It is sometimes difficult to look back on a journey, having gained new perspective, and fully recall the perspective with which one began. At the beginning of this course, I surely had an awareness of personality type, but primarily attuned to the Introvert/extravert dichotomy when it came to thinking about my students. I suppose today this is still true, but I am beginning to attend to other type distinctions as well and am more conscious of implementing a variety of communication, planning, and activity strategies in my lessons each week.
One of the first takeaways that struck me, though it should have been obvious, is that it helps to understand my own personality type. I’d been assuming I would learn about the types of different students and then figure out better ways to instruct to their particular type. While this is certainly the case, I first needed to figure out what my own type meant for me as a teacher. I had to suspend the notion that I teach by default in a type-neutral way. Doing so enabled me to identify my own tendencies and preferences in order to then be able to build upon and deviate from them to accommodate a more broad span of types.
As a teacher, I identified my own type as INTP. As an introvert, my preference is for a quiet classroom with one voice and one conversation going at a time. I prefer smaller classes of students and long classes with no break to interrupt the teaching. As a student myself in college courses (including this one) I’ve never understood the need for a whole-class break in the middle of a long session. I’d have much preferred to keep plowing through, finish a few minutes earlier, and let anyone who needed to slip out to the bathroom or water fountain do it on his/her own schedule. I understand that everyone doesn’t experience class time this way, and now I have a better grasp on why this is the case. In structuring my own classroom, I value hands-on learning but like to provide copious structure beforehand and keep it confined to a tight schedule rather than provide extra time for investigation. While these approaches may work for some students, it is clearly not a structure that leads to success for them all. Throughout my teaching career it has been a challenge to structure lessons that were “extravert friendly,” allowing for movement and group work, making opportunities to talk whenever they like and interact with large numbers of classmates. As I reflect on the lessons I’ve planned during the weeks of this class, I beleive I have shifted the frequency with which I integrate these opportunities. Going forward, my challenge will be to make this shift the norm, as it is still not always my first inclination.
In reflecting on my tendencies as an intuitive teacher, I don’t see such a strong leaning to one extreme in the planning and structure of lessons. I think I’ve always struck a good balance between providing structured assignments and practice on the one hand and emphasizing the big picture and application on the other. If anything, I think my tendency is to stick with the fundamentals too long and not always provide opportunities for the intuitive students to exercise their imagination and critical thinking during some classes. When I find things that work, I will use them over again. Routines are good to have for all students because they make class more efficient. When students know what the expectations are they can focus more on the academic content and less on figuring out the details of the task. That being said, I like to balance repetitive routine with modifications and trying new things, particularly when I’m teaching a new subject or if I am not seeing success with the original plan. I think I have always been able to strike a pretty healthy balance between flexibility and structure.
I am very much a stickler for rules and consistency in the classroom. In self-assessing my type at the outset of the class, I conceded that this made the Thinking description describe me better as a teacher, although I was still hesitant to say so definitively. What really tipped me over was having the instructor say she needed me to pick one, and that she thought Thinking seemed to make the most sense because I have a tendency to be critical. Whether this criticism and rule adherence is a result of being a thinking type I’m not so sure, however.
I’ve been reflecting upon this lately and realized a few things. First, logical criticism is often an emotional response for me. Feeling conflicted about my own type and having a hard time wrapping my head around the alphabet soup had me reading the first few chapters with one eyebrow raised already. My adherence to rules, similarly, is not necessarily my preference all the time as much as it is the need to clearly communicate expectations and support the expectations of administrators and other teachers in the school.
My first year teaching I would give students gum to chew in math class if they got their homework done the night before. There was no school policy against this, but months later at a faculty meeting my co-workers were all complaining about their gum-chewing students, the gum getting stuck under tables, and how “we never had this problem before.” I just about sank into the floor. That experience, along with a principal who walked into my classroom once to confront me with, “Why are you letting that student wear a hat?” made me into a rule-enforcer big-time. The motivation for me to be like that wasn’t from my need to have rigid guidelines but from my fear that not setting expectations will cause problems with my colleagues and supervisors, and I can’t stand conflict with adults. I can not count the number of colleagues I have overheard complaining that policies are not uniformly enforced, and that teachers need to do their jobs and not make up their own rules. I am not one of the complainers. I still remember the feeling of each of those moments. I’m the one worrying I’m being complained about. This is definitely a primarily Feeling trait. I’ve also been experiencing great stress in recent months over a few disconnects with students and coworkers. If I was more Thinking I would likely be able to let this go more easily, but it still weighs on me deeply.
On the other hand, as a scientist I value logic and analysis, and I keep rigor and competency as my top priorities in instruction. I desperately want students to enjoy their experience in science, but at the end of the day I would sleep better knowing my students all learned the material whether or not they liked it than that they all liked the material whether or not they learned it – because the enjoyment part is not the essential element of the job description. Of course, both are ideal and are what I strive for. So, I’m ending this course having come full circle, back to doubting whether I can call myself a T or F. I’m both, and I’ve seen some evidence in my reading that validates this. “The distinction between principles and values is made in the type literature but may be a semantic rather than a real difference…” (Bayne, 34) “In the MBTI, thinking and feeling are opposite poles of a continuum. In reality, they’re independent… if you like ideas and data, you can also like people and emotions. In fact, more often than not, they go hand in hand” (Grant). I know there are other (some say better) ways to parse personality in this area (5-factor theory, DeBono’s “6 hats:) and I would be very interested in learning more about them to help flesh out my understanding. While I can’t see my own T/F type as one or the other, I Can recognize extremes in some of my students, and this will be my take-away for now. Providing rationale and opportunities to experience success and leadership will benefit my students’ thinking type preferences, while integrating stories and personal connection into lessons will provide avenues for feeling students to connect and relate to content.
I have come to identify some of my perpetual struggles as a teacher as manifestations or my Perceptive personality type. I can not for the life of me plan ahead more than a few classes. I’ve tried to do this for the last 18 years, both in my year-long curriculum planning and my week-long unit planning. I am simply incapable of predicting how long something will take students to complete during class, how many repeptitions/review opportunities will be required to achieve mastery, or even gauge how much time I have left in a class period. Rather than laying out a specific unit plan and then changing deadlines repeatedly, I have compensated by being non-specific and allowing for that flexibility up front: “The test is scheduled for the end of next week, but I may push it to Monday if we need an extra day. ” I don’t know if this is the best compromise or not.
One of the strategies mentioned in the text chapter on math and science instruction was to “Preplan both scaffolding techniques and extensions to keep all students engaged.” (Kise 133) This is something I have been trying to do lately in my classes, but I am struggling with being overwhelmed in the management of so much extra planning and grouping. I also don’t have a strategy for how to differentiate grading for the students who go ahead to enrichment level work or how to count the work students do by way of remediation. In theory, the grade should be in the assessment of competency proficiency, but it also seems unfair to expect students who learn quickly to do enrichment work with no academic reward.
On the whole, I’m leaving this class with a lot more planning to do, and a lot more processing over how I can better serve the diverse set of personality types in my classroom. I am overwhelmed by how much there is to keep in mind, and I am as yet unable to make quick assessments of students’ type (other than I/E) without the textbook cheat sheets in hand. It’s hard enough just remembering what my own type is all about half the time. I am glad to have had the time to process and re-process through the different types to help me down this road.
Bayne, Rowan. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Critical Review and Practical Guide. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes, 1994. Print.
Grant, Adam. “Goodbye to MBTI, the fad that won’t die.” Psychology Today. 18 Sep 2013. 11 Feb 2016. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/give-and-take/201309/goodbye-mbti-the-fad-won-t-die>
Kise, Jane. Differentiating Through Personality Types: A Framework for Instruction, Assessment, and Classroom Management. New York: Skyhorse, 2006.