my community college. A then-administrator explained that, now, my duties would be primarily teaching and so rather than being a scholar in my field (English), as I had been as a grad student, I would now be a scholar of education.
A little part of me died inside.
It was kind of insulting, both to my students and to me. It was as if she was saying that my students would all be at such a low level that they wouldn't benefit from my studying a literary specialty but would rather benefit more from me picking up endless gimmicks to convey elementary material to them.
It was as if she was saying that nobody needed me to be an expert in my field. (I thought of the other old-timer's response to my colleague the curmudgeon: "Committees? Any schmuck can join a committee. Not everyone can publish the kind of stuff you do.")
Telling faculty that no one needs them to be a specialist is a great way to get them to forget what they love about the field and get burned out. When I first started teaching high school and expressed my dismay at what my life had become to one of my former English professors, his advice was to be sure to read every day. Buried in homework, I thought he was crazy. But he had said to pick up some poetry every day, even if it was just for ten minutes: "Remember what you love." And now I see that he was right. If you can't keep up with your scholarly interests, if you can't be excited about your field, students won't find you very inspiring.
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!