Why Dave Burgess is (and is not) like Tony Robbins

The implication is that we can all get over whatever’s keeping us down, that even introverts can learn to walk on coals while belting out a lusty YES. -Susan Cain

Before you ask, yes, I have seen Dave Burgess in person. I have been inspired to #TLAP (Teach like a pirate) and have read his book. I’ve even had dinner with him and a select group of administrators and teachers after the ILE conference this fall. I’ve tried a variety of his hooks in my classroom, and had kids tell me they wished they could spend the whole day in my room. But Tony Robbins? Nope, sorry, haven’t had the privilege.  So how can I possibly equate these two people? Well, it’s thanks to Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

I am reading Susan Cain’s book in preparation for leading #TBookC, a teacher (mostly me, lately) driven book club that meets on Twitter, at 9 EST on Thursdays. We’ll discuss the book November 12 & 19, so anyone who’s on Twitter and wants to join in, please do! Shameless plug aside, as I was reading Cain’s book, Chapter 2 “The Myth of Charismatic Leadership” really struck me. The charisma, the focus on grabbing attention and sweeping your audience off its feet sounded exactly like Dave Burgess, a social studies teacher who has the toughest crowd of all, disinterested high school kids.

Let me give you an example: one of Burgess’s hooks involves multiple Victoria’s Secrets bags, nested one inside the other like Russian dolls, with a burnt fire engine red bra inside. He uses this to hook kids into learning about women’s suffrage. And the anticipation is palpable as he slowly reaches into the first bag, only to pull out another, smaller bag. I watched him run back and forth on stage, run back and forth in the auditorium, and energy seems to crackle in the air around him.

Dave observes the world around him and repackages it for his students. He is super engaging, high energy, and almost overwhelming. He believes that any teacher can be equally engaging. And this is where my comparison to Tony Robbins comes in. Robbins believes that you are lacking as a human if you are not super charismatic. You will lose as a person, and a teacher, if you can’t be on fire every second of every day. “Bring it!” both men seem to say.

But here’s where they deviate: Dave Burgess does not try to upsell. Although he mentions he has a book, he often gives the cow away for free online, on social media, and in person. I never felt that he was disingenuous; he truly believes in the power of the extrovert.

Here’s my problem with both approaches: nowhere in either pitch is there room for the introvert. There is no space for the person who inspires by caring deeply about the opinion of others, who seeks to promote the spotlight for the group and not for themselves. The teacher is the sage on the stage, the magician who runs 110 mph to bring them all along. And this teacher centered universe is not my comfort zone.

Image (and more information about TLAP) attributed to http://daveburgess.com/

How being perceived as an introvert almost cost me a job

Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.”  -Susan Cain

Fresh from a teaching college, with my resume in my hand and my heart at my throat, I dreaded messing this up. This was my second ever interview for the job I’d longed for all my life, and I knew my palms were sweating, so I quickly dried them on my navy blue interview skirt. I could feel the beginnings of a stress headache starting to crush my temples under its iron fingers. I had done all the right things in college: honor’s diploma, double major, clubs and accolades galore, but it’d all be for nothing if I couldn’t get a job.

And I almost didn’t. The superintendent was famous for seeing himself as incredibly funny. He had a ready smile for everyone, heck, he even played the wizard in our school’s Wizard of Oz, carrying hundreds of balloons through the auditorium. But that was far in the future for me, and this was now. I was in the hot seat, but I certainly wasn’t hot. As cold sweat ran in a river underneath my navy blue interview jacket, I smiled and pretended a confidence I didn’t feel. He knew.

With one look and one failed attempt at laughing at his jokes, I had outed myself as a potential introvert. A painful intellectual, who one superintendent told me in an interview could never connect with his lower English students. This superintendent, the one who would become my boss for nine years, gave me a bright, Colgate smile and told me he’d call. My shoulders slumped as I made my way out to my car.

Then I get a call from my cooperating teacher. She tells me that the superintendent had called her, not long ago. He wanted to know how personable I was. Luckily for me, Mrs. Baker knew I was excellent at connecting with kids. She reassured him I had a great sense of humor, too. Thanks to her assurances, I got the job. And guess what? I actually excel at connecting with lower level students. Much of my 10th grade sees me as mom. They know I care, in a world where so many don’t.

So that superintendent, who was so hesitant to hire me? Well, how confident I seemed so long ago shouldn’t have made any difference. I know some awesome introverts who make great teachers. We all have our strengths in this life.

Am I an introvert? After reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, I know that I am not. I’m an overly sensitive extrovert. Put it to you this way: I love connecting with people, but a beautiful song will make me cry, and I can’t stand super loud anything.

Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/