Professional Practice

Teaching Art as an Introvert (Ep. 048)

Some people believe that you always need to be energetic and “on” in order to be a successful teacher, but that’s just not the case. Often the most introverted teachers are the most successful. Join Cassie as she explores the topic, including her takes on the difference between being an introvert and being insecure (5:30), why we underestimate people who are introverted (9:15), and strategies to support the introverted students in your room (11:00). Full episode transcript below.


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I was recently asked this question on Instagram from @Carlydash. She said, “You seem to have a very outgoing personality, which serves you well as you engage your students. What advice would you give us, introverted, serious types as we expend our energy each day for our kiddos?” This question really struck a chord with me because recently, I have been doing a bit of a book club on both my blog and when I do Facebook and Instagram Live. We’ve been talking about the book, the ‘Wild Card’.

In the ‘Wild Card’ so far … Now, I haven’t finished the book. I’m still digging into it. It’s written by the way by Hope and Wade King. Loving it so far, but in the book, it does bring up the point that you have to be really wild, and crazy, and being like a theatrical presence in your classroom to engage your students, and if you can’t do that according to the book, then you should perhaps find another career path.

That really bothered me because I thought of folks who aren’t extroverted, those folks who teach from a quiet or more calm place. Is it wrong how they teach? Absolutely not, so how can an introverted person find a place not only as a teacher, but as an art teacher, and as a really amazing art teacherin’ our world and our art teacher in society where we believe the wilder you act, the better? Let’s talk about it today. I’m Cassie Stephens, and this is Everyday Art Room.

Alright. Before we can dive in and chat about introverts as teachers in the art room, let me just share a little bit about myself because obviously, I’m not really an introvert. I mean, introverts don’t go around having podcasts where they talk about themselves all the time or sharing as much as they do on social media like me, so I’m speaking to you from a place where I am. I feel like an extrovert, and if you are an introvert, take everything I say with a big, old grain of salt. I do find myself to fall into, I guess kind of introvert tendencies when I’m feeling insecure, if I find myself in large groups of people where I don’t feel comfortable.

I know in college, when I went through a very strong phase of feeling insecure about my place in college and just uncomfortable with who I was in my own skin, I really became very quiet, and shy, and didn’t want to speak to other people, but I don’t think that’s an introvert. I think that’s somebody who is going through an insecure time, and possibly some depression. Let me just put that out there that I’m speaking to you, introverts from a different place, so take everything I say like I said with a grain of salt. I feel like introverts often get a really bad rap. I think that sometimes they’re labeled as snobbish or disinterested, sometimes even just shy, and a lot of people just deem them not worthy of spending the energy getting to know them, because sometimes it’s a little bit hard to break through that introvert surface, when in actuality, introverts are usually listening.

They’re usually thinking and they’re learning from what other folks are saying. My husband, I think he could be labeled as an introvert. He likes to spend time by himself. He likes to spend time reading. We like to go on hikes in the woods. There’s a lot of quiet, calmness about him, and I think that when we are in bigger groups of people, he isn’t outspoken, he isn’t chiming in and being loud with the group, and I feel like as though sometimes, people think of him as being a little bit withdrawn or disinterested.

That might be partially the case, but the majority of it is, he’s just not an extrovert, so I’m so sorry for my introvert friends who get that bad rap. Let’s talk now about, “Are you an introvert or are you an insecurevert?” My experience like I said in college was that I went from a really small high school where I knew my place. I had gone to school with these kids forever, and then I jumped to an enormously big college where I didn’t know anybody, and everybody seemed to be very secure with who they were, and everybody seemed to be an extrovert, and I found myself really drawing in, but again, that’s not an introvert. That’s an insecurevert, as what I’m calling that, just a person who’s trying to find their place.

You introverts, you know the difference because you’ve seen people say, who are obviously extroverts, “Oh, I’m kind of an introvert too”, and you’re thinking, “No, you not. You are so loud and you are so proud. Don’t even kid yourself. You are definitely an extrovert.” I wanted to share with you how this whole conversation came to be.

Like I said, I got that message about the question about, “How are you using your energy in the art room and what ideas do you have for us, introverts?” During our little book setting or book club that I’ve been doing over on my Facebook page and on my insecure page … Sometimes, definitely. Oh my gosh. That’s a hilarious name for Instagram.

It should be changed to the ‘Insecure page’. I mean, raise your hand if you sometimes feel insecure scrolling through your feed? Both of my hands are up right now. We have been talking about the book, the ‘Wild Card’, which I’m really enjoying this book so far. It’s written by Hope and Wade King, and it’s published by the same publisher who did Mike Burgess’ book.

At least I think that’s the author’s name. I’m so sorry if I’ve gotten that wrong, ‘Teach Like a PIRATE’. Both of those books, at least ‘Teach Like a PIRATE’ for sure, I haven’t finished the ‘Wild Card’ yet, they seem to emphasize bringing the drama to your classroom, bringing the excitement, being loud, being highly energetic, being extremely engaging to really capture your students’ minds and imaginations. While I think we can all stop and admire that and say, “Yeah, that’s fabulous”, “What a wonderful experience for those kids”, “What a great way to teach”, it’s just not for everybody. At one point in the book, the ‘Wild Card’, it says, “If that isn’t for you, perhaps you should find another career path”, and I would strongly disagree with that.

We don’t expect our students to all be the same, especially not in our class, and all fit in the same mold, so why should we teachers all be the same? Why should we all be loud, wild, and crazy? Imagine a school where everybody is loud, wild and crazy. First of all, how does that make the students who are introverts feel? Wouldn’t that just drive them kind of bananas, all of that loudness in action and no calmness and no peace, which is what they crave and need?

Also, if there’s always this high level of energy, at some point, when does that stop being interesting to students? At some point, if you eat your favorite ice cream every day, when does it stop tasting amazing? I thought as reading those books, I thought about a book that my husband once suggested that I read, which I haven’t, but I’m going to quote a little bit of it for you. It’s a book that’s by Susan Cain, and it’s called ‘Quiet’. Cain says that in our culture, “Our culture tends to misunderstand and undervalue the traits and the capabilities of introverted people, leading to”, and I’m quoting here, “A colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.” Wow.

I mean, I’m taking a breather here because it’s so true, and our society, we really praise and look up to and admire all of those, that glitz and glam, those people who are loud and proud, but do we ever stop to appreciate those people who aren’t constantly calling for our attention, but yet who are doing something truly amazing? I thought I would share with you three ways how you can ‘Survive’ in this art teacher world as an introvert. Not only survive, but actually really thrive as an art teacher and introvert. Okay. Way number one, use your introvertness to your advantage.

For example, if like I said, in a school where there’s a lot of loudness, there’s a lot of loud kids who are calling for our attention, there’s a lot of theatrical teachers, which are great, there’s a place for them. I’m not saying there isn’t. Your classroom can be a totally different environment. If you’re an introvert, and you’re calm and you’re quiet, why would your classroom not reflect that? Why would it not reflect who you are?

A calm classroom could be one that has slightly dimmed lights. Maybe you have a twinkle lights or a Christmas lights strung up in your room. Maybe you have lamps throughout your room. Those slightly dimmed lights, not so much that it hinders your students from being able to see while they create, but just adding that little bit can really set the ambiance, the mood. A funny side story, we once used the word ‘Ambiance’ around a friend of ours who is a little bit country, and he said, “Ambi what?”

Okay, so you’re setting ambi what for your room. You could also always have your favorite music, which might be a more calm music, even if it’s music without words. There’s some great YouTube stations. One I like to use is called like ‘Rainy Day Jazz Cafe’. It is fabulous music for really setting the mood with those lights, with the music, with speaking in a lower tone of voice, speaking a little softer, bringing down your addiction a little bit, spreading your words out, doing some deep breathing in between, moving on to the next set of directions.

All of that can really help, and even introducing your students to maybe some breathing. Starting off your class with perhaps some very simple yoga might really introduce your students to the place from where you are coming from, from where you teach. What I think you’re going to notice is that this will be a shift in your student’s day, and that even your extroverts might look forward to a place where they can dial back some and have a little bit of peace and calm in their day. I’m also thinking of my students who are extremely introverted, who are very shy. I have one student who’s extraordinarily shy, so much so that I’ve maybe heard her speak possibly a dozen times in the years that I’ve taught her. Those kind of students need to know that your place is a safe place for them.

It is their place. It’s an introvert’s paradise because that’s the place from which you teach. This, like I said, another way to make this thriving environment for you as an introvert is it’s going to really help you connect with other introvert students, like my student who’s very shy. In fact, you can even share your experiences with your students as an introvert. I have found that my students really become highly engaged and much more interested and involved when I share the story of whatever it is I’m teaching, where I’m coming from, if I share with them, “This is a lesson that I learned when I was in fifth grade, and here’s my project from fifth grade”, and they, I notice really become excited to hear about that, “What was your teacher like?”, “What did you look like in fifth grade?”

Your students really want to connect with you, and I think oftentimes, as teachers, we’re so busy getting caught up in what we’re teaching that we forget to make that personal connection with our students. We forget to let them know that we were once in those very shoes that they’re in, so if you can share those insecurities, if you can share possibly how difficult it’s been to be an introvert in an extrovert’s world, that might really help you establish a great connection with your students who are also introverts, and maybe you could even share, I’m taking a wild guess here, but I bet I’m accurate, how being an introvert led you to art. What was that one experience that really drew you to the arts and your favorite kind of media that helped you connect and blossom as a more quiet person in a super loud world? Then, I’m going to suggest that you even try stepping out of your comfort zone. Stepping out of my comfort zone would be having a really calm class every now and then.

I tend to be very loud. I tend to have things really bright colors, cover every surface with something in my room. It is distracting the paradise up in my room, so for me, to get out of my comfort zone would be to dial it back, would be for me to try to reach out to those kids who do come from a more quiet place, but for you, introverts, it might mean that you do try a little bit of theatrics every now and then. You do throw a little bit of drama, some bright colors at your students. I’m not saying don’t read books like ‘Teach Like a PIRATE’ or the ‘WIld Card’, because those books are amazing, but I am saying take a little bit of that and mix it up with the person that you are, and then try it.

Just try stepping out of your comfort zone just to see what will happen. Mix it up a bit, and that will not only help you show your introvert students that they can push themselves, but it’ll also show your extroverts that there’s a wild side to you that they need to sit up and listen to you also. It’s hard being a teacher and being an introvert teacher in a world where we do value all of the extrovert tendencies, but I think that being happy with who you are, sharing things that you’re passionate about or speaking from your own personal experiences, and really making a connection with those quiet students, that’s really going to be a powerful place for you to teach from. Thank you, guys so much for letting me share, and I would love to hear from you. I would especially love to hear from my introvert friends, and any suggestions that they might have about teaching from a more quiet place.

Tim Bogatz: Hello, this is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio. I wanted to tell you about our upcoming conference, the Art Ed Now Summer Online Conference on August second. Now, if you’re an introvert, you can watch the entire conference online without talking to anyone. If you’re an extrovert on the other hand, you can get together and watch it with your colleagues, or just take part in our huge group chat during the day, or even participate in the Q&A with the teachers who are presenting. Contemporary artist, Jen Stark will be our featured presenter.

You can learn more about that presentation and see all of the other presentations and register for the conference at You can also listen to an interview with Jen Stark at Make sure you check it out, and make sure you sign up. Until then, let’s let Cassie go ahead and finish up the show.

Cassie: Should we take a little dip into the mailbag or what? This question comes from @Art.educator.journeystein from Instagram of course. She says, “What are your tips for a new teacher who wants to try doing clay? I have never fired a kiln before and I am TERRIFIED. I am also unsure of how to go about it with the kids. Our classes are only 45 minutes long.”

Alright. Let’s take a stab at that first question. She wants to know, “How do I go about teaching clay as a new teacher?” I would take a clay class. That’s exactly what I did. I never took any clay classes in college, so when I had my very, I think it was my third year teaching, I finally scored a kiln, and I was also TERRIFIED, and I took several classes at a local …

It was like the parks and rec kind of place, the local parks and rec place, and I just asked one million, trillion questions of my teacher. Eventually, she led me to another person who is called ‘Danielle McDaniel’, a.k.a., ‘The Clay Lady’, who is the clay guru. If you are not familiar with her, you need to seek her out. If you’re in the Nashville area, you have got to take classes with Danielle. She teaches classes specifically for teachers. If you are not local, she makes great YouTube …

I think she’s got some YouTube videos, but definitely has some DVDs all about clay. She taught me so stinking much, but really, there’s nothing better than taking a class where you’re getting hands-on experience with a teacher. If that’s not a possibility, definitely reach out to other art teachers. Shoot an email to the art teachers in your district, and just say, “Hey, can we have a Clay PD because I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, and can somebody please tell me how to turn on my kiln?” Definitely have somebody walk you through the kiln. Read that manual top to bottom, and just check and double-check that you don’t have any paper on or near your kiln.

I’m not speaking from experience on that one, but somebody in my district may or may not have started a tiny, little fire that way, so I’m just throwing it out there. Then, she also says, “Classes are only 45 minutes long.” Honey, my classes are 30 minutes long, so let me just tell you what I do. I either keep my projects very simple and short. You can find a lot of my clay projects on my YouTube channel.

One that you might consider starting with is the shoe-stamped turtle. It’s a great, simple project for kids. Any elementary-age kid is going to love that project, but you could also have them start a project, wrap it with a damp paper towel, set it gently in a Ziploc baggy, and continue working on it the following art class. That is not ideal, as sometimes, the clay projects tend to fall apart a little bit when they’re in those bags, but if you’re pinched for time, you do what you got to do. I really hope that helps.

Next question comes from @CharitySoul. She says, “Any tips for someone beginning to sew garments? So far, I’ve done some pieces for my daughter, but I can’t wait to make some pieces for myself. I’d love any tips and inspiration you can give from your own sewing journey.” Once again, I really cannot emphasize taking classes. I might have a slight addiction to taking the classes at local places.

I like to get around. When I was a kid, I never had art classes, and just there weren’t random classes that you could take, but there was vacation Bible school. I literally all summer long bounced from one church to another, didn’t care what denomination it was, “Were there snacks?”, “Were there crafts?” This girl was there, so I think this stems from my childhood, but I have taken several sewing classes, and I usually take the short ones just because as teachers, it’s hard to really commit, but the summertime is the best time to look up sewing classes. If that’s not a possibility in your area, again, post something on Facebook, “I want to learn how to sew.”

“If anybody has time, I can you pay in cookies, in chocolate, hugs, coffee, whatever, but I just would like somebody to help me learn how to stitch.” Also, I have found that most patterns, especially Simplicity are just that. They’re super simple. The directions are very well-laid out. There’s even a diagram for us visual learners, and there’s a 1-800 number, you all.

You can pick up the phone and ask these people questions, so that’s amazing. Not only that, but one of my favorite websites and YouTube channels is called ‘Professor Pincushion’. She’s amazing. She will walk you through some sewing patterns from beginning to the end. You can watch an entire video of her sewing the garment.

You can sew along right with her. Just press that pause button, and do what what that sparkly-nailed lady says. She’s amazing. Great questions, guys. If you have a question for me, you should totally ask it. You can find me at …

Oh, gosh, I’m going to mess this up. I’m breathing, deep breathing, channeling my inner meditative … Nope. It’s not coming to me. You can email me at Ta-da.

In short, there’s a place for everybody as an art teacher in the art room. Your teaching style is who you are, whether that be wild, and crazy, and dramatic, whether it be calm and soothing or like a mash-up of everything. Ideally, I feel like that’s what art teaching should be. It should be a mash-up of a little bit of everything to keep things exciting for you, for your students, and to really engage all of those different kinds of learners that you have in your art room. Thank you guys so much for letting me share, and I hope you have a fabulous summer vacation and week, unless you’re in the land Down Under, in which case you’re still in school, and that it the worst.

That was totally British accent. Have an awesome week, guys.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.