Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life Makes Sense...Finally

(Author's Note: This post was originally written in the fall of 2008, but since tomorrow my kids are taking the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, I thought I'd look around my unpublished blog posts and see if I had written anything about personality in the past. Of course...there were several. A few modifications, plus a title change and here we are at a blog post. For now, I'm not linking to anything in this post yet...I will eventually. I'm simply too tired.)

Who I am? Last night I was reading my personality traits book. I'm not sure what this obsession is with my personality. It makes me think I'm trying to figure out who I am, finally, after all these years. Am I going through a mid-life crisis? I don't know. But all of a sudden I am once again intrigued with what my personality says about me.

It's not all of a sudden. For 20 years I've been infatuated. Consumed by traits and charactersistics of myself, my students, my friends, my family. In college, I took the Myers-Briggs as often as possible. I even stooped to the lowest levels of personality testing (and I'm not including the ones on Facebook.) I took color personality tests, animal personality tests, food personality tests, even biblical personality tests. Sounds narcistic, I know. Embarrassing to admit.

When I started teaching, I began to look at ways I could use personality testing in my classroom as a means to get to know my students and to experiment with collaborative learning groups based on the traits. When I first started learning about and teaching Shakespeare, I was in awe of his ability to put personality into the very being of all of his characters with precision and purpose. The Four Humours during Elizabethan times seems to snag the interest of my students...maybe talking about yellow and black bile does that. But moving ahead and transitioning to the modern era of the four personality types and reading Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey, hooked me into to using personality testing in my classroom. Since then, I've asked students take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter in my classroom, calculate their results, read through their personality characteristics, and respond in writing workshop to what plays out in front of them. Most are overwhelmingly shocked by the accuracy. I ask the kids to provide stories and details about their traits. "If your personality indicates you have a tendency to be late, can you write about time when this was an issue for you? Or possibly you already know this about yourself, have you reversed the tendency? If so, how?"

Using the personality test also helps kids think about the actions and personality of characters in the books they read. In their 3-week Letter Essay about what they've been reading, many students pull out distinct traits, and are able to write about decisions they think characters will make throughout the book once they get to know them. It's almost as if the book, in some way, becomes relevant to their own learning because they connect the real world of growing, living, decisive human beings to fictional characters. This produces some pretty amazing results in writing, too, and I can easily ask a student "Are you writing him as a Guardian Supervisor?" This sparks inquiry and research on the character traits begins.

I have to admit watching the students discover their personality is inspiring. It's not as if they don't know who they are, but for the first time, it's like life, their life, is making sense to them.

As for me, I'm always discovering who I am. For today, I'm an Idealist Champion...a catalyst, it says. If I were in Chem I, I'd be that substance that accelerates a chemical reaction. In life, sometimes I'm that person that helps activity happen between others. I like to think even, that sometimes I can help bring about change, or cause others to bring out their own energy, enthusiasm, and friendliness. Mostly, I like to think this lesson on personality is a simple catalyst for students to start leading a reflective life full of learning. One can only hope.