Recognizing that many students will be expected to work well in groups later in life, many school leaders are emphasizing collaborative projects and learning spaces. That same transition is taking place for teachers as well, many of whom are clamoring for time to work with their peers and get feedback. But, with all noise about collaboration and breaking teachers out of isolation, are we forgetting about how to best support all teachers, including the introverted ones?

In his Atlantic article, Michael Godsey points out an unfortunate byproduct of collaboration excitement when enacted too zealously — burnout for introverted teachers. He writes:

“In some ways, today’s teachers are simply struggling with what the Harvard Business Review recently termed ‘collaborative overload’ in the workplace. According to its own data, ‘over the past two decades, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more.’ The difference for teachers in many cases is that they don’t get any down time; they finish various meetings with various adults and go straight to the classroom, where they feel increasing pressure to facilitate social learning activities and promote the current trend of collaborative education.”

Perhaps the solution here isn’t to throw out the idea that collaborative work and learning are important, but rather to remember that each individual teacher (or learner) will have a unique approach to preparing their contribution to those situations. While learning is social and it is valuable for introverts to learn to collaborate too, there’s no need to push great teachers out of the classroom simply because they need more quiet time to recharge.

Teaching: Not for Introverts

Educators are feeling drained by the insistent emphasis on collaboration and “social learning”-and that could be undermining kids’ achievement. Please consider disabling it for our site, or supporting our work in one of these ways Subscribe Now > The term “introversion” can mean a variety of different things in different contexts.

As School Becomes More Collaborative, How Do Introverted Teachers Cope? 23 February,2016MindShift

  • Sarah Allen

    Great read and interesting take from both sides! I think the key word here is “unique.” Everyone is unique and so will their strategies, teaching, etc!

  • Concerned

    There are so many reasons why this is difficult for teachers as well as students. Often it is the extroverts who will share their ideas first where the introvert takes longer to process. This results in the decisions being made based on those who speak first. This is not because the introvert does not have good idea, quite the opposite. The best ideas are not always the ideas that are thought up most quickly rather ideas where consideration of all perspectives and details are thoroughly examined. The other problem is that introversion is not necessarily shyness but the need to be alone to feel energized. The new collaboration takes much time that used to be used for reflection and creativity for the introverts thus taking a toll on time very well spent. I have taught for 20 years and have felt the ramifications of this in my career. I am not shy, but have never been one to talk first. In the past we considered this wisdom, but now one has to gasp for a breath at meetings to have a chance at an idea to be heard, and often is overshadowed by those who are more talkative. I hope the paradigm shift finds balance once again somewhere in the middle, wisdom and charisma both have their place in valuable education.

  • LovinCommonCore

    Being an introverted teacher who values collaborative learning I can totally relate to this article. I know from experience that it is important to teach all students to collaborate and work in teams because that is the world we work in right now. But on the other hand I know the value that I bring to the table, the power of being a thoughtful reflective introvert. One that can look at a problem and evaluate all sides to come up with the best solution. One that can think outside of the box and plan an organized informative and thought provoking presentation that can engage all people around, introverts and extroverts alike. Being a proud introvert, I can value both personality traits and see the benefit of working together, united, valuing everyone’s different and very opposite strengths. That’s what we have to value both in the classroom and inside the teacher’s lounge. I blog about being an introverted teacher in a Common Core classroom at Lovincommoncore.blogspot.com if anyone is interested. 🙂

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor