Have you ever noticed how some people seem to naturally have traits that make teaching seem effortless to them, while others may struggle in a specific area? Maybe you have personal experiences where your personality traits have made certain elements of teaching difficult for you while others just seem to come naturally.
Understanding your personality traits through the lens of what psychologists call “The Big 5 Personality Traits” also known as “O.C.E.A.N.” can give you insight and strategies to close the gap between where you are with your teaching and where you want to be. Let’s explore!
Openness to experience is a trait characterized by creativity, adventurousness, and a broad range of interests. People who are high in openness tend to like new ideas and think in abstract concepts while people low in openness tend to be more analytical and traditional.
Open to new experiences
Not very imaginative
How to improve:
If you are high in openness use your creativity to your advantage when planning activities but remember to base your teaching outcomes on concrete measurable data.
If you are low in openness and struggle to find creative resources to bring to your classroom consider asking others for ideas or searching for and or purchasing resources online.
Conscientiousness is the trait that is characterized by a person’s organization, attention to detail, and goal-directedness. Conscientious people do what they say they will do and tend to be, on time and reliable.
How To Improve:
If you are high in conscientiousness this likely serves you well in the classroom, but you may have students that are not used to structure. Consider ways to help your students learn to be more conscientious by using things like checklists for task completion and visible manipulatives like timers to help students conceptualize time management and organization.
If you are low in conscientiousness then create a routine with time limits to help you with daily tasks (the “Routinist” app for iPhone is great for this). Try to form a habit of immediately writing down tasks (preferably in a smart phone with a reminder alarm) in one place and find a way to remind yourself to look back at them later. Create lists with time limits and follow them using a timer. Find a method of organization that works for you or ask a conscientious friend what they do and follow that as a routine. Conscientiousness is like a muscle, it can be improved but it takes time and work.
Extraversion is characterized a persons sociability, expressiveness, and ability to gain energy from social situations. Extraverts tend to like to be the center of attention and have broad circles of friends.
Exhausted by a lot of social interaction
Difficult to start conversations or make small talk
Prefers solitude or small group of friends
How to improve:
If you are high in extraversion, this makes standing up in front of your students and teaching easy and enjoyable. You can improve by being aware that not everyone like being the center of attention and being careful not to single students out unless they are comfortable with it. This could mean singing tests in small groups or pairing students for tasks.
If you are low in extraversion, teaching and seeing people all day may exhaust you. Be sure to take your lunchtime to recharge and try to schedule your days so you are not constantly overwhelming yourself with social interactions after work. In short learn to be “on the stage” but give yourself time to recover.
Agreeable people tend to be kind, empathetic and cooperative. They tend to say yes a lot and hate disappointing people.
Care about others and put them first
Empathetic and cooperative
Often say yes and tend to over-commit
Competitive and self-concerned
Don’t tend to care how others feel about them
Little interest for sympathy for others
How to improve:
I you are high in agreeableness you are likely very caring but may struggle to stand up for yourself and may not be taken seriously at times. Work on taking care of your own needs before involving yourself with others. Also, learn about personal and professional boundaries and how to say no when you are unable or unwilling to do something.
If you are low in agreeableness, begin to realize that others can be one of your greatest assets and learn how to help and cooperate with others. Learn how to take the interests and problems of others into account without compromising yourself. Begin to realize that giving to others with no expectation of getting something out of it can be beneficial in and of itself.
Neuroticism is an individual’s sensitivity to emotional pain and worry. Becoming easily sad, scared, or experiencing mood swings are characteristics of this personality trait.
Easily upset or stressed
Mood swings dramatically
How to improve:
If you are high in neuroticism, then adopt the belief that life is happening for you not to you. Try to organize your life in a way that is predictable and safe enough for to take some risks in the classroom without loosing your cool. Have a set of friends or support systems who are patient and will help you sort through your emotions.
If you are low in neuroticism then it is helpful realize that some of your students may not be. Be creative in finding ways to help you more neurotic students and colleagues be at peace with new ideas and changes and help them see what they can gain from new experiences and what measures have been taken to give them peace of mind.
Which one of these personality traits makes if difficult for you in the classroom? What do you plan to do to improve it?