Milty Goes to Connecticut

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 26 2011

A Wall and a Panel

I have a lot of storming the castle walls rhetoric in my posts. (And also this one anomalous reference to a bundt pan.)  I’m not really that much of a firebrand; probably more like Ender’s Locke and Demosthenes. Daring in print; diffident in person. I’m much more of a wait-and-see negotiator than a, well, storm-the-castle-walls knight. I enjoy the anonymity of the internet where my ideas can earn merit or ire on their own merit instead attached to me. I think it has a lot to do with my personality.

I’ve been pretty obsessed with MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Index or Inventory, something like that). I can see the appeal. It’s a somewhat quantitative measure of why I behave the way I do. It’s comforting to know that between 1 and 5 percent of the population would rather be around ideas than people and also find human behavior a little befuddling. Here’s where we come back to teaching. INTPs (introverted, intuitive, thinker, perceivers) are not often teachers, particularly not high school or elementary school teachers. If they do teach, they are professors. Others often see them as cold, robotic, unfeeling, intimidating. I am often described by people who like me as “dignified” and “calm”; I can only assume that people who don’t like me would describe me as “emotionally deficient” or “distant”.  I even sometimes creep people out because I just sit and watch what’s going on around me.

Draw a couple of lines and guess why INTPs aren’t teachers. I don’t nurture well. I’m not interested in re-teaching and my theories are more interesting to me than my students. Some days I don’t feel like talking at all. That being said, it has been essential for me to push outside of my natural inclinations, try to build relationship and be interested in other people – not just their ideas. I can only become better by trying to buttress my weak traits. I’m ready to get into a field that suits my head and my tiny, tiny heart. (*smiles*)

I sat on a informational panel for TFA last night at a university here in New Haven. One girl approached me afterwards and asked if there is a specific teacher personality. There’s this myth out in the educational ether that to be a great teacher you must be the John F. Kennedy of your classroom – a charismatic leader of men. When TFA staff mention investment, it’s like everyone conjures this picture of himself, looking faraway and visionary while his students cheer and swoon. Charismatic leadership does work – look at Kennedy or my brother – but it is not the only way. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is maybe not the most inspiring public figure but she is successful. I certain don’t have a classroom cult going with me as their leader, either. I am organized, efficient and pragmatic. The conflict arises more from my lack of desire to build personal relationships, one of the foundations of modern education and discipline. I prefer to maintain my emotional distance. I prefer to let others tilt at windmills, shout and throw things, picket and protest and storm the castle walls.

So the decision to move on to more rational pastures should surprise few. But I’m not a robot; I promise.

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    Charmingly (maybe) Existential (possible) Musings (read: rants) on My TFA Tenure

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