If INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) means nothing to you, then I’m guessing MBTI will mean nothing as well. Let me explain. The MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) was devised by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers to categorize personality types, according to the theories of Carl Jung. I don’t want to oversimplify a complex psychological concept so I won’t go into detail, but I’d like to consider the implications of being an introverted teacher–and a shy one at that.
A recent book by Dr. Laurie Helgoe called Intovert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength points out the overlooked strengths of introverts and dispels common misconceptions that extraversion is more prevalent–and more normal. It just ain’t so, says Helgoe. Extraverts seem more numerous because they make more noise; they process information out loud. Introverts crave space and quiet to process, which can make them seem anti-social. Introverts are energized by ideas, extraverts by people. That doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like people or that extraverts don’t like ideas. It explains why I’d rather read a good book than go to a party, though. Small talk with near strangers exhausts me! But get me in a room with a dozen like-minded people to brainstorm or problem-solve, and I could go all day!
What does this mean for me in the classroom? As with any personality trait, introversion has both positive and negative implications. One plus is that I can spot another introvert two classrooms away. I’m empathetic to shy students and try to draw them out gently, giving them time and space to think, so they can excel in a safe environment. Seeing them blossom makes my job worthwhile.
There’s also a down side. With six or seven different courses in any given semester, I need a lot of prep time. I think and plan best in the quiet of my home office, but I can get so caught up in preparation or online research for an upcoming unit (Ideas! Ideas!) that I have to drag myself from the computer to get anything else done at home. The dogs are usually content enough to snooze at my feet, but my husband . . . not so much.
Then there’s this: I’ll never win the Exceptionally Fun & Bouncy Teacher Award–that’s just not my style. It’s not that I don’t like to have fun. I do, and I try to build interesting and unusual activities into my classes. I have the most fun when my students are learning and enjoying it. I take learning seriously, and not all fun activities lead to learning. In addition, some things are just more important than fun.
One student last spring grumbled that the rock band marketing group was having more fun than our health careers group during a school-wide interdisciplinary unit on career fields. I responded that maybe she was right about rock bands having fun, but health professionals save lives. This won a quick smile from her before she went back to work on her PowerPoint.
On the day of presentations, I overheard a girl gushing about how much fun she had in the rock band group. “Well!” my student said, hands on hips. “You might have had fun, but we save lives.” I’ve spent enough time with this student to recognize a kindred spirit–she’s an introvert, too, and she appreciates the value of work well done. She deserves a learning environment where she can be true to her type. I guess that’s where I come in.