Introvert and a Teacher

Excellent article brought to my attention about teachers and introversion:

On his third day as a teacher, John Spencer lost his temper entirely. His students were working on a collage project, and the classroom was full of ebullient cutting, gluing and painting. Not wanting to dampen the children’s creativity, Spencer had avoided overburdening them with rules about movement or volume. And so spirits drifted higher and higher, and noise levels became correspondingly louder and louder.

“I just lost it,” Spencer says now. “I yelled, like right-in-the-face yelled at them. And then I spent lunchtime crying, saying ‘I can’t do this’. I was ready to quit teaching. I thought maybe I’m not cut out for it.”

That evening, however, his wife reminded him of a crucial fact: Spencer is an introvert.

Introverts make up between a third and half of the population. According to Susan Cain, whose book Quiet: The Power of Introverts is an international best-seller, there is one key difference between this group and extroverts. “Introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well,” she writes. “Introverts feel just right with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle or read a book. Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slippery slopes and cranking up the stereo.”

Extroverts, therefore, derive energy from going out, socialising in groups and standing in the middle of a busy classroom. This can make them naturally suited to teaching: they draw energy from the constant activity and large-group interaction required during the school day.

Introverts, by contrast, find group situations overstimulating. Their energy comes from in-depth, one-on-one conversations, and from working and spending time alone. And they are quickly exhausted by a busy, noise- filled environment.


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  • Trin

    So, Scot – extro or intro?

  • Steven King

    I sympathize with this. Last week in class the professor was a couple of minutes late. In that time, many of the students began having a conversation which got louder and louder as each group began to compete for maximum noise level. I felt like running from the room is panic. Through great force of effort, I stayed, but I hadn’t felt so overwhelmed in a long time.

  • GaryLyn

    Yes, extroverts derive energy from being in the presence of others and introverts derive energy from being alone. But I don’t think the whole issue of stimulation by large groups being overwhelming is necessarily connected to the introvert/extrovert distinction. Many of the things that you describe as giving the extra bang are activities I enjoy as an introvert. I just know that while enjoying them, they will be energy draining.
    The loss of temper in this example may have nothing to do with being an introvert. I would encourage the person to look at other possibilities as well.