The Powerful Potential of Exploring Personality Types

Over the past few weeks, I have caught the #KidsDeserveIt bug and am enjoying all the positive energy on Twitter and Voxer. Infact, this morning my husband had to pull me off a Voxer chat to ask for my help with something for work. This is a rare request so I was excited to find that he needed me to send him photos for an “about me” slide. He is hosting global team this week and apparently a presentation is part of his duties.

Along with the photos, he texted and asked me to look up his four letters…? What?

I had no idea what that was about until my son, Cole reminded me that we had all taken the personality test at 16 Personalities.  This was a significant exploration for my son who was feeling frustrated about being an “introvert” --especially in a land of some pretty strong “extroverts.” The test suggested that he is an INTJ – “Imaginative and strategic thinkers, with a plan for everything.” The website had an entire page talking up the really cool aspects of this unique personality type in a way that truly empowered him to see that his lens of the world actually made sense - - at least to himself and the other INTJs. Who wouldn’t be jazzed up to be described as someone who, “believe(s) that with effort, intelligence and consideration, nothing is impossible…” Of course, we all giggled a little at the end of the sentence that reads, “… While at the same time they believe that people are too lazy, short-sighted or self-serving to actually achieve those fantastic results.” It was pretty accurate.

 This morning, however, I was in search of my husband’s profile which he shared with our daughter, Anna Mae. They are both described as, ENTJ – “The Commander” -- “bold, imaginative and strong-willed leaders, always finding a way – or making one.” If you live with an ENTJ you will understand that Cole and I shared an eye roll when we read this gem, “If there's anything ENTJs love, it's a good challenge, big or small, and they firmly believe that given enough time and resources, they can achieve any goal.” However, “their Extroverted (E) nature means they are likely to push everyone else right along with them…” Yes, what they accomplish is spectacular, but they are also-- dare I say – a little bossy…

Anyway, as long as I was “surfing” the 16 Personalities website I had a little fun reading my profile and giggling at the pleasant slant within the description. I’m an ENFP – “The Campaigner” –“Enthusiastic, creative and sociable free spirit, who can always find a reason to smile.” A more pessimistic person once said-- within my earshot, “The problem with Theresa is, she is just too damn happy.” I took it as a compliment, but realized some, unfortunately, find my “kill’em with kindness attitude annoying. I digress.

Here’s the part I love, “ENFPs' self-esteem is dependent on their ability to come up with original solutions, and they need to know that they have the freedom to be innovative – they can quickly lose patience or become dejected if they get trapped in a boring role.” As a middle school ELA teacher, I appreciate that “original solutions,” are critical, and frankly, my vocation is never “boring.”

The more I read – the more I recognized that this may be a great resource for students. I could weave the personality test into our exploration into metacognition. Each year we talk about “thinking about our thinking.” However, this may give some students a tangible reflection on the way they think. Conceding that it might not feel totally accurate for some – the ability to describe that is in and of itself a critical task in being metacognitive.

Additionally, there are a number of articles on the site that would be super fun to “jigsaw” with students. For example, Metaphorically (Or Literally) Speaking: Figurative Language And Personality Type, describes how some personalities respond to various types of creative language – perhaps sparking a discussion on why the books that make our hearts sing can be very different.

An article titled, Game On: Which Personality Types Enjoy Video Games? reports on which personalities are most likely drawn to video games. Again, this may open an opportunity to tap into a popular interest while validating those who have other ideas of fun. Also, we could ask if the description is always accurate? Or is it accurate all the time? There are many ways we can re-frame and think about our own and other’s thinking.

Another idea would be to try to fill in the test from the perspective of a fictional character. In the end, does the description work for the character? How are they the same or different? If students were going to write using a persona could they use the description to stay in character? Over all, I think this could be lots of fun.

Most importantly, as I am entrenched in the themes of the #KidsDeserveIt book –empowering and celebrating the unique students we serve, I’m super excited about the potential of helping a student see the positives within his or her personality. My ENTJ Cole may not understand the art of “small talk,” but his “insightful observations, original ideas and formidable logic” keep the rest of us on our toes. Frankly, I think after recognizing that in himself he sees a little more clearly just how cool he really is.  

How would you use the 16 Personalities to empower students? I'd love to hear your ideas!