February 13, 2009


I found an excellent article which may help teachers understand the nerd mindset. In Where Are All the Rationals?, I talked about these students and how their personalities are completely different than almost all of their teachers'. I suggested that teachers might do well to learn more about this type of student.

As a nerd myself, I can tell you that this article is pretty spot-on as far as describing nerd psychology goes.

So - here you go! Enjoy!

The Nerd Handbook

February 8, 2009

Where Are All the Rationals?

Some students want to be engineers. Some want to be computer programmers. Some students want to be researchers, scientists, business strategists, professors, judges, economists, pilots, inventors, writers, and financial planners. Unfortunately, these students have very few, if any, role models in the public school system.

David Keirsey believed that personalities could be placed into four large categories: guardians, idealists, artisans, and rationals.

Artisans are observant and pragmatic. Their greatest strength is tactical variation. Their most developed intelligence operations is either expediting or improvising.

Guardians are observant and cooperative. Guardians seek membership or belonging and are concerned with responsibility and duty. Their greatest strength is logistical intelligence. They excel at organizing, facilitating, checking, and supporting.

Idealists are introspective and cooperative. Idealists seek meaning and significance and are concerned with finding their own unique identity. Their greatest strength is diplomatic intelligence. They excel at clarifying, unifying, individualizing, and inspiring.

Rationals are introspective and pragmatic. Rationals seek mastery, and self-control and are concerned with their own knowledge and competence. Their greatest strength is strategic intelligence. They excel in any kind of logical investigation such as engineering, conceptualizing, theorizing, and coordinating.

Without a doubt, most teachers are Guardians or Idealists. A few are Artisans. Very rarely will you find a K-12 educator who is a Rational. In fact, Rationals make up only 5% - 10% of the entire population, and these people almost never choose K-12 education as a career.

All Rationals share the following core characteristics:
  • Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.
  • Rationals pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.
  • Rationals make reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders.
  • Rationals are even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.

Rationals are rare, but we do have Rational students in our schools. They are an underserved population. These kids go to school and are a taught by adults whose personalities are completely different from their own. Most teachers don't understand their mindset, and I've seen students become visibly frustrated about this. Almost all teachers are "people people" with little interest in technical or theoretical pursuits. On the whole, I'd have to say that this is a good thing, even for the Rational students. But it's true that these students have hopes and dreams and ways of thinking that none of their teachers can remotely relate to. They pick up on that.

Before you send me any hate mail, I do want to say this. It's vitally important for a school to have a wide variety of personalities on its teaching force. We need Guardians, Idealists, and Artisans. Homogeneity is boring and dangerous, and it's not a very good way to educate kids or open minds. It's important that all students, regardless of their personalities, have someone they can relate to. It's also important that kids be exposed to personality types other than their own.

Teachers should have awareness about this though. We're all trained on how to handle individual differences among students. In college and during workshops, we're trained how to work with ELL, ADD, EBD, learning disabilities, gifted & talented, medical conditions, GLBT, different races and ethnicities, different religions, SES, the list goes on and on. Why aren't we given training on personality types? I don't mean to suggest that Rationals face the same kind of challenges as ELL or GLBT students, but they do deserve more attention than they're getting.

Keirsey's four temperaments are closely associated with the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator. This instrument has received criticism from social scientists, and the Big Five Personality Traits is widely considered to be a much better theory. While the MBTI may not be a totally accurate model of reality, it is accurate enough for the point I'm trying to make here, which is that there is a slight mismatch between teacher personalities and student personalities.

P.S. Brent Spiner is an amazing actor.

February 4, 2009

High School Theater and Community

One reason I decided to become a teacher is that I was drawn toward the sense of community one gets by working in a school. By contrast, the business world is made up of “rational maximizers of self-interest” (not my phrase, but one that I like). I worked within corporations for six years during and after college and was somewhat depressed about the individualistic attitude of the whole thing. Schools aren’t like that.

The school’s drama club performed a production of The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman. I’ve been involved with community theater in the past and thought it would be fun to see this. It was amazing. The actors, singers, musicians, and crew were incredibly talented.

When I was at the play, I recognized actors and musicians from some of my classes. All of these actors and musicians were supported by an engaged audience of parents, teachers, siblings, and friends. Where can you find that kind of support in the business world? You can’t.

I was encouraged by the amount of support that the school gave to these performers. But the sense of community went beyond that. In the audience, I was able to talk with some other teachers that I work with during the day and meet some of the parents. In business, the culture is usually “what can you do for me”, but at this play, the attitude was “look what we’re doing together”. It’s really a completely different approach to life, one that I find much more fulfilling.

February 1, 2009

The Metablogging Post

My friend is an amateur radio operator. He has a shack full of thousands of dollars of communications gear, which he uses to talk with other amateur radio operators about their communications gear. The whole endeavor seems incredibly pointless. Sort of like using a blog to talk about blogging. But everyone is entitled to at least one metablogging post, right?

Why I write:

"Writing may not change the world, but it might change you." – John Dufresne

"The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates

There are many valid criticisms of blogs, bloggers, and blogging:
  • Blogging is a sure sign of narcissism.
  • Bloggers are just in it for the money.
  • Bloggers are chasing fame.
  • No one cares what you write.

The main reason I write is to reflect on my experiences as a teacher and grow as a professional. In the military, a debriefing is an essential part of each mission. Debriefings allow teams to analyze what went well, what went wrong, and how they can improve next time. That's my goal in blogging as well. It's my way of debriefing and learning from my mistakes. The way to grow professionally is through experience and deliberate reflection. Experience without reflection does not result in growth. Principals have told me that their best teachers are the reflective teachers – the ones who continually monitor their own techniques and seek ways to improve.

That no one else cares about my professional journey is probably a valid point. However, I don't mainly write for other people. I mainly write for myself. In fact, I started writing professional journal entries a full two years before this website was born. No one read those journals except me.

Having a public blog rather than a private journal has some advantages. First, it keeps me accountable. I've set a goal to write at least one article per week. Because I have readers, I feel more accountable to that goal than I would if the journal entries were just for me.

Having public readers also forces me to improve my writing skills. In fact, I've set this as a personal goal, and I've expanded into other types of writing since starting this blog.

The benefits of this blog accrue mainly to me, but not entirely. One goal of mine is to inform new and prospective teachers about what it's like in the trenches. When I was considering teaching as a career, it would have been very helpful to talk to a real live teacher about her experiences. My career change was one of blind faith; I didn't have a clue what I was getting into. Luckily I found out that the career change was a great move, but I didn't really know that going in.

Blogging allows us to connect with other teachers, too. During the school day, we don't get a chance to socialize much with adults, much less reflective and intelligent adults that generally make up the edublogging community. Being able to read and comment on other teachers' experiences is awesome.

So here I am, another blogger blogging about blogging.