I have a friend who explains people in two ways. You are either an outside cat or an inside cat. I am an inside cat. I find this metaphor for introverts and extroverts to be fun, although not entirely accurate, as although I like to my solitude, I do prefer having it outside.
I am used to people saying behind my back, to my husband or colleagues, “What is up with Christina? Why is she so aloof? Why doesn’t she like me?” Nothing is up. I do like you. I am an inside cat. My aloofness is my anxiety. Being around you, all of you, is well, just a bit too much.
I think sometimes extroverts have a hard time understanding us introverts. We can be quiet. So, it is hard to know what we are thinking. I have heard the quote to the effect that introverts need to think before they know what to say. Extroverts need to talk before they know what to think. That is true for me. It is not my instinct to speak first, or second or even third. I am one of those people who appreciate structure and protocols, so I know when and how to enter the conversation. It is hard to enter a free and fluid discussion. And small talk? I hate it. I am terrible at it. So, I avoid it. And then I am called aloof.
The pandemic has been hard for everyone, but I do think I have faired better than my outside cat friends. Lockdowns were hard for them. Zoom calls were nice but not the same and sorely lacking in the connection they craved. I felt for them. Like everyone, I am sick and tired of my space, the Groundhog Day like quality of life, but I was mostly content to fill the days with acts of solitude. I read. I knitted. I wrote. I slept. I ran. Repeat.
As teachers, early on in distance learning, we fixated on signs of engagement with the students while on Zoom. Were there cameras on? Did the unmute and join the conversation. As time went on, we learned to look more broadly and more closely, notice other signs, responses in the chat, use of the reaction buttons, responses to polls and exit tickets, and collaboration in breakout rooms with smaller groups. I think the introverted students pushed us to see them in this new medium. It also offered them new ways to share their thinking without being the sage on the stage. They forced us to be more aware and responsive teachers.
In a classroom, when the traditional structures of calling on one kid, and raised hands dominate, these kids, introverted kids, shy kids, shrink, sink into their seats and go unnoticed and uncalled on. I did. A year of Zoom has allowed them engage in learning on their terms, in their homes, in their solitude. I hope will will continue to see them, hear them as we return to the building.