Teaching English online for introverts – is it a good choice?

Is teaching English online for introverts? It might be for many who prefer more solitary, quiet time. Online teaching, done from the comfort of my own home, has allowed me to connect while also having the privacy and space critical to my well being. 

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Teaching ESL online; my introverted experiences.

Firstly, what exactly is introversion?

It might be helpful to quickly define ‘Introversion’ as there is often a bit of confusion about what is (and what it isn’t). Often confused with shyness, “Introversion is a preference, while shyness stems from distress. Introverts prefer solitary to social activities, but do not necessarily fear social encounters like shy people do“. 

Introverts are “easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, introversion having even been defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating external environment“. So, it’s easy to see how the noisy, chaotic environment of the brick and mortar classroom is a major challenge for those who identify as high in introversion.

According to this Psychology Today article, between half and two-thirds of the population are ‘ambiverted’, that is, they exhibit a mix of introverted and extroverted traits. So, it is statistically likely that most of you reading this article are also this combination. Maybe you have some introverted traits but you are likely able to balance them with a healthy dose of opposing people-centric skills.

The thing is, for most of my life, I have been VERY HIGHLY introverted. To the point of collapsing into my bed at the end of each teaching day, drained of every ounce of energy, never wanting to see another human being ever again. Yet, I simultaneously found teaching deeply satisfying, so I struggled through these duelling forces for many years before discovering online teaching and a balance that allowed me the best of both worlds.

If you are still teaching face-to-face or wish to continue doing so in tandem with online work, here is some fantastic advice about how to thrive as an introverted teacher.

Why teaching English online works for me:

What first excited me about online English teaching was the ability to put myself in a teaching/people space for the duration of my lessons, then to turn off my computer and return to my safe, solitary environment. This allows me to begin to ‘recharge’ and reclaim the feeling of lost energy from the lesson. In a traditional classroom, after the lesson was over – I would then have to navigate the staff room, students in the hallways and a million other personal interactions – leaving me feeling drained for the next lesson and without sufficient time to myself. Over the course of a day, it would frequently take me to the point of physical and mental exhaustion.

The second benefit to online teaching is the ability to schedule classes earlier in the day, so that I have enough time between the last class of the day and bedtime. I often feel tired yet also strangely ‘wired’ from many hours of back-to-back lessons and I try and wrap up by early evening, followed by a walk and some reading to ground and calm me before sleep.

I have also used my introversion as a part of my brand as an independent teacher. Many students are also highly introverted and appreciate and respond really well to a teacher that respects and accommodates their needs. I freely admit to being an introvert and have worked extensively with both introverted and shy/anxious students who I believe opened up more readily and admitted to their difficulties in public and group speaking knowing that I empathised and did not judge.

I believe that Introverted teachers bring a lot to the table and that we have great insight into many of the difficulties that our students face. We are often thoughtful and passionate educators who too often ‘burn out’ due to work environments that do not support or accommodate our personalities. Online teaching is not for everyone but if you are an introvert who wants more space, privacy and flexibility – it might just be for you.

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