Some weeks ago I attended a workshop on designing a reflective teaching portfolio offered by the GMCTE at the U of S, and facilitated by two of their excellent instructors, Kim West and Wenona Partridge. The workshop was about making a written record of one’s ideas about teaching, of the methods for accomplishing teaching goals, and of evidence of how that was going. The starting point was a statement of teaching philosophy, which is exactly what it sounds like- a written description of how one views teaching, and how those views inform one’s approach to teaching. (You can find some examples here.)
Kim and Wenona had us do a number of activities to help us articulate a teaching philosophy. I found those activities useful, but what really helped me was something that appeared in their slides, but which we didn’t really discuss in the workshop: the Myers-Briggs survey. Myers-Briggs is a set of questions that helps to classify people into one of 16 personality types described by four letters: I or E for introvert or extrovert; S or N for sensing or intuition; T or F for thinking or feeling, and J or P for judging or perceiving. The figure below is a nice summary.
I don’t know what motivated me to do the test, and from the figure, it doesn’t seem like the classifications should lead to any earth-shattering revelations. But I did do the test (I used the one at 16 Personalities, because it seemed to have the best interface and descriptions of personality types), and the outcome was something I would never have imagined: relief! It felt like a huge burden was lifted!
I learned that many of the things I though were dysfunctional about me, and which I’ve worked hard to overcome so that I could interact with “normal” people are actually themselves perfectly normal characteristics… albeit for a very small segment of the population. If you haven’t guessed yet, my type was INTJ, and I’ve read that approximately 0.8% of North American females fall into that category. That certainly explains my experience of high school (shudder).
On the one hand, nothing has changed, but on the other hand everything has. I suddenly feel like I’m allowed to be myself, which I would describe as someone with mildly misanthropic tendencies. The kinds of things that frustrate me are quite predictable based on the type, and this also explains why very few people seem to feel as cranky as I do about a number of things which I find blatantly objectionable (some of which I’ve discussed at Petragogy).
After a sense of relief, the next thing that occurred to me is that INTJs would, on the surface, not seem to be particularly suited to teaching roles. The phrases “does not play well with others,” and “does not suffer fools kindly” come to mind. But teaching is something I feel very strongly about, and something I put a lot of effort into getting right.
So naturally, I’ve decided to do a webcomic about being an INTJ teacher. I see it as serving a number of purposes: I’d like it to catch the attention of others like me so I can hear about their experiences. I think it’s a nice way to give advanced warning to those who might cross my path. It’s also a remarkably effective way to communicate ideas that took several paragraphs to articulate in my teaching philosophy statement. One would think a cartoon would be limiting as a means of communication, but somehow it’s just the opposite. I can get more across with a few lines of text and some pictures than I could in several pages of writing.
I’m calling my comic INTJ Teacher (as far as I can tell no-one on the internet has claimed that yet), and using the tag line, “For those who are, and those who should know what they’re dealing with,” because that pretty much sums it up. My first installment (below) is an introduction, and I will put it and subsequent installments on a new blog. With the small number of INTJs out there, and the fraction of those who are educators, I’m not expecting a huge readership. That’s fine, though. I just like the idea of being able to point someone to a url and say, “You’ve been warned.”