In my last post I suggested that teaching might be taking up more time than it needs because you are using more preparation to deal with anxiety.
In that post, I talked about the anxiety caused by insufficient or inappropriate training for this aspect of the job and ways to get the support you need to reduce the anxiety so created.
Today, I want to talk about another potential source of anxiety related to teaching — your personality.
One element of personality that comes up in many personality tests and profiles is introversion/extroversion. As I understand it, this element is considered as a continuum and everyone falls differently along this continuum.
The key issue is whether you are energized by being with people or by being alone. Not whether you can do it but whether being with other people gives you energy or drains your energy.
I’m quite a ways down the extrovert end of the continuum. Putting me in a roomful of people actually gives me energy and allows me to access all kinds of stuff that’s already in my head. Any anxiety or worry I might have before I go into the room seems to magically disappear.
If I’m feeling kind of down and irritable and I have a party to go to, I know that if I just get myself out the door and to the place where the people are, I will perk up.
Folks at the introvert end of the continuum are probably horrified at the thought of doing any of that. For them, spending time with lots of other people requires mental and emotional preparation.
They might really enjoy teaching and other group activities but they need to spend time alone to get the energy to pull it off. And they probably need more time alone afterwards to replenish their energy reserves.
At a conference, an introvert might take advantage of the lunch break to go off for a walk by herself. Whereas extroverts like me enjoy the opportunity to socialize over lunch.
I’ve described extremes and you might fall in the middle. The point is to notice when and how interactions with other people trigger anxiety or drain your energy and then plan for that.
What does this have to do with teaching?
Teaching is an activity that involves lots of interaction with others. And most of our teaching is in rather large groups.
You might find that the size of the group matters. Facing a lecture hall of 300 students isn’t the same as a seminar of 15. And it isn’t just that the seminar is more likely to be on your specialized area of knowledge.
If you are more at the introvert end of the continuum, you might find that teaching requires particular kinds of preparation.
Yes, you will need to know the material and have a good sense of what you plan to accomplish (and how) in the classroom.
But you might also need to schedule time by yourself immediately before you teach, to emotionally prepare yourself and store up a bit of energy to take you through the class.
That time might not be focused on reading your notes or anything that you have come to think of as “preparing for teaching”.
It might involve things like:
- just sitting and taking some deep breaths with your eyes closed
- meditating in a more formal way
- doing a few yoga poses
- listening to some music
- going for a walk on your own.
And you might spend up to 30 minutes doing that. And maybe a similar amount of time afterwards.
It may take some experimentation but you’ll know what you need based on how you feel before and after a particular class.
I don’t have time for that!
I suspect that spending “work” time in this way will feel, initially, like “wasting” time.
However, focusing on your emotional and energetic needs in this way is likely to make the actual teaching in the classroom more effective. You will be more present and have more energy for the task.
It is also likely to reduce the amount of time you spend on content preparation. If you are overpreparing content to address anxiety, addressing the anxiety head on (through gentle attention to your needs) can reduce your preparation to what is necessary to get the students to learn.
Not to mention the time that being too worried and anxious to really get any work done takes up in your day.
How does this help me achieve my research goals?
You can’t achieve your research goals if you are spending all your time teaching, preparing for teaching, and worrying about teaching.
Having time for research is probably the most frequently mentioned barrier to achieving research goals that I hear. Even from people with relatively light teaching loads.
While “time management” sounds like some simple administrative task, difficulties managing your time usually arise for good reasons. With this post, and the last one, I am suggesting some possible sources of difficulty in limiting the time you spend on teaching preparation.
You can be a good teacher and still have time for research.