Introvert vs Extrovert: Classroom Edition – Victoria Faraci



Recently, I’ve been plagued with thoughts about introverts and extroverts. It is a common belief that everyone fits neatly into only one of these two categories: you’re shy or you’re loud, you speak or you don’t. However, excessive thought on the issue makes me feel like maybe that line isn’t so clear. Maybe it’s a bit blurred.

A couple of years ago, a professor recommended that I read a book called Please Understand Me, by David Keirsey. He said that until he read this book, some time in his 40s, he hated himself and couldn’t understand his wife. So, naturally, I went out and bought the book. The thing is, though, I skipped the 70-question quiz at the beginning and instead, I combed through potential types of people until I read one profile that sounded just like me: ‘the counselor.’ This passage described me so well that it felt like I was reading my own biography. The passage even predicted what degree I was likely to get.

Here is where it gets tricky, though. As I skimmed other potential types of people, I read a not-so-hopeful profile. In fact, it was kind of a sad one. When I looked at the breakdown of categories that made this type, I realized that this could have been me. The only thing making me ‘the counselor’ was the fact that I self-identified as an introvert. This poor person, ‘the healer,’ was an extrovert. Now, I’ll never take the quiz.

After this, I stumbled upon a blog posting about ‘how to deal with an introvert.’ It basically said to leave them alone and let them be in their own bubble where they could recharge in peace. I suppose that is easily done, but what about when you work with a group of people? In terms of teaching, what are poor introverts to do when they are charged with the task of instructing a course?

My experience with in-class teaching was short-lived, but it was a challenge. People said it was a ‘confidence thing’, but that wasn’t it. I often wondered how I, a poor introvert, was even given the task of leading an in class tutorial while some of my peers got online courses. Something remarkable happened, though. I did it. Every week after my tutorial ended, I was always in a state of mental exhaustion. For those couple of hours, it was exhausting to pretend that I was wholeheartedly an extrovert.

I realized that this forceful categorization of one or the other isn’t right. Maybe, just maybe, we can be both.

I think that everyone has the ability to be both an introvert and an extrovert, especially as a teacher, you have to be able to operate in both realms. You need to rise to the occasion while you are instructing your class, but you also need to possess the ability to experience long bouts of solitude while you grade, read, and prepare. I guess what I am trying to say is that it’s okay to be shy, and it is equally as okay to be loud, but one is always going to feel more comfortable than the other.

If you buy this book, which I highly recommend that you do, will you take the quiz? Do you want to know who you really are, or are you content with just being…you?

Published by

Victoria Faraci

New 'Teaching Stories' co-op student at the Centre for Teaching Excellence.