Can introverts be good language teachers? #ELTchat Summary 29/01/2014

A PLN for ELT Professionals

Can introverts be good language teachers? #ELTchat Summary 29/01/2014

An interesting topic for the first late-night chat of 2014 which got lots of people madly typing away at their keyboards or keypads.

 The Introvert B3
Photo Credit: Hartwig HKD via Compfight

@Theteacherjames started off by adding to the above question with ‘How can introverted teachers satisfy their students’ expectations?’ which was answered by @hartle who asked ‘Do you have to be extrovert, then, to be able to teach? What about online e-moderation? Maybe that’s better for shy teachers?’  @perikleis added a new thought, ‘Maybe some introverted students look for a teacher with such a profile! It’s an idea, right?’ which was followed by @MarjorieRosenbe with ‘Wonder if introverted sts prefer introverted teachers.’ and @SueAnnan added, ‘One of my colleagues was an introvert- but an excellent teacher. Little TTT allowed the sts to speak.’


The topic changed somewhat when @josipa74 answered the original question posed by the chat by saying: Doesn’t the question imply that they can’t?’ to which @theteacherjames repliedThis is a very interesting question. But the first thing we have to say is that introvert does not equal shy!’ And the introverted teachers were also defended by @uniquelanguages who said: ‘Of course they/we can. Playing a role’, a concept seconded by @theteacherjames ‘Agree! I suspect many of us have a ‘teacher persona’ which is quite distinct from our private selves.’ @perikleis continued in the same vein with ‘After all they don’t need to reveal many aspects of their personality during classroom time!’ which was echoed by @esolcourses ‘The same probably goes for presenting in many cases, too.’ Looking at the other side of this argument @theteacherjames said ‘I don’t know. I’m not very comfortable with the idea of being someone else with my students. I think I’m me!’ to which @SueAnnan answered, ‘I think I’m me too, but a bit more energy :-)’ @hartle added, ‘I agree that most people have a classroom persona. It is a type of role play, after all.’ @Esolcourses agreed, ‘For instance, if I’m having a bad day otherwise, that stays outside the classroom, etc.’ and  @Theteacherjames said, ‘Sure, I’d agree with that. It’s part of getting the job done!’


What is an introvert? Definitions!


As it seems to occur in a number of chats, we all start off and then realize that we might actually need to consider a definition of the topics. @josipa74 brought us back to this point by saying: ‘Maybe we should clarify – what’s an introvert? As well as the question from @joannacre who asked,So what does an introvert teacher mean then? This was answered by @theteacherjames: ‘Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.’ which a number of people agreed with. @theteacherjames added:That definition is taken from here: josipa74 then asked ‘How does that square with teaching, when you’re often surrounded by people? And @HanaTicha answered by saying ‘I’d say that people who are introverts don’t generally tend to become teachers, because that means being a lot around people.


@PETsNet added another definition to the conversation: ‘Introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well,’ (Susan Cain) and @MicaelaCarey offered  some myths about introversion.


@elawassell commented ‘Apparently nobody is 100% introvert or extrovert. People are all over the spectrum.’ and went on to say delving further into defining the term


@theteacherjames added, ‘Yes, being introverted doesn’t mean you’re afraid of speaking in public.’ @joannacre then said, ‘So based on this definition, they can do one to one sessions but class sessions are draining?’ which was answered by @theteacherjames, ‘Maybe, depends on the person. I don’t find it draining because my classes are calm (I teach adults) but @josipa74 addedI find 1-2-1 classes much more draining!’. @perikleis then asked, ‘Maybe you have trouble socializing with ur students! Is this a good thing though? @josipa74 gave a personal example by commenting. ‘My wife is a definite introvert and she’s a teacher!’ and @hartle asked, ‘How does your wife deal with classes then?’


josipa74 replied, ‘She’s just herself  – she’s very logical and methodical, that’’s her way.’ @ theteacherjames went on to say, ‘Good question, but it doesn’t mean introverts can’t work with others, they might just prefer more individualised work’. @HanaTicha also replied to @josipa74 by emphasizing, ‘I said generally 🙂 just my impression. I know some introvert teachers as well.’ @elawassell added. ‘Ha, maybe that’s why I love teaching 1:1? 🙂 I’m secretly an introvert;’ to which @Theteacherjames replied, ‘Introverts are not anti-social & can get on well with people. They prefer smaller conversations.’ and @Perikleis said, ‘So this means that they are into a different kind of teaching.’  @elawassell added a link and said, ‘I’m sure you’ve see this talk, but just posting it for the record.’


Two sides of the Coin

Some of us began to look at both sides of the coin. @MarjorieRosenbe noted thatSometimes extroverted teachers are overwhelming for sts.’ Several participants in the chat agreed with this such as @HanaTicha who commented, ‘Totally agree. It’s taken me a lot of effort to calm down and become more introverted (I’m a definite extrovert).’ and @vickyloras said ‘Me too, Hana – at the start I was too much for the sts.’ and @MarjorieRosenbe agreed, ‘I probably was too but it was evening adult education and some were happy to just sit and listen.’ which @Theteacherjames confirmed, ‘Yes. I teach adults who’ve been at work all day so I they don’t really want to be up and moving too much!’


@SueAnnan commented,Horses for Courses. I find that you need all kinds of people for all kinds of classes.’ @theteacherjames agreed, ‘Yes, we do! There isn’t much “showtime” in my lessons, but there’s a lot of real conversation.’ and @ChristineMulla ‘I guess you’re probably on to sth there. I suppose it’s just a different environment, calmer maybe?’ to which @fielsted added, ‘Cd be an advantage-more inclined to allow sts to talk to 1another rather than joining in?’ @theteacherjames replied ‘It could be, although I feel comfortable talking with my sts so doesn’t apply to me!’ and @perikleis said, ‘That sounds more intimate to me than wasting time over “unnecessary” things!’


Questions, Questions!

Other questions soon popped up such as @josipa74 ‘Do learners care about this?’ or @josipa74 ‘Isn’t the root of the word – education – ‘to draw out’. Does being an introvert/ extrovert have much to do with this?’ @esolcourses commented ‘IMO, ‘showtime’ isn’t necessarily a good thing. Bells & whistles often don’t equate with learning ;-)’ @hartle then summed up with ‘So what we need is balance in a teacher. Professional behaviour, classroom management and skills, whatever the personality.’


@Joannacre had an interesting question, ‘So what happens when an introvert T is paired up with an introvert lnr?’ which was answered by @theteacherjames’ They’ll get on well! The T will be able to find an appropriate way for the S to learn.’ which was seconded by @ Perikleis who commented ‘Less TTT in that sense!’ and ‘Maybe they relate more to their personality and teaching style!’


A further comment from @SueAnnan was ‘My youngster is quite introverted, but she has been teaching in China with no trouble – 60 to a class.’ and @MarjorieRosenbe agreed,I think introverted teachers can draw certain sts out better than some extroverted teachers.’ @theteacherjames added, ‘Of course a good teacher can always adapt to whatever type of sts they have.’ @Nathanghall commented,As an extrovert, I find I have to work the most on encouraging silence in the classroom. My extrovert Ss struggle with this as well.’


What do students expect?


@elawassell then posed an interesting question, ‘Do students EXPECT us to be extroverted? What are their expectations really?’ and @SueAnnan replied,Do sts think about their teachers at all? I think they often just want to improve.’ to which @theteacherjames replied, ‘I agree Sue. I think sts don’t expect anything other than general professionalism.’ and @josipa74 replied, ‘I don’t agree – do remember your fave teachers from school because of professionalism?’ and @ theteacherjames mused, ‘Although I wonder if your favourite teacher is the one you learned most from! 😉 @josipa74 pointed out,ok, I didn’t know what professionalism was when I was at school – but I see your point. Being real is very important’


@HanaTicha added, ‘Yes, we sometimes make introverted ss talk because we love talk but they actually don’t.’ and @Theteacherjames commented, ‘Agreed, especially if the T is more preoccupied with the ‘show’ than the learning.’ and added ‘A good teacher recognises their nature & the nature of the sts & figures out the best way.’ @josipa74 saw this from another point of view,Some students do expect to be entertained! Part of the whole dynamic though – teacher/ authority at front of class.’ and @SueAnnan repliedDo you need the T as authority at the front?’@theteacherjames went on to say,The problem comes when there are sts who don’t expect to be entertained – what happens to them?’ but @Innov8rEduc8r looked at this differently and said, ‘I think being entertaining, having quirks, &  being able to be real in class is important.’ which was answered by  @theteacherjames who said, ‘It’s seeking balance, isn’t it? Entertainment doesn’t nec have to be extroverted though.’ and continued by saying, ‘As I said, the good teacher can balance these things, and give everyone something they want some of the time.’ @Innov8rEduc8r commented, ‘I find myself dialing it up or down depending on the class dynamic….sometimes tho it does go awry.’


And what about Rapport?


@MarjorieRosenbe introduced another aspect of the conversation,Actually being able to establish rapport is more important than being introverted or extroverted.’ and @theteacherjames said, ‘And that’s a skill that has to be developed and worked on.’


@hartle added, ‘Teaching skills also mean stepping out of yourself to be able to listen to learners and mediate class. Not necessarily Tcentred.’


@MicaelaCarey was interested in finding out how introverted teachers dealt with their classes,Anyone on the introvert side of the spectrum?  How do you ‘recharge’ after ‘draining’ classes?’ and @Innov8rEduc8r said,re-charge by quiet, alone time after being all-out in class (Hi from Greg in Melb Australia, sorry late arrival).’ and @MicaelaCarey agreed,Me too- I disconnect on my way home in the car.  Sometimes with radio but sometimes I enjoy the silence.’@MarjorieRosenbe added that not only introverts need to recharge but said, ‘Also for extroverts. I chat with a couple of colleagues and then read my emails.’


@hartle began down a new road by saying, ‘I don’t know if I’m extrovert or introvert. Suspect a mix, and it depends on the day.’ to which @ Innov8rEduc8r replied,I find that I shift on the introversion or extroversion scale depending on context, who I’m with etc. See the same with students.’ @theteacherjames replied, ‘I’d definitely say I’m introverted, but in this respect I find my lessons energising. As was said, it’s a spectrum.’ and @perikleis agreed, ‘Being able to adapt according to your students is a very useful asset!’ @MarjorieRosenbe added,I think some relate well to teacher’s style. I have sts who keep coming to my classes each semester.’ @nathanghall then brought up an interesting point, ‘As an extrovert, I also need to learn from teachers who are introverts. We tend to gravitate towards those who are similar to us.’


@josipa74 began to question what really brings students back to class, ‘Not because of personality? charisma?’ to which @theteacherjames replied, ‘But charisma doesn’t belong only to the extroverts!’


@Innov8rEduc8r brought up a good point,How do students feel when they’re with us. That’s pretty important.’ and @Innov8rEduc8r added, ‘Most Definitely – Charisma manifests in different ways. It’s not just the province of the extroverted.’ and @josipa74 said, ‘Very true! Question: How can we be more charismatic in class?’ @theteacherjames reassured us, ‘Charisma is something you can learn, I even did a lesson on it!’ @Innov8rEduc8r elaborated, ‘Connecting more with our authentic teaching selves – without hiding / cover up / toning down. I think that fuels Charisma.’ to which @Innov8rEduc8r added,Charisma = Passion, Authenticity, Connectedness, Fearless. Others?’ and @HanaTicha replied,I see charisma as relative to your self-esteem.’ @Innov8rEduc8r agreed. ‘Yes. Self-Esteem is critical to Charisma. Having confidence in ourselves as teachers.’ and ChristineMulla commented, ‘For me, be honest and real – natural charisma. Give a little self.’ @hartle’s take on this was, ‘Charisma is connected with confidence in what you are saying, passion and the capacity to relate to others.’


 Final Thoughts

@SueAnnan began to sum up, ‘So, in reality- it is not a question of introversion that causes difficulties. Other factors are more problematic.’ and @joannacre asked, ‘So what’s more challenging? Being an introvert teacher or an introvert student? I think student.’ which @theteacherjames answered with,I have a theory: most T’s are extroverted, so they find it hard to imagine how introverts cope.’ @elawassell commented, ‘It depends in what sort of classroom. Introverts are usually great learners!’


@EdLaur posed the question, ‘Does this depend on what type of student they are? Teen, uni, adult.’ @nathanghall went on to say, ‘My concern is that we are focusing too much on the teacher. This is a group and we need to work as such.’ @ChristineMulla asked, ‘Do you think it’s more difficult for an introvert to be more extroverted in classroom, or vice versa?’ and @ theteacherjames said,If I have 1 message for extrovert T’s, it’s to remember that not all your sts are like you. Give them time & space to think & work.’ and added ‘But I’m sure all the extroverted teachers here on #eltchat already do that.’ @hartle made an interesting observation, ‘Perhaps we’re missing the point that different personality types bring different strengths to the group.’ and @joannacre agreed,I think personality is key, it affects rapport, atmosphere even material choice and actual learning.’ @Innov8rEduc8r went on to say, ‘Dial up the crazy and weird and wonderful – in all classrooms.’ and @hartle, said, ‘Well, personally, I think craziness is a gr8t quality.’ to which @EdLaur added, ‘I’m all for a bit of crazy! I want a laugh in my language class especially if I’m paying!’


@PETsNet summed up the feeling of the participants by saying,Thanks a lot for such a challenging and inspiring chat. Glad to see you all. Have a rewarding week! Bravo #eltchat !’ and @perikleis agreed, ‘It was a great #eltchat , really interesting topic! Rather controversial.’ @HanaTicha rounded off the discussion with:Good night all extroverts and introverts :-)’



#ELTchat participants – made with


About the Author

MargieMarjorie Rosenberg teaches English at the University of Graz, works with corporate clients and trains teachers around Europe. She has written several books on business English for Cambridge University Press and writes regularly for their website, Professional English Online. Last year her methodology book ‘Spotlight on Learning Styles’ was published by Delta Publishing. Marjorie is also the coordinator of the Business English Special Interest Group (BESIG) of IATEFL and is on the IATEFL Membership Committee.

3 Responses

  1. One of our Professional Development Fellows and faculty in the psychology department of Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa just concluded a book club based on similar ideas in your blog post. She wrote about her experiences and insights at I hope this type of discussion grows as we pay more attention to teacher dispositions.

  2. Walton says:

    As an introverted person, I find teaching reading and writing to be rather rewarding because I enjoy when students are absorbed in a quiet individual task and I am able to monitor them and help them one on one quite deeply. On the other hand, I know a very extroverted teacher (she literally is physically unable to be alone for any length of time) who hates when students read or write quietly. I think the students suffer because the teacher doesn’t give them time to sit and write quietly.

    And I agree that my personality and my persona are very different. My students actually complain that I am too spastic in the classroom and that I need to tone it down sometimes.

  3. […] while back, there was an #eltchat about whether or not introverts could make good language teachers.  I have to admit that I am one of these people they were talking about.  Given the choice […]

Comments are closed.