Teaching according to your personality

‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’

Dr Wayne Dyer

As individuals, we all have specific ways that we experience life. This is influenced by our personalities and our personalities define who we are as teachers. 

Same personality, different teacher

I am a very different teacher now than I was when I first started teaching.

Early on in my career, I completed the Myers-Briggs Type questionnaire. The conclusion was accurate and helped me to see what, or who I was bringing into the workplace. I am your typical teacher personality type (ISFJ) – helpful, or so I thought! 

I was the ‘perfectionist teacher’, spending hours planning and preparing for lessons, making sure every lesson was perfect. I set high standards for myself and learners, and there was always something more that could be done. In my mind, a teacher’s job was never done. I enjoyed the traditional teacher-centred approach as I felt in control of my lessons.

‘Burnout’ while teaching is a reality, and for me, it was a reality. 

I was forced to take a pause, stop, and look at my personality. I can’t change my personality but using the knowledge I had about myself from the Myers-Briggs personality test, I was able to make changes in the way in which I was doing things. 

I had to learn to work smarter. I had to learn that it was okay to ask for help and to delegate tasks to others. By doing this, it made me look at teaching differently. It helped me relax and enjoy teaching more, rather than trying to micro-manage every aspect of the classroom.

Know who you are

I highly recommend that you go online and take a personality or strength-finder test because knowing who you are is invaluable. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses makes a big difference, not only to yourself but to the school you are a part of.

Who are you? What are your interests? What are your dislikes? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Are you a leader or a follower? A rule breaker or a law abider? Are you observant, authoritative or withdrawn? Are you the popular teacher at school or are you respected for your wealth of knowledge? Do you know yourself?

Embrace your unique teaching style

Your approach or method you choose to follow in your class depends on what fits your personality best. When a learning programme or school tries to standardise or control teaching methods, teachers often find it difficult to find the balance between what is expected of them and what they feel comfortable with in their own classrooms. 

It is up to you as an educator to know yourself in order to choose the best teaching approach, what your teaching philosophy is and what works for you in your classroom. Change is often necessary and positive, but we do not have to change everything about our personalities in order to fit into the expected boxes. 

Here is a breakdown of personality types as described by Myers-Briggs*. By taking a good look at these, you can already see which teaching pedagogy you are most likely to favour in your classroom:

Personality types key

Energised by people. Multitaskers.
Realistic people. Focus on facts and details.
Values honesty, consistency and fairness.
Organised and prepared. Stick to the plan.
Prefers small groups. Focus on one thing at a time.
Focus on possibilities. See the big picture.
Sensitive and cooperative. 
Like to act spontaneously.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator*

Take a free personality test on 16Personalities.com.

*The Myers-Briggs test and personality types are not seen as a scientific way to determine personality types. This can, however, be a helpful tool to guide you – both in learning more about yourself and gaining a better perspective on how other people function.

About the author:
Emme Scholtz is a Foundation Phase teacher who, after five years, has taken a break from teaching to focus on creating a love for learning in her two children. Her store on the Teacha! resource marketplace is called Anna & I and is full of fantastic Foundation Phase resources!

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