INTJ Teacher: An Alternative Approach to the Teaching Philosophy Statement

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 used 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.


Chart of Myers-Briggs personality types

Chart of Myers-Briggs personality types. (Source: Jake Beech, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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 normal characteristics (albeit for a very small segment of the population). They are so normal, in fact, that they comprise a stereotype in an online quiz.

On the one hand, nothing has changed. And why should it? It’s an online personality survey, for goodness sake! But on the other hand everything has changed because my perspective is different. 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, if you’re going by the type. This is consistent with the fact that 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).

Whether you believe that Myers-Briggs is a meaningful or not as a way to determine someone’s personality is one thing, and maybe you’ve done the test and found it to be completely off base. But if you’re looking for scientific rigour, you’re missing the point. When I did the test, some things didn’t seem to match me either. There’s no way I’m disrespectful of authority! I never get in trouble! I just expect that authority figures should be competent, and authority in and of itself is not a thing to respect intrinsically… Oh. Never mind.

See, it’s about having a starting point for questioning your assumptions about yourself.

After a sense of relief, the next thing that occurred to me is that INTJ-ish types 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 made a comic. It’s a remarkably efficient way to communicate that I will get things done, and I will do them right. Someone might not like how I do things, but there are solid reasons behind my choices, and I can promise you that I’ve thought it out thoroughly from every angle possible, and you would get bored long before I’m done enumerating the reasons. I will still make you listen, however, because you should have all the facts.

It’s difficult to articulate the implications of that in a few paragraphs in a 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 post subsequent installments from time to time. With the small number of INTJ-identifying folks out there, and the fraction of those who are educators, I’m not expecting a huge interest. That’s fine, though. I just like the idea of being able to point someone to a url and say, “You’ve been warned.”

INTJ Teacher webcomic

Introducing the INTJ teacher

Update for 6 September 2018: I’m moving my comic from a separate blog to this one because I have too many  tentacles in online space. I’ll file posts under the category INTJ Teacher.

6 thoughts on “INTJ Teacher: An Alternative Approach to the Teaching Philosophy Statement

  1. Lol! There were two times out of 10 times when i was on verge of INTJ/ the results are always and always INTJ…i love teaching, biochemistry to students.. although right now i am not getting a chance to be a university professor…i am happy even if i get to teach in high school…i was so fond of researching, but i couldn’t compromise my work ethics over there. So it became so circumstantial, that i entered into teaching..and i strongly connect to it…

  2. This is great!
    I just found your page and I’m going to go through your INTJ Teacher blog.
    I’m an INTJ woman (32 years old) who has been teaching European languages/ESOL/EAL and ICT full-time since age 23, with a few part-time breaks/a gap year in between.

    I did not discover my type until age 30. And throughout my working experience, I have had MASSIVE issues with understanding why people (mainly children and some female colleagues) were consistently criticising me for being me (“You don’t smile”, ”You don’t laugh”, “Why won’t you give me a high five?”, “You are not very fuzzy, are you?”, “You can’t say that!”, “Stop arguing with the rules. Just do it!”, “You hate me!”, etc.). The kind of things that a new entrant (and immigrant from an ethnic minority background) in one of the toughest professions in the UK simply does NOT need to hear. But I knew the shit I was getting myself into: I was prepared.

    I had solid examples of Spanish and History teacher colleagues – xSFJ I believe – who were consistently on a mission to prove that my approach to managing my classes were “wrong” (i.e I hurt their Fe, I guess?). I won’t even mention the mothers who were convinced I had something against their very emotional and self-victimising sons and refused to hear me when I was telling them that this wasn’t the case and that their young cubs would grow out of their worries and struggles in a couple of months, which inevitably happened. And then they started singing that I was “the funniest teacher”… duh! What was all this drama about?

    Yes, I was not the most touchy-feely woman on the school’s staff, but I was not interested in apologising about my values and my conception of what a solid education is about (i.e taking risks, doing your best, being resilient and sucking in difficulties to think through solutions).

    I’m now posted in a rural school in the middle of nowhere (Oz), and I have gone through the same cycle of “WTF is wrong with this woman?” -> “She is so rude/mean!” -> “She is a cool teacher: I like her.” I enjoy teaching, yet the drama is never-ending…but so is my snarky sense of humour (lol!).
    At least where I am now, the pay is GREAT and the opportunities for learning stuff (long live Digital technologies and E-learning!) in my own time are fabulous.

    I have learnt ways to rationalise the Human side of my job and knowing my MBTI type has certainly helped in growing in that area. I don’t think I could ever give any specific kind of advice to young INTJ women teachers. I guess they can and will learn what works for them as they plod along… 🙂

    • I love the idea of “sucking in difficulties to think through solutions.” That’s my approach as well- challenge students in a way that makes it possible for them to fail safely and learn from it. Some respond better to that approach than others, of course. It’s a continuum that runs from exhilaration to yelling and sobbing.

      It would be *really* hard to be an INTJ in the K-12 system (what we call pre-uni here). I can’t even imagine. In post-secondary, there’s a tacit assumption that academics will be a little eccentric, which comes in handy. Our K-12 system is micromanaged in comparison to the flexibility I have to make my own calls about pedagogy, ed tech, and course content. Older/adult students are probably better equipped to deal with a dry sense of humour, too, I would think. Though I did have an officemate scold me once: “You should smile or laugh or SOMETHING so I know you’re joking.” Meh. Where’s the fun in that? Funny is a brain thing, not a face thing. (OK maybe snark is an acquired taste.)

      As advice for young INTJ teachers goes, things got a lot easier once I stopped trying to be warm-fuzzy teacher and went with the more natural feel of beneficent-yet-supervillain teacher. It takes less energy if you stop fighting yourself. Then you can spend that energy doing your job. The exact approach will be different for everyone, but a key part for me was realizing that putting myself in another person’s shoes to understand them works only insofar as our approach to the world is similar. And most likely it isn’t. “If I wore really strange shoes that fit awkwardly and did what other shoes told them to do, and my shoes liked being around other shoes… I would just take off the damn shoes!” Nope, not the best approach.

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