I had the privilege of attending an amazing workshop on Monday with author and researcher Jane Kise. It was a part of our Elmhurst D205 Professional Learning Strand initiative where teachers get to pick one topic and delve deeply into it throughout the year. Her presentation was part of the Teacher Leadership cohort, but could have applied to any of the other four strands – Innovation, Inquiry, Behavioral Health, or Workshop Model.
The part that I found most fascinating was regarding people’s psychological preferences and how that affects pretty much every aspect of life. She discussed four different types and had us consider which type we were.
- Sensing & Thinking
- Sensing & Feeling
- Intuition & Feeling
- Intuition & Thinking
We then got into groups with others who approach the world like we do and discussed the following prompts:
- Three ways we contribute to teacher efficacy
- If you want to influence us please…
- And please don’t…
It was amazing how easy it was to consider these ideas with like-minded individuals and how normal it made the little things that I had thought were weird quirks about myself seem. I am an Intuition/Thinking type so I thrive on seeing the Big Picture. I think about future implications and design coherent plans based on those ideas. I love challenges and many times prefer to work alone. It was funny answering the last two bullets because we all immediately said people who influence us have to be knowledgeable and if someone doesn’t have a plan it makes us go crazy.
If you are reading this right now and thinking, “Wait…doesn’t everyone think this way?” then you might be an intuitive thinker. If you are wondering why I didn’t list considering the feelings of others as important, then you might be a Sensing & Feeling type or one of the others. The important thing to remember is that there isn’t “one best type.” It’s just related to our preferences and how we approach things. Like being right or left-handed, our tendency is innate, but we can learn the others.
Our preferences connect with our strengths, but can also be a source of our blind spots. When we get so used to thinking about things and approaching them the same way we may be missing out on better ways of doing something or we may be ostracizing others causing resistance to new ideas. One way to avoid our blind spots is to regularly collaborate and ask for feedback from trusted colleagues who have a different lens. If you are leading a team (or classroom of students), checking in regularly with a survey or meeting is another way. Try to create groups that include people who have diverse perspectives. If this is not possible, consider what blind spots the group may have and work to address them when making decisions.
As a principal, I have started asking for feedback from my staff at the end of each trimester through a survey. It is broken down into four categories to better pinpoint our strengths and areas for growth: Operations/Logistics, Communication, Professional Learning/Instructional Leadership, & Relationships. (click here for a copy) I review the results independently for individual reflection, and then meet with my leadership team to create responsive plans. The more I think about this I am realizing the importance of connecting with a coach or colleague in a different building who approaches leadership from a different lens to help me with regular reflection.
It’s impossible to think about blindspots as a leader without considering classroom implications. What are our teaching tendencies? Creating predictable structures and routines is a hallmark of good teaching, but what might we be missing if we always do things the exact same way? When is it appropriate and how often are we asking students for feedback on our classroom? If a student is struggling, is it because they lack knowledge or is it because we’re not structuring learning experiences in a way that connects with them?
I’m not advocating changing every moment of the day to fit each child’s preference. Just like learning to write with the opposite hand, kids can learn to work in a variety of non-preferred structures. However, considering that they may approach or think about the world in a different way than the way we are structuring learning might help us to figure out the puzzle of students who appear unreachable or disengaged. For example, a student who views the world through a Sensing-Thinking lens craves structure, immediate feedback, organization, and right or wrong answers. If your classroom is filled with mostly open-ended projects, explorations and collaborative work this student may start to feel frustrated with school even though you are using practices that most students adore. Giving students opportunities to work in structures that connect with their lens will help to engage all learners in school. A simple way to do this is to offer choice throughout the day in your classroom. If you are interested in learning more about the four lenses and how they connect to choices you might offer in the classroom, click here.
Our strengths are what make us individually great, but considering our blindspots and being open to feedback and other perspectives will create a place where everyone’s greatness is maximized.