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being an introvert

being an introvert, deep down, teaching

Confessions of an Introverted Teacher at the Beginning of the School Year

Dear Fellow Staff Members,

 

I know most of us just met and we don’t really know each other THAT well, but I’m going to get down to the hard truth real quick.  Stay with me here.  It’ll make sense at the end.

 

I will disappear in September.

 

The reemergence will happen in October.  I promise I will come back, fresh faced and smiling again.

 

Don’t worry, I won’t abandon you during staff meetings, or shirk on my duties to our team.  I will be a supportive teammate.  I will plan with you and help chase after  any “bolters” we may have.  I will be there, but not completely there.  I will be more quiet than usual.  You may even see me fold up and disappear within myself, but that’s only if you know what to look for.

 

You see, I am a blazing introvert.  September teaching tends to drain my entire store of energy every single day.  The endless trainings, orientations, open houses, meet and greets, all those “extras” suck the life out of me.  Don’t get me wrong, most of them are interesting and necessary, but they do not fill me up.  Rather, they suck me dry and then ask for more.  

 

I do love the beginning of the school year for the blank canvas.  It is a chance to get a new batch of fresh faced beings who I get to inspire, teach and wonder with.  That part is amazing, but it is not easy, especially in September when you spend more time on “how we line up and not tackle each other in the hallway” than on the fun learning to read and other inspirational stuff.

 

In all other months of the school year, I am equal parts, This is so hard!!!! And This is the most amazing thing in the whole world!!!  In September the first thought process tends to take over.  If by chance you pass me in the hall and you sense a little panic leaking out of my ears, you are right.  The monologue most likely occurring in my head probably sounds a little like this:

 

Oh. My. Gosh.  I forgot how to teach!  What am I supposed to do in the first weeks of school?  Did I ever even know how to teach in the first place?  I probably got lucky all those other years.  I always have had good students, good parents and a good school team to back me up.  I am a freaking fraud!!  Who even thought it was a good idea to hire me.  I am in trouble, we are in trouble…..

 

….The kids!!! I am going to let down my precious students.  I will ruin their entire educational career.  Their sad little eyes will look up to me on their first day and I will have nothing for them. I will open my mouth and only silence will escape.  Everything will be dull and blank.   I will ruin them.……

 

Of course, after I get back to my classroom, I will be googling “How do you even teach kindergarten?” and I will realize I really do know what I am doing (and I will probably modify and  tweak that TeachersPayTeachers lesson because it is totally NOT developmentally appropriate for early five year-olds.  Also, my way is way more fun and promotes individual creativity, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.  Shoot, I will rewrite the whole damn thing because I really do know how to teach.  Thank GOD!!!!).

 

The point is not the fact that I actually do know how to teach, the point is that this process rolls around in my brain over and over and over.  It is exhausting.

 

This is why I am giving a disappearance disclaimer for September.  You probably won’t see me most days in the staff room.  Instead, I will close the door of my classroom to soak the quiet into my soul.  I will let the stillness wash over my senses.  I will cash in on 30 minutes of energy refill.  I will also politely refuse your invite to hang out at happy hour after school.  Instead, I will go straight home to take a nap, hang out with Tim and the boys, snuggle my puppies or binge watch Anne with an E.

 

Please don’t be offended when I don’t show up to the extracurriculars.  It’s not that I don’t like you, I do.  It’s just that I need to recharge in the quiet.  I need to refill the hole September digs out.  I need to be functional for Tim and the boys.  I need to replenish so I can love my students and set them up for an amazing year.  I need to take care of myself so I don’t crumple and walk around like a zombie for the rest of the year.

 

Here’s the part where I take a bit of a risk and get even more real with you.  Let me tell you, this is nerve wracking putting it all out there, but I’ve learned that saying it out loud is therapy in and of itself.  I battle with depression.  It is an up and down war in my brain that threatens what I love to do.  I love to teach, but even more, I love to love my people.  When I am depressed I can’t do both well.  When the gray days come I can only give to one.  Can you guess which one I neglect?  Yep, Tim and the boys’ always get that short end of the stick.  

 

You may be asking how being an introvert and depression go together.  Well, I have the same question.  I have no idea if the two are linked.  I’m not a research psychologist, I am a kindergarten teacher, for heaven’s sake.  All I know is that if I don’t pay attention to my introverted tendencies, my energy stores deplete and I can’t use the strategies I know to fight my depression.  Of course, there are times those strategies don’t work and the depression comes anyway.  Those times, I end up giving my all to teaching and Tim waits patiently by my side until my head clears.  He’s a hero, I know, you don’t need to tell me.  

 

Luckily, I am older and wiser than when I first started teaching.  I know how to keep a bit ahead of each battle so I can win the war.  I’ve learned that it helps when I exercise, eat healthy, recharge in the quiet, hang with my people and keep up on my meds.  Thank God for Prozac.  The meds alone wouldn’t do the trick.  It’s the whole combo that works.  Also, I’ve tried the above combo minus the meds, and that doesn’t work either.  I have found the pieces that work for now.  I’ll keep those up until they stop working, then I’ll be looking for the next necessary combo.  

 

I’ve seen that meme go around that says, “This is an antidepressant” on a picture of a forest, then “This is sh*t” on a picture of a pill.  That’s cool if it works for you.  A forest doesn’t cure my serotonin imbalances.  Believe me, I’ve tried all the natural ways for years.  Back then depression took over and it was ugly.  Ask Tim and the boys, they’ll tell you how painful it was.  Of course, my students and coworkers couldn’t tell.  Is functional depression a thing?  If so, that’s me.  In the past I would be all Go Go Smiley at work, then fall apart at home.  

 

I don’t want to do that this year.  That’s why I need to take care of myself so I can function both at work and at home.

 

So when I disappear this September, please don’t take offense.  I really want to be here with you – contributing to our team, our school, our community.  I want to love my students.  I want to breathe life into their little souls.  I want to show them what an amazing tool learning can be.  Their adventure is just starting and I want to be there to watch.  Before I can do all of that, (I know this is totally cliche, but it’s perfect), I need to put the oxygen mask on myself first.

 

So Team, I love you all.  See you in October.

being an introvert, letters, Tim

For Claudia

Recently, Tim left his old work home for a new work home.  This new adventure has proven to be a great fit, all the details lining up for him professionally and personally.  All four of us are pinching ourselves daily at how well the transition has gone.  I’m not going to lie though, both Tim and I are still a little anxious, waiting for some unforeseen ball to drop.  Pessimism is alive and well in the Pell Household, but we are furiously trying to push it out the door so we can enjoy this new ride.

 

Going into this transition, we both knew we would mourn the loss of his old work team.  They have all become family to us.  Initially, they made the first move and graciously ushered all four of us into their lives even though they didn’t have to give us any light of day.  I have a feeling that, in general, this doesn’t happen quite often in the corporate world.  They are still our family, and our love for them hasn’t changed, but we will miss our easy access to all of them.  

 

These team members hail from all over the world.  Costa Rica, India, South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Luxembourg, China, Japan and of course, the U.S.  All of them taught us invaluable lessons and we experienced irreplaceable adventures with them.  They gave us a world view and world experience; we will be forever indebted to them for sharing that with us.  Along with us, they watched our boys grow up.  They let them jump and bounce behind them down the cobblestone roads of Luxembourg, Germany and Amsterdam. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and professional milestones together.  And even though Tim won’t technically be part of the team anymore, all four of us will be cheering them all on from the sidelines.  

 

The awe-inspiring force of nature who leads this whole ragamuffin band of personalities is Claudia.  She is humble and kind and would never brag about herself or self promote.  I wanted to let the whole world know how phenomenal she is, and what better way to do that than post it on the interwebs for the whole world to see.  So, Claudia, here’s to you.

 

Claudia,

 

I’m going to attempt to put into words the gratitude, awe and love I feel for you, so here goes.  It is inevitable, all the words that follow will fall short.  My feelings toward you and what you have done for Tim and our family are too giant to be contained on a page.  But I will try because you deserve to know at least a fraction of how much you have impacted our entire family.

 

From day one you were always more than the “boss.”  You saw Tim, truly saw him, for all his strengths, weaknesses, creativity and potential.  You saw him as more than just an employee or a direct report or even a fellow team member.  You saw more and you brought to light bits and pieces even he couldn’t see.  He could let his sarcastic humor flow freely around and you let him use it to strengthen your team as a whole.  You weren’t afraid to look to him for his people reading skills.  Just like you, he knows how to uncover others’ hidden strengths and develop the potential he sees.  He always looked to you for your calm, confident, steady light.  You weren’t intimidated by him, most people are by the way, and that’s where they get it wrong.  You didn’t mind him being bold and blunt because you are refreshingly the same.  You are confident in yourself and leadership capabilities so you don’t mind if someone excels, you are fueled by it, as a leader should be.  You poured your logical encouragement into him and he flourished under your precise direction.  You didn’t back down when his stubborn streak showed up either; you kept pushing through, reminding him of a better way.

 

Tim always described your leadership style as “minds on, hands off” and that’s what he needed to be motivated and to create and to lead others.  In my opinion, that kind of people management is the best kind.  You made space for new ideas, creative solutions and the innovative systems.  You didn’t care how it got done, just as long as it got done.  You always checked in to see how you could help in case he was stuck, always offering a kind affirmation or gentle suggestion.  You supported him so he could support others. The trickle down effect worked brilliantly.  Through your example you taught him how to be an effective leader.  You encouraged his innovations without any hint of micromanagement.  You weren’t afraid to push him or  gently remind him of areas where he needed to devote more energy.  You weren’t afraid to give feedback to him, or even receive some from him.  Your confidence in yourself, and in him, poured out and colored all your work.  All of his projects have your name watermarked on them.  All along the way, iron sharpened iron, just as both of you needed.

 

While you led him, you simultaneously built trust.  He could always rely on you professionally, knowing you would always be fiercely protective of him and his work.  The mother grizzly has nothing on you.

 

When you saw Tim, you weren’t single minded.  He wasn’t just a corporate peer, you also saw his other life roles.  Your vision included the boys and I, and that meant the world to me. Yes, Tim worked for you, but you valued his time spent as a husband and dad.  You didn’t see those roles as inhibiting his work life, you knew they enhanced it and you welcomed all of us into your life.  When you saw Tim, you also saw our family.  I know that says volumes about Tim, but it also speaks to your stellar character and investment into his personal life.

 

Even though I’m grateful for your confidence in Tim, there may have been one time your faith in him was a bit of an overstep.  At least now we both know he can’t be trusted to drive a large vehicle in a foreign country.  Or I guess we now know to get the maximum insurance policy on rental vans.  On second thought, don’t ever let him drive in Europe again.  I won’t either, I promise.  Also, don’t entrust cowbells into his care, he will ship 145 of them to Germany in his carry-on.

 

Personally, I’m glad I found a kindred spirit who could logically and exactly categorize why we are kindreds through Myers-Briggs letters.  Thank you for introducing me to Susan Cain and sharing in a mutual appreciation for Brene Brown.  Thank you for showing me I’m not the only one who thrives in the stillness.  It’s refreshing to find someone else who is loud in her own quiet.  You showed me that I don’t have to yell to be a strong leader.  Creativity and innovation don’t always need maximum volume.  There is a time and place for the roar, and you don’t shy away from it when necessary, but a clear and quiet voice is heavier.  Thank you for showing me how brave it is to be confidently quiet.  That kind of voice is bold and pierces the soul.  It also makes sure shit. gets. done.  The corporate world, and the world as a whole, needs more voices like yours, never silent, just calmly, courageously leading.

 

While Tim and I appreciate your presence in our life personally, there is something even greater that I haven’t even touched on yet.  Teaching our boys about feminism and raising them to value both men and women equally is very important to us.  You are our tangible example that women can do anything men do.  Because of you, the boys will grow up thinking it’s old hat to have a woman in leadership, in the corporate world, the tech world, in all the world.  They will know that you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to lead.  Your femininity is a strength, just as your direct and bold communication and your passion for developing people as whole leaders.  Because of you, when they hear the label, “boss”, they won’t automatically picture a man.  Every single day when you walk into work, you are decreasing their unconscious gender bias. Whatever life path and career they choose, they won’t be intimidated, or God forbid, be demeaned, by a boss who happens to be a woman.  They will remember that their dad thrived under your leadership.  Because of you, they will have high standards for any boss, male or female.  They may not fully realize all of this until they grow up, but Tim and I will keep teaching them and reminding them how we need both men and women in every sector of life, equally.  Gender is just a surface detail, character and strength are what matter in a leader.  You have set the bar high, for all four of us.

 

So lately, in the Pell Household, we have been mourning the loss of your constant contact in Tim’s daily work life.  We know it’s not really a loss, just a transition to a new adventure, but it sure feels like an empty hole.  I know Tim will continue to learn from you, but now is the time for him to leave your nest.  You showed him the mechanics of how to fly but now comes the scary part of taking that first step off the ledge.  Because of you and all the skills you’ve molded in him, I know he will soar in this next role.  He always will in every step of his career because you showed him how.

 

It’s also exciting to know that you will continue to develop the leaders already under your care, as well as teach and mold new ones.  Your talent for leading and caring for others needs to keep spreading.  I’m afraid we may have been a bit selfish with you.  If I could have my way, Tim would work for you for the rest of his career, but I know that can’t be.  More people need to see your way; they need to be under your direction.  They need you to push them to the next level.

 

Thank you for being fiercely loyal.  Thank you for not taking any of Tim’s shit.  Thank you for welcoming Luke, Jack and I.  Thank you for showing us beautiful bits and pieces of Germany.  Thank you for not rolling your eyes when our boys threw a horrific, jet lagged tantrum in the Luxembourg airport.  Thank you for being a strong, brave and kind leader.  Thank you, Claudia, from the deepest part of my heart.

Signature

P.S. Thank you for introducing us to “Kaffee and Kuchen.”  Our afternoons will never be the same.

Kaffee und Kuchen 1

 

 

being an introvert, change, family, friends

No More Apologies

I was chatting with a friend and we were talking about apologizing.  She laughed and said, “We women walk out of the womb saying, ‘I’m sorry.'”  That is so true!  Why is that?  Is it just a female thing?  How do we learn to apologize for everything under the sun?

After mulling this topic over for a few days, I’ve decided to stop apologizing.

Please note: This does NOT count for instances when I am truly in the wrong.  I will apologize all day long to Tim, my boys, my family, my friends and everybody else if I mess up.  Here is what I’m talking about:

1. I will not apologize for setting boundaries that safeguard my family and myself.  This includes physical, emotional and social boundaries.  This might mean declining certain invitations or leaving early from events.  We may not sign up for every sport or academic club no matter how vital or popular the advertised skills may be.  “That’s a great offer, but no thank you, ” will not be accompanied by, “I’m sorry but we can’t make it.”

2. I will not apologize for being a lady and playing “man roles” like coaching a boys baseball team.  I’m not sorry when I plan out a practice drill that the players don’t quite get.  We’ll get it right and try again next practice.  I’ll teach those players to run the bases aggressively because when the pitchers are wild and the catchers can’t catch, we will get the W by stealing home eight times in a row.  The dads aren’t apologizing for winning, so I won’t either.  I also won’t apologize for teaching my players humility and compassion towards the other team.  It’s fun to win but empathy is a skill they will value long after they realize making it to the major leagues is a pipe dream.

3. No more apologies will come from me when I decline to attend another event or meeting when my schedule is already full.  And I won’t apologize when my “full schedule” doesn’t seem full to someone else.  My brain and body need recharge time.  That’s just who I am.  The Crazy Lindsey comes out when I haven’t had a chance to get back to normal frequency levels.  Believe me, nobody wants her here.

4.  I won’t apologize for being quiet in a world that doesn’t see the strength in that.  I also won’t apologize for my child’s slow to warm up demeanor either.  Susan Cain is teaching me that 50% of the world is like us shy ones, we just live in a culture that only values the other loud half.  We need both the quiet and loud, the sensitive and thick-skinned, the yin and yang.  It’s the combo that is successfully complete.

5. Financial decisions we make as a family don’t need have apologies attached.  Quite frankly, we don’t need to justify any decisions we make for the four of us.  Our family is, for the most part, an open book.  If there are explanations requested, we’ll oblige, but we aren’t sorry about well thought out conclusions.  We love to verbally process and philosophize with our trusted small circle.  They don’t need fake apologies from us and we don’t care if they make different resolutions for their own families.  Differences aren’t threatening, they make this world more colorful and beautiful.

6. I won’t apologize for my wardrobe choices.  First of all, everybody who knows me, understands that my husband has better fashion sense than I do.  If left to my own devices, I will be in jeans and t-shirts or any sort of workout attire (with no gym in sight).  I’m in my mid-thirties so the need for comfort has overpowered the need to impress others.  Sorry, I’m not sorry about that.

7. When others come over to my house, I won’t apologize for the messiness.  I love a clean house like anybody else, but some weeks the household chores don’t get crossed off the list.  If you are in our house, you are family.  We will feed you and house you because we WANT to and that’s what life is all about.  Hospitality is much more than sparkly counter tops.  Plus, if I apologize for the state of my house, that conveys the message to my guests about what I expect when I go over to their house.  I don’t freaking care if you have dog hair on your couch and toys scattered everywhere, I sure hope you don’t mind if I do too.

8. I won’t apologize when, “I’m sorry” accidentally slips out.  It’s a habit almost 34 years in the making; it is going to take a while to reshape the behavior that has become automatic.  Whenever it does slip out, I want to be introspective.  Did I really need to say that?  Am I really sorry?  Hopefully, then I can get to the root of the situation and the message I truly want to convey.

The problem with unnecessary apologizing is it loses it’s potency.  The words lose strength and credibility when peppered into every day speech.  Save the I’m sorrys for when they are real.

Honest remorse and regret are needed to heal and refuel all relationships.  We all mess up and it does your people justice when you admit it.  I’m not talking about the, “I’m sorry that you feel that way, or I’m sorry that you interpreted the situation that way.”  Those are cheap and fake words.  Don’t take the easy way out.  You are pretending to apologize when really still placing blame on the other person.  Take some ownership over your own actions and hurtful words.

I’m still working on this.  I’m guilty of fake apologies.  Now I’m trying to weed out the stuff that doesn’t need to be there.  Both the fake words and the unnecessary ones take away from what’s real.  When I tell someone, “I’m sorry,” I want it to be genuine and complete.  Hopefully my true offerings will be met with grace.

Are you like me?  What situations do you feel the need to offer up unnecessary apologies?  Are real I’m sorry’s hard for you?