California Educator

November / December 2016

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Page 49 of 59

The Introverted Teacher What if a teacher has introverted tendencies? " P E O P L E S AY Y O U C A N ' T be an introvert and a teacher because you talk to people all day long in your job," says Stephanie Farmer. "But that's not true." Farmer, a chemistry teacher at Dougherty Valley High School, admits the subject has been a sore spot for years, going back to her own days as a student. "I learned best in a quiet setting where I could work on things by myself," says Farmer, San Ramon Valley Education Association. "In college, I took a letter-grade deduction in my German class because I couldn't — and wouldn't — put on a ridiculous skit, because it wasn't authentic to me. I felt like that needed to be respected." A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that many are suffering from "collaborative overload" in the workplace, including teachers. Perhaps that is because over the past two decades, time spent by employees in collabo- rative mode has ballooned by 50 percent or higher. Michael Godsey, who recently authored an article about introverted teachers for The Atlantic, notes teachers face expectations to be either fully engaged with students or collaborating with colleagues in such activities as beginning teacher support programs, department meetings, PLC time, mixers, union meetings, back to school night, and parent conferences. As a result, they get little downtime — and introverted educators are at risk for burnout. A recent study by researchers in Spain showed correlation between burnout and introversion, and found that teachers with high scores in emotional exhaustion scored low as extroverts. "As school districts reportedly spend $2.2 billion annually on educator attrition, it's worth considering how to better respond to the range of other factors, including introverted personality tendencies, that aren't always compatible with modern peda- gogical trends," Godsey writes. He says that individuals with introverted tendencies can be excellent teachers, and can use their experiences and knowledge to advocate for introverted students. Sometimes introverted teachers have to push themselves, he admits. "Realistically, there are going to be times when some- body is going to have to be more outgoing than they feel. Awareness is the key. If you're better with a lecture than you are managing group dynamics, then go with your strength and lecture a little without guilt. It's also OK to stay in your classroom and recharge at lunchtime with the lights off. I know one teacher who walked to a cemetery at lunchtime to get the quiet time he needed. It's important to take care of yourself." Farmer believes it's time to view introversion as a strength rather than a weakness. "A lot of creativity comes from being contemplative and reflective, and listening to people. A lot of people say you're not fully engaged unless you're jumping around and being vocal. But some people are doing a lot in their head and not using their mouths. It's a different type of engagement, and that should be valued, too." 48 teaching & learning Stephanie Farmer "A LOT OF CREATIVIT Y COMES FROM BEING CONTEMPLATIVE AND REFLECTIVE, AND LISTENING TO PEOPLE. THAT SHOULD BE VALUED, TOO." — STEPHANIE FARMER, SAN RAMON VALLEY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

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