When I first decided to go into teaching, many people I knew were doubtful. “How can you be a teacher?” they would ask. “You are so quiet.” I may be a quiet person, but I am also a very determined (read that “stubborn”) person, and I refuse to let anything stand in the way when I decide I want to do something. I knew that being a teacher would be difficult, more difficult for me that for those who are naturally talkative. Still, I also believed (and still believe) that I have a lot to offer the profession because of my quiet nature. However, I’m starting to doubt if the profession has enough to offer me.
I am currently in my thirteenth year of teaching (despite the naysayers who didn’t think I would make it a year.) I have had some huge accomplishments; I have changed some lives for the better. I still love teaching—that moment of working with students, when you help open their eyes to something they couldn’t see before. However, I’m not so sure I enjoy being a teacher anymore. Honestly, I’m just worn out.
In “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain writes, “Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.” The first time I read this line, I started bawling. “Yes,” I thought. “That is why I can be a teacher. I can play the extrovert because I am passionate about helping children and I see teaching as a way to do that.” Which is true, but it is still playing a role. And these days, that role is taking more out of me than it is giving back.
I think the hardest part about being an introverted teacher is that many people don’t seem to realize that there is such a thing as an introverted teacher. Surely teachers want to be around people all the time, right? When we’re not teaching class, we are in meetings, or data teams, or co-planning sessions. Or calling parents, or organizing events, or… or doing other things that energize the extrovert and leaves the introvert feeling exhausted. The pace is never-ending.
Now, here is where I start to worry, because, as a teacher, you are not supposed to complain. Okay, let’s admit it—we do complain, a lot, in fact—it’s called “venting.” But once we get it out, we are supposed to just shrug it off and go back to doing our jobs. After all, we didn’t become teachers for the money, or the stress-free job, or to get our needs met. We became teachers to make a difference.
I still want to make a difference. Yet I wonder, at times, how long I can keep the act up, how long I can continue to play the part of the extrovert for the sake of the kids. I wonder if, perhaps, education would be better if we valued our introverted teachers, instead of having them pretend to be someone they are not. Maybe then, our introverted students would have a role model to look up to. Maybe then, we could give them our very best.