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This Spring, I decided that the time had come for me to make a change. I have been thinking about it for a few years now, and the impulse to look for something new just became too strong to ignore. I applied to some new coaching positions within my school district. After being at one school for 14 years, the prospect of learning a whole new set of procedures and rules, and meeting a whole new staff was quite intimidating. However, I took the bull by the horns and kicked my behind into gear and applied.
It turns out that this position was highly sought after and the competition was stiff. This did not bode well for me. You see, I am an introvert. I know in my heart of hearts that I would do an excellent job with this position, yet it is almost cripplingly difficult for me to tell that to a group of strangers. If you stuck me in a workshop or a classroom, you might not know that I am introverted. I am comfortable in those situations. I am the person in the front row, asking questions and participating enthusiastically. I am eager to share my knowledge and to learn from each and every person in the room. But that is a give-and-take situation. Interviews are not. The ability to sell my skills and my knowledge in a relatively short amount of time to strangers is not in my set of expertise.
Going through this process made me think back to my reading of the book Quiet by Susan Cain and her assertion that the world is more comfortable for extroverts and that we actually value characteristics of extroverted behavior more. Certainly this interview process that we have favors the people who can walk into the room and immediately be comfortable among strangers. But does that ability really tell you anything about how well that person will do on a day to day basis? Is my apparently less appealing personality really less appealing? Give me some time to get to know people and you would see that anxiety disappear. Ask anyone who has known me for years and worked with me side by side. My ability to really think through a problem and to sit back and listen makes me more suited for coaching in a lot of ways.
As I thought more about this issue, I felt it necessary to do some research. While visiting Susan Cain's website, I came across this article that really resonated with me and I found her Ted Talk from this year. It was a great talk to watch to remember back to all the ideas that had intrigued me so much when I read her book.
Our culture values extroverted behavior and is biased toward extroverts. My interviewing experience highlighted that for me.
I am generally a very confident person. The experience of entering interviews and trying to sell myself to the committees really knocked me down a few notches. I did not have any success with the process and felt disappointed and disillusioned. I have since stood up and dusted off my ego and accepted the fact that this was not in the cards for me this year. What I know for sure now is that I want to revisit Quiet and think about the ways that Cain proposes to harness the quiet strength of being an introvert. I need to find the power within me to promote positive change and to find the inner extrovert when it is necessary.
P.S. Everything actually worked out for me for the better. One of my colleagues handed in her retirement papers shortly after the interview cycles were complete. I was able to move out of the middle school position back to a 4th grade classroom. I am so excited about this move! My years teaching 4th and 5th grade were the best ones in my career so far and I can't wait to work at this level again!