Sunday, November 19, 2006

Teaching and Temperament

This week, I've thought about a particular teaching issue: the way personality and temperament influence teaching.

I began thinking about this after a phone conversation I had this week. Justin is applying for a job teaching at the University fitness center. He had me listed as a reference and I was called by the supervisor.

She obviously thinks very highly of Justin. The only question she had was about his temperament, really. "He's kind of quiet, kind of an introvert. Do you think he'll be able to reach out to students?"

I assured her that although Justin can be quiet, he conducts a class with authority and energy.

I wondered later about the comment. Do people think introverts aren't suited to teaching? They are wrong! I am speaking as an introvert here.

If you're not sure what I mean by introvert, the definition I'm using is from the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. It says that introverts direct their energy inward, towards thoughts, reflections, ideas. Extroverts direct energy outwards--to activities, conversations, other people. To recharge, Extroverts go to a party and have a blast conversing with everyone. To recharge, Introverts leave the party, go home, and sit in blissful silence, reading a book in their comfy chair! (I'm speaking from experience here!)

[Are you interested in seeing your temperament type? I bet all you thoughtful Introverts are! There's a short version, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter online that's free. If you do it, drop me a note and tell me your temperament type!]

I'm an Introvert, according to every test or personality sorter I've ever taken. (My whole score is INFP, the "Idealist"). Many people find that hard to believe as I am easy to approach, friendly, and warm. I love talking to people--but I much prefer one-on-one conversations to conversations with several people.

So how does that affect my teaching? Because I REALLY REALLY wanted to teach (at the college level), I had to learn to be what I call an "outgoing introvert." I like people, and I learned how to listen and show that I care for them when I talk to them. I learned to take on the role of teacher--to be energetic, caring, clear, and firm in front of a class.

I think that's how most people are. They are most comfortable being one way, but as they mature, they learn to become more balanced. I will always need to sit in my comfy chair and read, but I can be more outgoing when necessary. And I can enjoy it.

Teaching can be a good profession for introverts. We think and reflect about the purpose of what we do, about how best to get people to learn. Some of us think of teaching as a "role to play," which makes being outgoing easier.

Maybe introverts would get tired out easily if they had to teach all day, like a high school teacher (I could never do that--too exhausting to be around that many people for that long). But doing something like college teaching, or TKD, or fitness classes, or one-on-one tutoring seems like a great place for us to use our ideas, thoughts, and reflections and pass them on to others.


TKD Rocker said...

As I told you last night, my results were "idealist", which I assume translates into introvert, as all the other ones I've taken have said that. I can definitely identify with the teaching thing. I was terrified before I taught my first tkd class, and even now I still get a bit apprehensive, but I have definitely learned how to connect better with a large group of people. I guess it will help me out somehow later in life.

Anonymous said...

I am an idealist also

Ms. Prior