Simple or complex?

Are You Simple or Complex?

Johnny and I are reading specialists. If early literacy isn’t your world, you may not know that there is an age-old debate between believers of the “simple view” of reading and the believers of literacy’s complexity. Johnny and I are firmly in the complexity camp. So in our study of introversion and extroversion, it makes sense that we should explore the complexities of dispositions as well. Maybe it’s not as simple as being one or the other.

We are so grateful to have Tanny McGregor as our guest blogger in this post, where she explores the complexities of what makes us who we are! Tanny is one of our favorite people and, not surprisingly, she is not simple! She is a teacher, author, speaker, leader, artist, singer, and friend. She is our edu-hero and will be yours too, if she isn’t already! Thank you, Tanny, for helping us develop a more complex view!

I’m honored to share a few thoughts on Susan & Johnny’s blog, Vertical. I’ve known and worked with both of them for many years, and one thing is for sure: Susan & Johnny use their introverted and extroverted personalities (respectively) to help kids and teachers learn in incredible ways. They are authentic, smart educators who let nothing stop them. Because of teachers like S & J, I feel brave enough to share about my own personality tendencies here in this space. Thanks to both of you.

I’ve always considered myself to be an introvert. When I was a little girl growing up in the 1970’s, I invented imaginary playmates instead of joining in with the neighborhood kids for a game of kickball or hide-n-seek. I jumped at the chance to stay indoors at recess and help the teacher. If the choice were up to me, I would have preferred to read a book at home over going to a friend’s birthday party. This little video about the life of an introvert pretty much sums it up.

Now I’m in my 50’s and I’m not so sure about my introverted tendencies. If I’m so introverted, why is it that I have no fear of public speaking? If I’m so introverted, why do I get energized every time I hang out with my friends at book club or go on a family trip? How can I be so anxious about a dinner with business colleagues, yet spend the day with 100 teachers and be totally “in my own skin”?

With age I’ve become more metacognitive, and now I know myself better than I ever have (I guess there is merit to getting older!). Just like the title of the 2009 Meryl Streep movie, It’s Complicated, I’m neither a true introvert nor extrovert (also correctly spelled extravert). So what am I? I’m an ambivert.

When I read Kate Horowitz’s article in Mental Floss (sketchnoted above), it all made sense. I like to talk AND listen. I like to lead AND follow. I like to be with others AND alone. It all depends on the specific circumstances and the personalities of the other people with whom I’ll be interacting. Read Kate’s article here, and you’ll see what I mean:

So what’s changed for me now that I know that I’m an ambivert? I more often grant myself permission to be alone, without feeling guilty. I let myself say no when I’d rather be alone, and say yes when I’m craving social interaction. I try to notice how and what I’m feeling and be okay with it. It’s complicated, and so am I.

Here’s the great thing. Because I know myself better, and accept the varied ways I react to different social situations, I can recognize and accept the same in my students and colleagues. I can’t pigeonhole or label others as either introverts or extroverts. It’s quite possible that it’s complicated.That they are complicated. Just like me.


Tanny McGregor

Reach out to me at

Follow my work on Twitter @TannyMcG

Check out my website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *