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The Power of Introverts in a World that Won't Stop Talking


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I'd seen the book title and wondered if it was good. What a great talk.

I'm an introvert, a loner...who sometimes is an extrovert craving attention (and love and affirmation).

I have known some natural extroverts, and they are great, I wish I could be more like that and be comfortable like that all the time. But...when I get too much time around other people and too much stimulation, I get this real need to go off on my own and have some quiet time.

Growing up, kid or teen, I always had a notebook or drawing tablet and always some pens/pencils/markers...something...to draw or write with. (And yeah, I always got picked on for having stuff like that.) There was usually a book along with my schoolbooks. There was definitely a book at home, either mine or from my parents' books or the library or bookstore. Heh.

I suppose that's a good thing, because I wasn't surrounded by other kids wanting me to be with them all the time. Hey, I was a loner, but I would've liked more time together too.

I function better, thinking style, with a little breathing room to think on my own. If I'm pressured with someone right there, it can interfere with that thinking and doing. Self-consciousness and shyness, for one (er, two) things. -- Unless that person happens to be one of those people I can gel with, feel really at ease with, and have a synergy of thought. If we're on the same page, then that can magnify the potential there, and it can be really enjoyable. But most of the time, I need a little alone time to be at my best, professional / work-wise or personal / private individual.

I agree strongly: We need both. Introverts need to know how to function in a team or group. Extroverts need to know how to function alone on something. Both need to be able to come together if they get an idea or want to be together. Trying to go only into that group / committee / team-only way of doing things is going to stifle part of that process for either personality type.

I can be that always-on extrovert and do public speaking, greeting, some. But I have to watch myself in that, because I get too wound up and overstimulated. Why? Self-consciousness and shyness, trying to live up to perfectionism and others' expectations (my own expectations too). Hey, I have a friendly and gregarious side and a side that needs all that togetherness and attention. But that self is also doing that because I had to learn how to do it. I had to be able to do it. I do like people, like talking, visiting, hanging out. But I'm better off when it's a small, quiet group of friends, low-key. Lots of activity, over-stimulation, crowds, that kind of thing? Yikes, I get overwhelmed. I'm better off a little more relaxed and small groups. I like socializing to an extent. I like one on one better. I had to learn the other for work and school and some personal or group settings, but it usually gets me overly hyper.

A very few friends throughout life have been the kind where we could team up and be more than either of us. But those haven't lasted, because of life circumstances. I really wish there were more like that. I think everyone searches for those kinds of relationships, where the sum is greater than what either would do without each other.

Great points. Thanks for the video. Hmm, I'll put her book in the "to get at some point" stack. -- I have a big stack of stuff I haven't gotten to lately.

Hey, EC, you must be on spring break or something. Glad to see you!

My sleep pattern *still* hasn't gotten back to anything over four to six hours at a time. ...Currently running on steam, didn't sleep last night. :( Sure wish it would get into a normal pattern again.

Hope you're doing great and enjoying your break!

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Thanks for that EleCivil.

It is part of humanist philosophy to encourage independent thinking; to nurture the inner voice of curiosity with reason.

Herein is a very real argument to break away from authoritarian groups that make the individual feel like an outcast because they reject team effort before they can examine a thought for themselves.

I think the introvert - extrovert is actively fluid, transitional, in any individual, but it is one that can be overridden, by demands to be a member of a group in which independent thought is discouraged. The extrovert state is a necessary means for our ability to communicate, and is largely fed and enriched by healthy introspection. This process eventually allows us to develop individual critical evaluation of everything we encounter in our daily lives.

The problem arises where the introspection is subjected to any predetermined sets of rules or by inflexible doctrine. That's not healthy at all.

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Thanks EC... loved her talk which echoes my own view. I was the kid.. who at eight years old... only wanted to go off to be a lighthouse keeper. Come to think of it... I still do.

We'll look for the ebook of this one!

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Here's an open question that I'd love answers to:

Does anyone know an extrovert who is also sensitive to the people he's with?

My answer is, I've never met one. Is it possible? Do you people know any?

C

As I said that I think we are beings capable of transitioning from introvert to extrovert and in fact are sliding between the two for most of our lives, I'd have to maintain that I have met many people who are compassionate and empathise with those around him no matter where they are on the slide between the extremes.

The problem here is one of perception. If you have only seen an artist when they are presenting their work, you might well consider they are an extrovert. However, long before they reach that stage they will likely have spent quite some time in a state of introspection (introversion) in order to achieve the state of mind as well as the skills to present their work for public access in an extrovert manner required by the work.

We're all familiar. I would think, with the saying about the 'quiet ones being the ones to keep an eye on'. Introverted, alone and isolated from situations where they can be forthwith, they are often only being laid back, and then one day they burst forth with energy and excitement in a most flamboyant and extroverted manner.

There are many caring people who are empathetic with those around them, but give the appearance of not caring, because they have retreated into themselves to study and analyse the situation. A doctor, treating a medical condition, might be a good example of such a situation. I think that people fluctuate between extremes, in many differing situations.

I have seen people who are constantly extroverted in the company of others, and yet they drop all of their extroverted manner in a moment's notice to assist someone in trouble.

Behavioural psychologists are fond of compartmentalising people; labelling them as this or that kind of personality. This provides them with a means to seek to change another person's behaviour. The problem, as we well know, is that in altering another person's behaviour there is a risk of damaging the individual's psyche. You only have to look at the results of the ex-gay therapy clinics to see the harm that is done to an individual's libido, and cognitive ability.

On a broader view, we might well come to the conclusion that psychical states fluctuate between extremes rather than being exclusively at one end of the spectrum or the other.

Kinsey's study into human sexuality supports this theory as does observation of the way individuals go about their daily business. They adapt to the circumstances with which they are confronted in a complex state of introspection, (inner thoughtfulness) and extroverted action, reaction or panic.

These states, as I have briefly described them, are objectively, ego-less. In reality the ego is present, and that renders the individual likely to conclude that, because he is aware of his inner thinking processes, he is in fact, introverted . If he is not so aware of the self-consciousness, then the conclusion (by the ego) will be that he is an extrovert. Neither is wholly true, but, and this is the important bit, either of the conclusions are results of introverted thought. Being constantly aware of this is the object of the psyche's adaptation to it's environment.

External forces of thought imposed on the individual are corrupting forces which may aid or harm the budding constant higher awareness in the individual

References for this hypothesis are of course not from the modern school of behavioural psychiatry that is mostly cultural manipulation of the individual. The thoughts, here, are derived from the post humanist attempts to study man's natural and uncorrupted evolution of his self-conscious sentience; awareness of ourselves in, and of, the cosmos. And that is the ultimate act of introverted mind relating to the needs of us all. In this regarded we might see that 'introverted' and 'extroverted' have, in this fluid state, slid one into the other, ready to be of service to the natural development of the individual's heightened state of awareness.

It goes without saying that the individual's unconditional freedom is essential if we are to approach these questions without being culturally manipulated. Unfortunately, our current cultures are not fully ready to grant such freedom, but at least they are talking about it... occasionally.

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I didn't mean for you to walk the fence on this, able to blithely jump to either side. I meant, is someone basically or wholly extroverted, someone who rarely thinks about things like the introvert almost always does, routinely sensitive to others?

Certainly someone who shows both tendencies shows different aspects of his personality. But that isn't the person I was concerned with when asking the question.

C

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I'd say Codey was an extrovert who was very sensitive to other people's emotions and states of mind. He came across as mostly extrovert, but he had an introvert streak too.

Yes, I'd say some extroverts are sensitive to others, but a lot tend to be me-focused. But then, most humans are me-focused. :shrugs:

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<p>Very interesting talk, particularly from the Asperger perspective. We are pretty introverted from our basic 'wiring', and it is nearly impossible to get anything much from us when it comes to group thinking. Most likely we'll think internally about what is being said by the others, then maybe, very maybe, we will be able to interrupt the conversation to tell them what we've thought about...usually about 15 minutes after the conversation has swung to several new topics. </p>

<p> </p>

<p>I also found one particular point fascinating; that people tend to start mirroring the feelings and behaviours of others who are perceived as leaders, despite those "leader's" ideas not necessarily being good ones. The charisma of the "leader" is the deciding factor. THAT is power of the ignorant rightwing religious bigots; charismatic speaking, holding their masses of followers in the palms of their hands, providing an image to be unthinkingly replicated (mirrored). </p>

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<p>The previous post I made, with all those bizarre characters added, is a continual problem for me, and the reason I keep deleting posts. Someone had better figure out why this is happening, and fix it, because it is driving me mad, and away.</p>

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Okay. The difference, from my side anyway, is that the first three posts were done with Apple's Safari web browser, and the last (and this one) with Firefox. Please note that I have previously posted using Safari without problems, even after having a couple of 'bad' postings, so it's not guarantee that it is a browser issue.

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Cole I'm sorry but the truth, as I see it, is that the person you are concerned with, doesn't exist, not even in those with autism related impaired social relations. But I am not discussing autistic related conditions.

It doesn't make sense to think of people as being either an introvert, which is what we all are whenever we recede into our own minds, or an extrovert which is, again, what we all are when we express ourselves. We shouldn't confuse the shyness of youth with being an introvert, anymore than we should confuse youth's brashness with being an extrovert. Both are exploratory phases of developing adolescence. If there is no resolution by adulthood then there may well be a developing psychological condition with varying degrees of incapacity.

Psychologically speaking, and we are concerned here with psychological states of mind, when we discuss the introvert and extrovert as character types, we are dealing with the mind's assessments of its relationship to itself and others. These are variables, never entirely static, in anything but the moment of the individual person's thought process.

How that though process is assessed by others may well give those others cause to categorise the individual as being an introvert or an extrovert. In reality however we all fluctuate in various states of introversion with somewhat similar variations of expressing ourselves in an extroverted manner.

I think there is a real problem when we compartmentalise people with labels of an introvert being, a deep thinker, an anti-social recluse, and an extrovert as being, an outgoing, sociable or shallow thinker.

Cole, the question you raise is profoundly interesting, but the answer cannot be preemepted by assuming that extroverts and introverts are static opposites, they aren't. It is the richness of the human condition that the extrovert or the introvert, either of whom, are judged as oblivious to the suffering of others, may and can, suddenly find themselves empathising with the needs of others.

There are many historical characters who exhibit extrovert and introvert characteristics; many of them to be found in religious characters and the arts. Socrates, as described by Plato, was a very sociable outgoing, extrovert character, yet his mindset was that of an deep thinking questioning introvert, concerned with the welfare of others.

If we don't walk the fence, (in Australia we call it it 'sitting on the fence', probably due to our national pastime of apathy), anyway... avoiding the fence altogether, the point of interest here is that like so many character or psychological traits, we humans are not static, even if we do cultivate apparent fixed states.

This fluidity in human nature between illusory opposites is part of our enigma as entities and can be very perplexing if we only view one end of the spectrum as being constant. The variation in human thought, action and reaction is of course one of the mainstays of writers.

We can never be quite certain what a character will do or be, either in our stories or in real life.

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<div class="post entry-content ">Very interesting talk, particularly from the Asperger perspective. We are pretty introverted from our basic wiring, and it is nearly impossible to get anything much from us when it comes to group thinking. Most likely we&#39;ll think internally about what is being said by the others, then maybe, very maybe, we will be able to interrupt the conversation to tell them what we&#39;ve thought about...usually about 15 minutes after the conversation has swung to several new topics.<br>

<br>

I also found one particular point fascinating; that people tend to start mirroring the feelings and behaviours of others who are perceived as leaders, despite those leaders&#39; ideas not necessarily being good ones. The charisma of the&quot;leader&quot; is the deciding factor. THAT is power of the ignorant rightwing religious bigots; charismatic speaking, holding their masses of followers in the palms of their hands, providing an image to be unthinkingly replicated (mirrored).</div>

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Okay, this latest bit of crap on my post was done with me using Firefox, so that proves it is NOT a web browser problem.

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While it's certainly true that everyone can be introverted at times and extroverted at others, I think we have a dominant side. I'm certianly more introverted than extroverted. When I'm in a social setting with a group of people, I can behave in an extroverted manner, but it seems fake to me. I'm definitely putting it on, and it's not terribly comfortable. I'm much more myself standing aside and watching and listening but not participating.

When my job required me to be extroverted, I was. But it wasn't natural. I can't believe I'm the only one that is predominantly only one way. I've met many extroverts whom have never, ever shown an introverted side. I'm sure, occasionally, they do act that way, but it isn't thir normal wont.

C

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I agree wholeheartedly with everything Des has said immediately above, and I share his view that we as individuals manifest both characteristics dependant on circumstances. The key issue here as Des points out is just this: '...there is a real problem when we compartmentalise people with labels of an introvert being, a deep thinker, an anti-social recluse, and an extrovert as being, an outgoing, sociable or shallow thinker.'

Additionally, however, I'm with Cole in his experience of his innate introverted self consciously playing the role of extroversion under circumstances which demand that he put that face forward. Within the spectrum of human characteristics those of us who habitually inhabit the end labeled "introvert" have a hard time (and a very self-aware struggle) wearing the outgoing mask of extroversion.

Trab is onto something, I think, when he identifies the ability of the charismatic to pull others along in his wake. 'Charisma' is an exceedingly hard characteristic to isolate, and although it would be easy to say that it represents an extreme form of extroversion, I think it is more likely to represent a quality manifested by someone who has easy access to the whole spectrum of introvert-extrovert responses, whether he uses them for good or ill. If both Joseph Stalin and Mohandas Gandhi can be described as charismatic leaders, then it seems that we need to be very careful in describing our understanding of human personality types.

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Cole I think you have recognised the natural state of self assessment as being introverted, and from that position then I'd agree that the extrovert position is indeed false and phoney. That is what my thoughts on the question actually mean...that the extrovert is an ego-state that has not reached or accepted the human condition of self awareness as being introspection.

Put it this way, humans have traded a measure of animal instinct for intellect. Included in that intellectual thought process is self awareness. The ego has difficulty in accepting the awareness of itself, and reacts as if it were being attacked. Instinct, which still exists, reacts and expresses itself flamboyantly, as an extrovert to defend and deny its new consciousness of itself and its surrounds. This is part of the confrontation we all have with our awareness of ourselves. You have accepted this state of introspectation for the natural state of the intellect that it is, and this renders the forced extrovert state as seeming phoney, false.

Where the problem actually is, is in thinking that there is a possibility of an extrovert actually being a character trait instead of part of the process of the intellect accepting its natural self awareness, which of course is what we do in introspection...cognitive awareness of our thoughts.

The extrovert is expressive outgoing action, the introvert is a process capable of studying the thoughts behind the expression, so that it (the expression) can be exercised without it being phoney. That is almost the definition of method acting. You can't be at ease, or convincing, if the expression is forced, but when it is part of your natural desire to communicate externally with others then the extroverted expression is no longer phoney; it is our means to express ourselves.

In this discussion we might consider that the reference to extrovert as being a polar opposite to introvert, is misleading. The extrovert ego fights the intellect and adopts a brash exterior expression of the false thought of that ego that has yet to fully accept that it is a fabrication of itself, merely a thought. That is why we feel uncomfortable with that thought.

In religious terminology, that thought becomes a god that is the explanation of everything. In humanist terms, 'thought' becomes the means to attempt understanding the difference between the imagined ego, and the reality of ourselves in the cosmos.

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In simpler terms -- I like simpler terms as I understand them better -- I think you're saying introvertedness is a higher state of being, extrovertedness a lower state.

I can certainly agree wholeheartedly with that, while at the same time wondering why almost every boss I every had was an extrovert.

C

(I'm saying this somewhat tongue in cheek, Des. I can figure out the answer to that as well as anyone.)

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In simpler terms -- I like simpler terms as I understand them better -- I think you're saying introvertedness is a higher state of being, extrovertedness a lower state.

I can certainly agree wholeheartedly with that, while at the same time wondering why almost every boss I every had was an extrovert.

C

(I'm saying this somewhat tongue in cheek, Des. I can figure out the answer to that as well as anyone.)

It's not simple, I know...my apologies.

I'd like to continue, albeit as a form of thinking out loud.

The question posed by our self-awareness leads us to self examination. The question is a life long one that is unanswerable in as much as it is a never-ending examination. In the psychologically healthy individual, the introverted state becomes a process of thought which matures into the self-aware rational intellect, capable of interacting intuitively, productively, enchantingly, lovingly, compassionately with others.

Once our ever-maturing intelligence is accepted as the rational base for our seeming contradictory relationship with reality, then we can proceed to function as sentient beings limited only by our capacity to adapt and evolve. The replacement of instinct by objective rational thought is now part of our direct awareness, even if not always, fully under our control. Our ability to adapt may seem to wane as we age, but it is never less than available if we will just make the effort to use it. Hardly a day goes by that one of my long held beliefs is not challenged and modified, abandoned or replaced.

The extroverted state has two paths. One is the positive communication of rational thoughts, concepts and experiences. The other path is a grasping at trying to control itself by its own thought. Clearly this is impossible and becomes not only the seat of irrationality and psychosis but also the centre of desire for control, and to gain attention to its own delusion of grandeur.

Unfortunately, our cultures on Earth do little to knowingly encourage the maturing of intellect except in specific fields of endeavour, and then limited to those particular fields.

What is profoundly worrying is that we discourage the introverted state through indoctrination and manipulation for the purposes of the social 'good' at the expense of the individual's freedom to mature from the introverted state to a higher intellectual form of intuition.

The herd mentality, never far from our primitive roots, limits our deliberate attempts to implement an education system which would encourage rational, personal enlightenment. Fortunately the extensive forum of information that is the 'Internet' is encouraging people to pursue their own curiosity about the human condition, and despite the many sites, of less than reputable truths, offers the best chance we have to survive with our human rights and potential wholesomeness intact.

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The problem here is one of perception. If you have only seen an artist when they are presenting their work, you might well consider they are an extrovert. However, long before they reach that stage they will likely have spent quite some time in a state of introspection (introversion) in order to achieve the state of mind as well as the skills to present their work for public access in an extrovert manner required by the work.

This is me. I'm pretty solidly introverted. I've been known to go weeks or even months without human interaction, spending time in isolation meditating, studying, and occasionally even experiencing a bit of ego death. But I'm also a good public speaker. Once, after seeing me give a speech to the school's assembled parents, another teacher said something along the lines of "Man, I wish I had that natural speaking talent."

I took it as a compliment, but deep down, I was a little offended - there's nothing natural about it. It's taken me years of study and practice. I don't have much in the way of "natural" communication ability. Facial expressions? Subtext? Inflection? I had to study that. Most of it didn't fall into place until I was in my twenties, and even now I'm shaky at times. Just to pass as "normal", I've spent my life studying everything I can about how people work - history, politics, psychology, philosophy, religion, endocrinology, sociology, literature, art...just to crack the code that everyone around me seems to speak fluently. And still, there are days I fight just to leave the house, knowing that if I go outside, someone will try to talk to me, and I might not be in the right state of mind to power through it.

...And yet, give me a microphone and a podium, and I'll rock ya like a ha'penny harlot. Figuratively.

I think it isn't about what we're capable of doing, but rather where we spend the most energy. I can disappear into my own head and forget that I am a being separate from my surroundings fairly easily - heck, that happened to me just the other day while I was trying to buy groceries. ("Hey there's a sale on...wait...I'M AN INDEPENDENT BEING!? No way...my mind is functioning separately from the minds of those around me, and yet, I feel like a single cell in the body of the universe!...Oh, hey, coffee filters. I need some of those.") Quiet study and reflection happen to me without trying - it takes no expendature of mental energy on my part. I am capable of communicating with the humans, but it takes a great deal of effort, and I need to both prepare ahead of time and recharge afterward.

I imagine it's the opposite for extroverts - they're certainly capable of quiet reflection (Look at all the extroverted politicians with law degrees - at some point, they had to stop shaking hands and read some books), but it takes a greater deal of mental energy for them. They "recharge" after quiet reflection by going out and hanging with people.

And, like Susan Cain mentioned, very few (if any) people are pure introverts/extroverts. Des mentioned the Kinsey scale, and it's probably similar, with most people falling somewhere in between.

In the book, she even mentions Intro/Extrovertedness being a horizontal axis, with shyness/confidence as a vertical...so you end up with four quadrants - shy extroverts, shy introverts, confident extroverts, and confident introverts. So you could end up with a shy extrovert - like a great singer/actor with terrible stage fright - or a confident introvert - someone who prefers to be alone, but is not nervous in social situations.

Hey, EC, you must be on spring break or something. Glad to see you!

Hey! Good guess. Half right. I'm on Spring Break...but I'm still on call. Believe it or not, they bumped me up to administration. Now I get to tell teachers what to do! Which means now I have to rebel against...myself? Huh. This merits further reflection. Perhaps I should mismatch my shoes, as well.

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Yes EleCivil, I remember when I was a little younger than you and couldn't go before an audience without my eyes watering and twitching. I dehrdrated in 5 seconds flat. I shook and I lost all confidence. I studied acting. I practised Zen meditation, I read all those kinds of books you mention.

I had always been able to retreat into my own head. It annoyed many of my family that I particularly did this when I was unwell. They wanted me to react to their ministrations to make me feel better, and all I wanted was to be left alone.

I landed roles in the theatre but it wasn't until some 30 years later that I had to address an audience of several hundred people and deliver a lecture on performing arts. Every conceivable insecurity invaded what was left of my mind. I walked out to the podium, picked up the microphone and I am sure I bruised it, I held it so tightly.

Then I spoke...Four hours later, the audience wouldn't move until I asked for questions. They hadn't died from boredom. I was relieved. I was fulfilled. What a rush!

These days I have no problem talking to people, but it is as a performer. I do remember those early days of sheer physical reaction to being in front of an audience.

My friends have told me that I am an extrovert. No, all they see is the result of many hours of living as an introvert, that lets me enjoy talking to an audience instead of being scared to death of it. I no longer care what they think of me.

My later posts in this thread may offer another way to view the Kinsey style 4 point compass of extro/intro-vert axes. I prefer to think of introverted in the psychological sense of being a process from shyness to self-acceptance, with extrovertedness merely being a tool for communication, administered with rational confidence. (of course, extrovertedness can also be a negative as in the phoney sense, discussed previously.)

On Cain's concept, she is correct in placing it as variables along an axis with shyness/confidence as qualifiers. But this does not permit the insight to the growth of the psyche, as a process towards its maturity, that the psychological analysis offers.

Importantly both arguments are not in opposition but are, in fact, supportive but from differing standpoints.

I have wondered if I could deliver a view such as in these posts, with any degree of confidence, in a public lecture.

I think I would need a large bottle of water to stop me dehydrating through my eyes, as I did years ago. I also doubt that I would be coherent. These are not easy thoughts to convey. I do think however that such discussions are liberating, informative, and very relative to our personal development, if not to the future of our cultures.

On your promotion to the administration, mismatched shoes are not necessary to demonstrate your world renowned eccentricity, which we all adore.

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Hey! Good guess. Half right. I'm on Spring Break...but I'm still on call. Believe it or not, they bumped me up to administration. Now I get to tell teachers what to do! Which means now I have to rebel against...myself? Huh. This merits further reflection. Perhaps I should mismatch my shoes, as well.

Being a learned person, you've certainly heard of the Peter Principal. For anyone who hasn't, it's the law that says it's the natural state of things in an organization for people to be promoted until they reach a level of incompetence. Now I'm sure you're still competent, but you were a great teacher, the type that doesn't come around often. You had kids wanting to learn, and doing so better than they ever had in the past. I'm so sorry to see you move out of that position, and feel sorry for those kids. Hopefully, you can lend a hand to teaching other teachers some of your ways. I can't imagine many of them doing it as well as you did, however.

C

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Being a learned person, you've certainly heard of the Peter Principal.

It's funny you should mention that - I had to explain the Peter Principle to one of my bosses just the other day. It was right before they promoted me, which made me laugh.

Honestly, though, I'm better at building-level than I am at classroom-level. Specifically, my job is to use what I know of theory, curriculum, neurological research, educational psychology, etc. and drive the curriculum school-wide. To bring it back to the topic at hand, it appeals perfectly to my introverted nature - I get to read, study data, think deeply, and implement big-picture plans, while at the same time being an active force in the school - moving between classrooms to see how things are going, modeling lessons and methods for the teachers, and still working with the kids. Instead of working to make sure that 30 kids had a really good reading teacher, I get to work toward making sure 200 kids have excellent teachers in every subject.

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