Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm an introvert and a teacher. (And that's ok.)

Hello all!

I've been doing some introspection this week and thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

I'm an introvert, through and through. Put me in front of a crowd and I love it. Organized notes, shiny pictures, sharing my experience: I love it. But put me in a one-on-one conversation or a party situation and I freeze up like a deer in headlights.

This has made being a teacher a challenge. I like quiet and order. I've come to terms with the fact that some areas of the classroom are just going to be messy (like my desk. And Dramatic Play center). I let the kids get messy in art and allow extra time to clean it up.  I've learned to ignore behaviors that don't hurt anyone else or interfere with learning, although there are days when everything seems to bother me and I need to take lots of deep breaths.
    My biggest challenge is working with my team. Don't get me wrong: I have a great team that's creative and loves the kids and works hard. My problem is that if they don't directly tell me something's wrong, I might miss it because I'm more focused on the activity in the classroom.
    I'm not great at talking to people on the best of days; in a one-on-one conversation, thoughts just fly from my head and I have trouble thinking of things to say. I love working one-on-one with kids; probably because I'm not worried about being judged by them.
        I've read some great articles online about being an introverted teacher and looked through my resources. My boss has been helpful, too, in helping me be more of a leader with my team and realizing what they need.

To get around this, I've found some strategies that might be useful to my fellow introverts:

1. Accept it. It's ok to be an introverted teacher. There are lots of us out there and it can be a really useful style, especially when it comes to working in small groups.

2. Use resources about parent relationships and child relationships to help you with your working relationships. It's a process. There's a ton of information out there about Active Listening, making sure you use praise, talk to each of them about something positive every day. The conversations with your coworkers don't need to be long; it's a matter of "faking it til you make it."

3. Interact with others in ways that make you feel comfortable. I prefer large groups, preferably around eating or gaming. That way, there's something else to focus on besides conversation, which I don't have to carry.

4. Recognize your other qualities and strengths. The world values extroversion, but introverts are awesome too! We get lost in good books, we can be good listeners, we can have inner strength. Focus on the great things about yourself and how you succeed at work.

5. Make time for yourself.  I need my lunch. I sit in the back and crochet and if I don't get it, I get cranky and exhausted. If you don't have a lunch, try taking a minute or two longer in the bathroom or work some time in at the end of the day. Every day, do something that makes you happy that's just for you.

6. Open up to your coworkers. Be honest and say, "I may have trouble communicating with you until I get to know you. Make sure to let me know what you need and I'll make sure to check in with you."

Are you an introvert? How do you cope at work?

Until next time!

--Amy Latta


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