Today was my first day teaching an undergraduate leadership course called Emerging Leaders. My co-instructor is an extrovert while I am an introvert. I’ve had years of teaching experience: 5 years piano, 2 years SAT prep, 3 years college business courses, etc. But this was the first time I had to co-instruct a class with someone else (that was not my mentor); an experience that has me being more mindful of how I bring myself into the classroom.
But what does it mean to be an extrovert or introvert? Today, most people see the two as synonymous with outgoing and shy, respectively. But that’s not what Carl Jung intended them to be. Extroverts focus on outward motions and get their energy from the environment. Introverts focus more on the inner world and gain energy in quiet solitude. How my co-instructor and I choose to tap into our energy sources while in the classroom will make for interesting dynamics. It will be a good learning opportunity for me, as well as for my students who will get to experience our interactions in the class.
As the group discussed the class expectations about participation and openness, I decided to be vulnerable in front of my students and told them I am an introvert, and that I have to actively work in order to engage in groups, but that I especially enjoy groups within the classroom setting. Moreover, I wanted them to know that it is ok to be an introvert, acknowledging that some in the classroom may identify with this personality trait. Whether we like it or not, there is an American cultural bias towards extroverts. But it does not mean that one is better than the other. I hoped that the syllabus overview which emphasized the class discussions and activities had not made the introverts in the class nervous about what is to come.
In a class that teaches freshmen about leadership, being able to embrace the facets of our personalities in order to engage with others will be one of the first things the students learn. How else can we work with others until we know how to work with ourselves?