Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Confessions of an Introverted Extrovert

I recently watched a speech by a self proclaimed introvert, about the power of introverts. Her name is Susan Cain, and I'll put the link to the video below.

As a teacher, it is often assumed that I am an extrovert. Teachers naturally have to work with other teachers to form lessons and time lines for their materials, so we all end on the same page. Teachers  have to communicate problems and results with parents, so that the parents know what is going on in the classroom. Teachers have to be able to establish relationships with their students, so that they can learn how to serve their students best. I do all of these things as a teacher, but I would not say I am an extrovert. At least not to the extreme that many students may think I am.

I do enjoy human interaction. I tend to get bored easily, and I am unable to amuse myself for days on end by reading books. However, as Mrs. Cain points out, an introvert can enjoy the company of people without actively interacting with those people. The example she gives is of sitting in her parent's house reading silently with her family. Now I am not the most academic of people. I like to read, but I am rather picky about what kind of reading can hold my attention for a long period of time. What I do enjoy is listening to people around me. I enjoy experiencing life as it happens. What does this mean you may ask? I enjoy going to a friend's house, and listening the conversations the groups has without actually participating actively. I actively listen, and if I really feel compelled to speak, I will. If I'm in a particularly talkative mood, I may speak a lot, but generally that is when there are two or less other people present.

I am not shy. I am perhaps shy with immediate strangers, but I am not strangers with people long. I can talk one on one all day long. I can talk to my classes without feeling nervous at all. It makes me angry when students talk while I am talking. Maybe part of this is because I like to listen to people without talking, so I expect others to do the same for me. Maybe I'm not interesting enough; I teach history after all.

I find it easier to sing in front of my peers than make a speech. I did not like speech class at all, even though I loved my classmates and professor to pieces. I was not good at making speeches. I did debate freshman year, and I am not good at flying by the seat of my pants and coming up with a valid debate. (This serious hinders my ability to teach some days, when my plan just doesn't work the way I thought it would. I am better than I used to be.) I get to sing at one of my best friend's weddings this October, but I am dreading the toast, I just know I'm going to cry/babble incoherently.

I understand the importance of working together to solve problems, especially since I am not the most intellectual type of gal. When I have problems in my classroom, you can bet I'm going to ask another teacher for advice. I am more likely to ask one teacher in a private conversation, however, than I am to ask in a big meeting. I don't like to air my problems to large groups. If two cannot figure it out, then I move on to a different person. I'll create lesson plans with large groups, but if I'm having trouble with pedagogy, I'm more likely to ask one person.

The fact that I'm an introverted extrovert translates into church as well. I was really involved with church when I was in college. I taught Sunday School, participated in Bible Study, and when to service every Sunday I could get a ride. I went to church "religiously," if you'll pardon the pun. When I moved to Hopkinsville, I never really found my niche in a church here. I go to church occasionally, and I even enjoy the church I go to when I do go. The ministers are nice, and the people are friendly enough. I just don't feel I'm needed, so I just sit there and watch. I pray, I sing, and I listen. That's all I do. I sadly don't volunteer for anything, because I just don't feel led to do anything. I don't know anyone there other than the ministers and the few HHS teachers who attend the church. No one goes out of their way to make me feel welcome, and no one looks at me like I'm a heathen for not showing up for three weeks either. Now I go around trying to behave like a Christian woman. I'm kind to people generally, and I don't try to besmirch random people with vicious gossip. I like to think the best of people. I pray for people who tell me to pray for them, and I try to pray for people who seem to be having a hard time. No one sees you pray though. It's not a public kind of thing, so it kind of appears like I don't do anything to further my religion.

Of course, being outwardly religious is somewhat frowned upon as a school teacher. I am not supposed to influence my students' beliefs. I don't even want to influence their beliefs. When I was growing up, I was not raised in the church, because of this, I believe that I am a believer in Jesus, because I know him personally, not because my parents made me go to church when I was a little girl. Every child should be so lucky. I'm not saying that parents who take their kids to church are wrong. I'm saying that kids should be allowed to figure out their beliefs in their own time. Take your young child to church if you want, but just because your teenager suddenly rebels and decides they don't want to go to church anymore, doesn't mean you have to send them to an all-girls/boys school and shove the Bible down their throats. Just be understanding and listen, and perhaps they'll come around quickly, perhaps they'll come around slowly, but it'll be on their own terms not yours. Ok, so that kind of got off my introverted-extrovert tangent, but that's ok. Giving kids time to inwardly reflect on their faith is where I was getting at. Some kids are great with going on Youth Group trips and joining Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Teens for Christ, and some kids just want time to reflect and read about Christianity. I kind of did both. I was part of Teens for Christ, but I never went on any of the related trips or even attend church regularly until I went to college.

I've been taught to give my kids Cooperative Learning Assignments. This helps build social skills and aids problem solving..blah...blah...blah. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes working with someone can help certain students. Usually, I stick to pairs if I'm going to have my kids work together, because generally, even my most introverted student gets along with one other person in the room. Some people just don't talk. When they do talk, it usually causes some kind of uproar in the classroom. I try to make sure that my students know that I don't think it's strange to choose to be silent, and I don't think it's strange when the silent kid talks. Usually when my silent kid talks, he/she has something of value to say. Then it is best for us more loquacious types to shut up and listen and not judge, because that's the reason why some quiet people never talk.

Everyone could stand to be a better listener. I think we hear a lot of things, but we don't listen anymore. Life moves very fast, and people rush to keep up. We multi-task by watching a movie, while writing a research paper, chatting on facebook, and talking to our roommates. We eat our meals sometimes standing up in the kitchen or in our living rooms while surfing facebook rather than sitting at the dining room table. By dividing our attention among so many distractions, we often miss the meat of the conversations going on around us, or perhaps our conversations don't have any meat at all. As a history teacher, I often crave the times where people could sit around a table and talk about their lives over dinner or gather around a fireplace to chat about recent politics and events. If salons like the Enlightenment were still going happening, who knows what kind of changes could occur? What kind of problems could we solve? Granted, I am the one who said she prefers to watch and listen during these kinds of conversations, but perhaps that's because we need someone who listens long enough synthesize the information presented. I recognize that I am not the font of all knowledge, but rather an ever present student trying to learn however I can.


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