From a potpourri of personalities comes a bouquet of fragrant ideas. Throughout most of my working life I have been exposed to the concepts of understanding personality, learning styles, emotional intelligence and their application to teaching and learning. I was introduced to learning and thinking styles through team building exercises and workshops in the work place, gained an understanding of emotional intelligence some years ago in education related to teaching… and more recently revisited personality in relation to contemporary leadership as part of a business degree.
Understanding your personality traits, your thinking style and your learning style is a useful way to improve your self-awareness, motivation and behaviour. Effective people know themselves, they work from their strengths and don’t let their weaknesses limit them.
Having a better understanding of yourself helps you understand others. Understanding that there are many different personality types can help you appreciate the difference in people. It makes you more aware of individual strengths and qualities.
We categorise people as ‘normal’ when we believe them to be like us, and ‘not normal’ when we feel they are very unlike us. When we believe someone to be ‘not normal’ we can’t relate to them and may have difficulty communicating with them.
Trying to understand others without first understanding yourself is like trying to quantify the sun, by describing how it reflects off water, or how it feels your skin.
The awareness of how we do what we do is the key to self-management. It is also important to be able to relate to co-workers and know how to encourage, inspire and motivate each other. Being self-aware facilitates movement towards holistic interdependent leadership, towards creating a collective view, moving from ‘me-centred’ to ‘we-centred’.
Have you ever heard the saying “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”? Good leaders learn about others and how to relate to them, rather than judge they value difference and different perspectives. They Ignite passion and commitment in others and bring energy and dynamism to the table.
To flesh out the bare bones of your own inner workings heightens the ability to contain, manage and tolerate emotions, to transcend the structures in which you have been socialised and from which you construct meaning. Understanding ‘me’ allows you to understand ‘we’ and allows you to move into that creative collaborative space.
My most cherished learning experience occurred in my mid-twenties. I had taken a break from work to raise a family and decided I would return to a formal learning environment and obtain some new technology qualifications before re-entering the work force.
I reflect often on what it was that made this particular period of learning so memorable. My teacher had only been teaching for two years, was in her late forties/early fifties and had no prior work experience. She had raised her family and had been a stay-at-home mum until her children had grown and left home. Amazingly, in that whole time she’d not used a computer, not even turned one on. She decided to return to study and learn how to use one; working through the qualification levels until she’d obtained her Diploma in Information Technology. It was at this stage she was offered a job teaching, and two years later became my teacher.
Her experience as an adult learner made her a great teacher; she motivated and encouraged our whole class. She had a light hearted approach, was cheerful, warm and put those around her at ease. Her knowledge was fresh. Through narrative and storytelling a wonderful community of learning was formed in that classroom. A gifted listener that conveyed genuine empathy, she could relate to our struggles… at times she learnt with us, sitting beside us and discovering how to complete the tasks at hand. She became my mentor.
So what was it that made that particular period of learning so memorable? It was the way in which our learning was situated in social activity. It was the safety of the environment provided in which to experience growth without fear. It was the trust and mutual respect extended as we celebrated each small achievement. It was how beautifully we were shown what it is to learn.
There were eleven of us in that computer class, we all obtained our qualification, four of us went on to occupations that involved teaching or education (odd for an Information Technology class).
For some thirteen years now I have been teaching alongside this person whom I still see as my mentor rather than my colleague.