Is Your Student The Advocate Type? Here Are Tips On Teaching Them

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

A student walks through the halls at school, smiling and waving quietly to each of their friends. Deep down, she looks at all of them in the eye and wonders to herself how she can help them more, how she can change their lives for the better. In her speaking, it’s all personal, sensitive words, because logic and reason are far from her mind. When others do not recognize the difference she has made in others’ lives, in the school, or in her community, it deeply hurts to not have those congratulations.  

Do any of these describe a student of yours? There is a possibility he or she may be an INFJ personality type. 

Introverted
I(N)tuition 
Feeling 
Judging 

With a friendly personality and ability to work so well with others, these students can often be mistaken for extroverts. However, at the end of the day, they need time to themselves to recharge and be alone. Once you have identified these students in your classroom, it’s crucial to look out for this. They can easily feel overwhelmed by spending too much time working with groups or also feel stressed by projects that aren’t accomplishing their goals. 

INFJs strive to make a difference, especially in individuals. When this is not a possibility, whether that be from lack of time, indecisiveness in others, or a disrupted routine, it can be very hard for them. They are the students who love to be peer helpers and watch their friends understand and better themselves in their work. 

These students also are not the type to understand something after hearing it only once. If they are having a hard time remembering facts about the Revolutionary War, they most likely need to hear it again. And again. And again. Repetition is a powerful tool for these students, especially when presented in different ways each time. 

INFJs have a hard time learning when they cannot see the importance of learning and how it connects to bettering one another. This is why INFJs often find careers in teaching, nursing, psychology, and counseling. They are often the students asking, “When will I need this later in life?” and are dissatisfied unless your answer unless it includes ways they can utilize the material to accomplish helping others. 

INFJ students work very similarly in school to ENFP students and can relate to them using flashcards for repetition and how material sticks best when they see it as a benefit to others. 

Do you teach any INFJ students? What tips do you have to teach them? Have you found knowing your students MBTI is beneficial to you? 

How Vulnerability Lead To My Greatest Breakthrough

Graduating with a teaching degree in December can be a tricky thing. For me, I was in an area with too many teachers and not enough classrooms. While it may be an ideal situation for a school district, it was hard on me for finding work, so my solution was to sign up as a substitute teacher. Within the first few weeks, a principal from a nearby school called offering me a job as a long term sub for a first-grade classroom while their teacher was on maternity leave. I was overjoyed! The job wouldn’t start for a few months, but the teacher requested me to come in a few times to get a feel for the classroom and learn their daily schedule. 

I spent the next two months visiting the classroom about once a week, helping here and there, and getting to know the students. Right away, I could tell they all really loved their teacher, and even though they were excited for her to have her baby, they were sad to see her leave. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but immediately, I was intimidated. I felt like these kids already knew I was less of a teacher and that they would resent me for taking her place. Without even realizing, I started promoting myself to them, trying to prove that I would be a sufficient replacement. 

Every time I visited the classroom I promised them new things. “Guys, when I come to teach you we will do fun things!” My list grew and grew with promises. 

You love legos? Great! I’ll bring legos!

We can color ALL OF THE TIME. 

I have some super fun books that I can read to you guys! We can do read alouds all day long! 

Do you play the violin? We should find a day for you to play it for us! 

This was me showing them that I could be a fun teacher too. I was doubting my abilities, so obviously they had to be doubting them as well. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this would backfire. In fact, it only took one day. 

I walked in on my first day with the highest hopes and walked out at the end of the day in tears. Four kids had been shuttled to the principal’s office before lunch. During reading time we didn’t even make it through the text because there was too much side talking for anyone to concentrate. And walking through the hallways was a joke. I could not keep enough order to keep them in line, let alone quiet enough to not disrupt other classrooms. In fact, another teacher stepped into the hallway and yelled at the kids as we walked by because they were losing control. I was losing control. I knew I was failing. 

I had a 25-minute drive home to think about what went wrong and how I needed to fix it. As I pulled into my driveway, it all dawned on me. I never tried to be their teacher, I only tried to be their friend. And even though I truly believe in having a good relationship with your students and teaching to their needs, I also know that my prime role in the classroom is a teacher. 

Continuing on in my reflecting, I also came to realize that I actually didn’t have to prove myself to them. All of these inadequacies I was feeling came only from me, not from them. That night I sat down and made myself a plan for day two. Something needed to change in order for us to make it through the next 9 weeks together. 

Tuesday morning I started off different than their teacher ever had. I stood by the door, which immediately caught them off guard. I instructed each student as they entered to head to the rug for a meeting, to which most students gave me weird looks or protested because it was so out of the norm for them. 

Once we were all seated, I apologized to them for how the day had run previously. I apologized that I didn’t have better control of the class, that we were not able to learn much from the lack of management, and for the disruptions that hindered our day. I felt vulnerable in front of these first-graders apologizing for my mistakes, but it was a great learning moment for all of us. 

After apologizing to them, I laid out my expectations clear and simple for them. Talking while I am talking would not be tolerated. Walking through the hallways would look like quiet, respectful students who walked, not ran. Further expectations followed but ended with a powerful statement that I repeated to them for the remainder of my time there. I told them that they were the BEST class in the whole entire school and that they only sent me to be their teacher because of their exceptional behavior, and that I expected them to uphold this. 

Most of them did not believe me at first, they were known as a hard class throughout the school and they knew that. But I can promise you, I changed their minds by the time I left them. 

By the end of day two, I cannot say that we had a miraculous change. But I can say that there was an improvement. I took on the role of a teacher and it made a big difference. Little by little, we had better and better days. They were quietly walking through the hallways and raising their hands to speak more often. We still had our struggles and I still worked hard to maintain their confidence that they were the best class in the entire school, even when I was doubting it myself. 

I finally realized I had corrected my mistake a few weeks in as I walked my class to the library. They quietly filed in and followed the instructions of the librarian. Our school librarian looked at me in amazement and congratulated me. I asked what for and she said, “I have never seen this class behave so well, you are doing an incredible job with them! You must have been exactly what this class needed.” 

I had a little smile on my face as I walked back to the classroom. Little did she know, our first days together were chaotic and we hadn’t learned a thing, and it wasn’t necessarily the student’s fault, it was mine. 

I learned so many things from my long term sub job. One big takeaway that has helped me in my teaching is that classroom management is key and that relationships with students thrive after expectations are set. I couldn’t connect with them because I couldn’t gain control long enough to know them. 

I ended my 9 weeks of teaching with some of the greatest student relationships I have ever made. I may have taught them phonics and how to add two-digit numbers, but they taught me how to be the best teacher. And the most satisfying moment was when another teacher commented on how my class was one of the best in the whole school. I knew the potential was there all along, we just all needed to believe it a little more. 

What does your classroom management look like? How do you establish it with each new class? 

Cover Photo: deathtothestockphoto.com

How ‘Empowered’ Can Make You Feel….. Empowered.

Let’s talk about books that help us become better teachers. There are typical books like What Works in Schools by Robert Marzano. There is also Teachers And Machines: The Classroom Use Of Technology Since 1920 by Larry Cuban. While I’ve never read either of them, I am certain they are excellent at giving all of the information they are trying to get across in a very explicit way. 

After I read the book Empowered by Nathan Cureton, I realized that not all informational, inspiring teacher books needed to be direct learning. While I do recognize that there are a time and a place for the more straightforward books, I appreciated the different aspect that Nathan used while writing Empowered

The book is a fictional story about a school counselor that meets with and helps the teachers of the school, both new and old, work through their classroom management to create an ideal classroom culture. He uses the power of a fictional storyline to bring you into a world that is very realistic with common situations and problems that teachers face today, then helps you solve these problems by watching Kris, the school counselor, work with each teacher on improving their classrooms day by day. All of these tips Kris is giving to the teachers are tips that each of us can glean for our own classrooms.

It amazed me how powerful the indirect text was as I read it. Reading about that teacher who struggled with students blurting out made me feel like someone knew exactly what I felt like trying to manage a 9th-grade class for the first time. I connected with the book and those fictional teachers on such a personal level. I found myself thinking a few times in the book, “No! Paul! That’s not how Kris told you to handle your classroom!! STOP!” 

Nathan talks about how each classroom has its own unique culture, it’s own way it functions and runs. Each teacher’s room has a different culture from the next, and in the book he points out how students go from one classroom to the next, transferring into different expectations from different people. This is why explicit expectations need to be taught because one teacher is fine with a dull roar throughout the classroom at all times. The next has a strict “no talking while I am” rule. While Mr. Smith across the hall has constant chatter. It’s only fair to the students to explicitly let them know what you expect in your classroom. 

After reading this, I had a moment of, “Oh. Duh.” This is what I needed to read before I started teaching. Isn’t it funny how I spent four years during undergrad learning this, yet after I had some teaching experience and read this book, that’s when it sunk in? 

Whether you’re still in school, it’s your first year teaching, or you’ve been teaching for years and years, I highly recommend reading Empowered. Lose yourself in Kris’ journey, and maybe learn a little classroom management while you’re at it! 

Teachers & Parents: Who Deals with the Pressure of Mandates?

“I just don’t know what to do. He has zero interest in the paper books that come home to practice sight words.”

Anxiety. Fear. Worries about falling behind. It was like I was looking in a mirror from several years back when I was stressing about my reluctant kindergartner.

Only this time, as the kindergarten teacher (and as a somewhat-less-neurotic parent than I once was), I was able to offer all the reassurance that I wished I had received for my kindergartner.

I told the parent, “If he is expressing disinterest in those practice books, please don’t push them. It means he just isn’t ready yet, and that is perfectly ok.”

That precise concern was what made me hesitate in sending home those books to begin with. They are part of a program that pushes reading faster and earlier than was ever expected of kindergarten even a few years ago (our state now has standardized testing even for kindergarten that expects them to be reading by the end of the year).

Schools here must comply with these standards in order to keep their doors open. And so, cushioned by as much developmentally-appropriate play as possible, we engage in guided reading, word study, shared/independent reading and writing, and sending home these paper books to practice sight word recognition, in order to coax literacy along.

But just because I’m feeling the pressure of the latest state standard, does that mean I should transfer that pressure to parents, or heaven forbid, to the children themselves?

There are those who believe that warning parents of the growing demands–that if they don’t push, the kids will fall behind–is a kindness; I can see why they would feel that way. They do not want parents to be blind-sided by the increasing pressures from grade level to grade level.

But we can equip parents with tools without alarming them, or putting them in a scarcity mindset with their young children that will only make children hate learning before they’ve even really started. It may be the teacher’s role to shoulder the pressures from educational mandates, but I don’t believe we need to push that on parents. Rather, we can focus on our shared roles as teachers and parents on nurturing a lifelong learner, on preserving and cultivating the innate curiosity we all inherit.

Which is why my weekly emails now include this reminder about those paper books:

“Thank you so much for doing your best to read these with your children at home. These are meant to help your child retain our sight words throughout the year, but of course the most important reading is the kind that makes your child love reading! Stories they choose, text you guys identify as you drive or look at restaurant menus, and other forms of reading are all so beneficial.” 

As I often try to point out, capital “S” struggles–such as developmental delays, disability, and profound lack of access to resources–these are all caveats that should never be dismissed when making decisions on the timing for and types of interventions that might be needed. But barring these extreme circumstances, most children will flourish at their own developmental pace if given the space and resources to do so.

It just so happened that that readiness was closer than either I or my student’s parent thought. Not 2 weeks later, this parent returned and told me, “I don’t know happened! I did what you said and stopped pushing those practice books. And now suddenly he is excited about trying to read everything! It’s hard to keep up!”

And I just smiled to see this beautiful & familiar pattern unfold yet again: when in doubt, go with the child.

Do You Wonder How to Teach Those Bubbly, Curious, Social Students?

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Do you have a student that is lively, incredibly perceptive, and curious? Do they also struggle with multiple details and things that are too planned out? You may be teaching an ENFP. 

Extroverted
I(n)tuition 
Feelings 
Perceiving 

ENFPs are your students who can get by with little to no planning. In fact, the idea of a schedule or a detailed plan causes them stress, because of their perceiving nature. They are also the social, bubbly, energetic students. Does this sound familiar to you for any of the kids in your classroom?

An ENFP student is usually eager to learn and eager to help others. This can have so much advantage in the classroom because they can be used as a resource to help other students both academically and socially. 

Schools and classrooms are based on policies and procedures, which are two big stressors for ENFPs. They work better in an open, free environment that is theirs to explore. So how you do find this balance with them? First, remember to be patient with them. 

Our schools and careers run on schedules and while this is hard for an ENFP, it’s important for them to learn how to handle. Remember when they start showing signs of stress or having a hard time learning, it may be best to let them have free time to learn and explore how they want. That could be as simple as recess time, or as complicated as a setup station with the means to be as creative as they can. 

Since ENFPs fall into the feelers category, feelings are a big part of their learning style. The more they see the benefit of learning a topic to the improvement of themselves or others, the more likely they are to find excitement on the subject. This is why they end up in professions such as doctors, counselors, or teachers. 

Is your ENFP student struggling to understand a concept? 

Try explaining it two or three different ways to them. They have a better time grasping ideas when they have multiple ways to understand it. 

Are they having a hard time knowing how to regroup when subtracting two-digit numbers? They are active, hands-on learners. Try setting up the math problem using break-apart base ten blocks for them to hold, create, and solve the problem on their own. 

More often than not, concepts are taught to students in the order the process normally functions. Again, looking at subtracting two-digit numbers using regrouping. How many teachers out there have said this rhyme with their students at least 50 times a day? I know I have. In different voices and silly hand and body movements to make it just a little more… fun?

More on the top? 
No need to stop! 
More on the floor? 
Go next door and get ten more! 

This can work so well for so many students, however, if an ENFP student is not understanding it, try jumping around to different parts of the subtraction process and explaining it. This may not make sense to you, but to them, it can make a big difference. 

“ENFPs can also easily grasp a significant amount of information lacking strong conceptual connections. Whether or not material is presented in a systematic and logical way is not of great importance to them.” 

Humanmetrics.com

ENFP students have great strengths and weaknesses. I know that if you take the time to find the ENFP students in your classroom and spend a little more time fostering their specific needs, it can make the biggest difference in your classroom and in their lives. That’s the power of teaching to the student, not to the test. 

Cover Photo: https://www.mbtionline.com/

A Lesson We Can All Learn From Mr. Meyers

I had a teacher in 6th grade named Mr. Meyers. He taught at the school across town for years, then transferred to our elementary school the year I was in his class. As sixth-grade students and especially sixth graders in an elementary school, we were determined to run the classroom that year, since we had a new teacher in a new environment. I’m sure all of you teachers out there know exactly what I am talking about. 

We were constantly testing his patience by requesting irrational things like, let’s only do math once a week! And, let’s have extended recess during our lunch recess since we are the last kids to go inside anyway! He was always working out deals with us so that we were both satisfied, such as, if we worked really hard all week on our math lessons, we would have Fridays off during math for free time instead. 

We all felt so in control. Little did we know, he had complete control and was also teaching us life lessons that I still carry with me today. 

One situation that sticks out so vivid in my mind was our seating chart. He created groups of 4-5 throughout the classroom and somehow planned it so perfectly that not a single person had a friend in their group. After making my fair share of seating charts years later, I am still baffled at how he managed to plan this one so strategically. Every single student was angry about the arrangement of the seats. 

I can still name every student that was in my group. David, Kelsey, Houston, Mitchell, and me. All of us had gone to school together for over six years now, some of us even back to preschool. And growing up in a small town, our parents even knew each other on a personal basis as well. 

Yet, until that day, none of us had spoked a word to each other. The same was true for the four other groups scattered throughout the room. The second each of us realized what had happened, we retaliated. We boycotted the seating arrangement, moved our desks on our own to create the new groups that we liked. We refused to learn or listen to what Mr. Meyers was teaching. 

I’m certain at this point, our teacher had felt like he lost control and probably panicked a little as well. But in time, he pulled himself together and called a class meeting. We discussed concerns and issues in a mature (sixth grade) way, then finally came to a resolution that we didn’t love, but we were pretty sure we could cheat the system on. 

Mr. Meyers told us that if we learned how to work together and be friends, he would move our seats. We whispered to one another that all we had to do was act like friends and he would move us. Simple. 

The next day the class put on our fake smiles and acted like best friends. 

“Hey, Kels! Cuuuuute shoes! Wow, you are SO LUCKY to have them, I wish my mom would have bought me the exact same ones! You’re so cool!” This was a very similar sentence I really did say to the other girl in my group. Kelsey and I were not friends. We were different in every way and I truly did not like her shoes. But we had to convince our teacher that we were friends! 

Our overdramatic talking and fake bright eyes were definitely noticed by our teacher. But not in the way we hoped. He knew better. He knew we didn’t just become friends overnight, but that smart man did not say a word. He continued on to let us speak to one another in chipper voices, pretending like we have been besties from day one. 

Slowly, over time, our attitudes changed. Our group would always ask Mitchell for help with math because we realized he was really good at it. And of course, Mr. Meyer had to be noticing that we were using one another as a resource! Look! We’re friends! 

Eventually, we found out that David was excellent at storytelling, although sometimes we questioned how much of it was true. Houston had a unique sense of humor that constantly had us laughing out loud, sometimes even when we shouldn’t have been. And although Kelsey was so opposite from me, we ended up finding out that we both loved to dance. 

The day came when Mr. Meyers announced that we would be moving seats. For a few seconds, the room was still. Silence hung heavy in the air as the class processed what was happening. We were supposed to cheer and be happy! This is exactly what we wanted! But what followed was everyone exclaiming, NOOOO! Please don’t! This isn’t fair! We love our groups! And the kicker is, this was all genuine. We really did come to love the people we were around and the friends we truly had made. 

Mr. Meyers pulled a fast one on us. 

He told us to become friends, so we pretended to be. In the process, we did find great friendship and positive aspects of each and every person. 

The rest of the school year our seat assignments continued to change over time, but our new friends were still there. Even continuing into middle and high school, they remained. 

David, Houston, and Kelsey eventually moved away before high school graduation. But Mitchell and I were still there. After the ceremony when the hugs and pictures commenced, Mitchell and I gave each other a look from across the way, because while we didn’t stay close through the years, there was always a little light of a friendship that never quite burnt out. And we owe that to Mr. Meyers. 

So why am I telling you this? Because my teacher my sixth grade year taught me crucial lessons that I have carried on to this day. 

First, I am capable of working with anyone. I have worked with my fair share of co-workers in a school setting and unfortunately, we didn’t always see eye to eye. But because of one situation in my elementary school days, I remember to look for the positive in others and can make a friend. 

I also learned how to be a better friend, because friendship goes both ways. 

The most important lesson, however, was that he was aware of us. He saw our strengths and weaknesses, then placed us in groups that strengthened each other. He wasn’t just there to make it through the math textbook with us, or make us write over and over. He looked beyond the standardized testing and taught us how to become better humans. Mr. Meyers sent us into 7th grade not only smarter, but more compassionate, more empathetic, and with more friends. 

He taught me what a difference one teacher in my life can make, and how influential they can be to students. Each student I now come in contact with I think to myself, will I make a positive impact in their lives? Or will I just be another adult that gives them a test at the end of the year? How I treat them is ultimately the deciding factor.

Let’s all keep a little Mr. Meyers in us. Let’s send our students on with not only the tools they need to solve problems and take tests but to make and keep friendships, even the unlikely ones.  Let’s make a difference in our student’s lives.

Cover Photo: Pexels.com

A Quick List of Fall Books For The Classroom

We are now well into fall and a fall book list is a must. I always say if I could live in one season forever, it would definitely be fall, hands down. I’ve often wondered if there is a place that exists where autumn lasts all year, and then I recall the life cycle of trees and how it is not possible for them to forever be in this state. But of course, Anne says it best.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

-L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables

A few picture books that are perfect for any fall day in the classroom:

Fall Mixed Up! 

I will warn you. Only read this book to your students if you’re prepared for continual laughing. This book is wacky and silly and so perfect for when you just need a change of attitude in your classroom!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves 

This cute story tells of a fox showing empathy for a tree losing its leaves. He is deeply concerned for the tree, up until he sees how beautiful it is on the first day of winter. 

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves 

We all love the old lady who swallowed a fly, but now she’s swallowing leaves! What is there not to love about that!? If you’re into felt storyboards, this book is perfect for one. 

Room on the Broom 

A fun Halloween based book about a witch that adds more and more friends to her broom. Again, another great felt storyboard book! 

Charlotte’s Web

This literary classic is a must-read in every classroom. The setting starts in the early fall, then reaches into early winter, making it a great read-aloud book for this time of the year. 

What autumn books have you read to your class this year?