Substitute Teaching as an “SJ” (AKA “Guardian”)



Do you enjoy personality type stuff? Is it as fascinating to you as it is to me? I find it endlessly interesting to see how our different traits and qualities impact how we interact with the world…


I am a substitute teacher. Now, that’s the kind of job where some people work a day or two a month and others work every single school day. I fall in the middle, though I lean toward that latter. I typically sub four days a week in a school for kindergarten through third graders.


I am also an ESFJ. That’s Myers-Briggs speak for extroverted-sensing-feeling-judging.




Now, there are some things about that that are really great for this job of mine.


Being an extrovert, for example, is likely a huge help to me since I bounce from class to class and grade to grade and am asked to interact with people (and different people!) day in and day out. The fact that this energizes me rather than draining me is a huge plus. I can honestly see how this type of work could be stressful for some of my more introverted friends. It’s not that they don’t love people! It’s that they wouldn’t love the constant, ever-changing onslaught of them. So that’s a plus for me.


Also, that “feeling” piece probably helps me out as I teach in a primary school. Relying on logical analysis to drive you when working with oodles of tiny children might make you bonkers after awhile. I am a deep feeeeeeeeellller and, while that means I might get a little too emotionally invested at times, I do think it’s a good quality for this particular gig.


Then there’s that “SJ” piece. Do you have any SJs in your life? I’m sure you do. We’re also called the Guardians. We’re the list-makers. The rule-followers. The structure-seekers.


We’re the ones you see in the grocery store with organized carts, lists in hand, and standing in the proper line– we will NEVER be in an express line with more than 12 items. Ever. (The thought makes me a little nauseous, even as a hypothetical.)


As an SJ, I like structure and order a whole lot. Schedules? Make me happy. Guidelines? Appeal to me. Checklists, outlines, and bullet points make sense to my mind. I show up on time and with the appropriate items.


One of the only things I truly fear? Is chaos. I truly can’t function with chaos. I can stand in the world’s longest line and wait my turn– so long as it’s FAIR. I’d rather wait through 40 other customers than be thrown in with five others in a free-for-all.


Lines exist for a reason, people. Taking turns is important.


This is just how I operate. And that’s all fine and dandy. However…


It’s not how everyone functions. And there is no “one” personality type that makes a great teacher. And here’s what that means:


Sometimes, I wind up in the classroom of a fellow SJ and I walk in and I’m all, “Oh, hey! Look at this detailed plan! Thanks for the materials, all in order. What’s this? You wrote down the specific math partnerships? Sweet! And I see you left the template for organizing our opinion piece about the seasons. Fabulous.”




Other times, I walk into the classroom of an NJ and I look at the typed sheet in a black report cover and I’m like, “Wait… what? This is one IMPRESSIVE plan you’ve got here. Write an opinion piece about solutions to class division? Wow, that is AMBITIOUS for second grade. Heck, it’s ambitious for seventh, but okay. I like this list, though. It’s efficient. Somewhat intimidatingly efficient, but I’ll do my best.” And then I pray my best measures up.


Or, I’ll find myself wandering around an SP classroom, thinking, “Wait? Where’s the dang plan? And then I find some bright colored post-its scattered around with things like ‘Go outside and find an inspiring tree!’, ‘Write a paragraph about what color “excited” is!’, and ‘Work as a group and see how long all of your feet are put together!’ and I think to myself, ‘What fresh hell is THIS? And where are all the stinkin’ materials?’” I usually hyperventilate a little at that point.


Or perhaps I step into the room of an NP and, after my eyes adjust to blindingly colorful posters listing approximately 8, 052 ways to “be kind!”, I find a cheerful bulleted list written in turquoise marker and I’m excited. I like lists!! So I start reading,

  • “Andrew is really sensitive to criticism, so it’s best to use positive language at all times.
  • Trina does best seated at the west side of the room, even during group work. The light affects her.
  • Ginny and Brett will need some extra attention, so keep them near you, but not too close.
  • Ellie loves green!
  • Write a letter home together? Try it and see how it goes– they normally love this!
  • We’re studying circles, but since math sometimes makes them sad and bored, I like to use smiley faces instead of plain circles. :) :) :)
  • Music’s in the CD player– it soothes them!
  • Oh, and have fun!!! :)  “


… and I’m all, “You seem like a super fun and considerate person, but, for pity’s sake, WHERE IS THE PLAN???”



And that’s life as an SJ.


We love the rest of you all.


We just don’t understand how you get by without a PLAN. :)




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2 comments to Substitute Teaching as an “SJ” (AKA “Guardian”)

  • Julia B

    This is super interesting!! I love hearing other people explain Myer’s-Briggs, because I’m still trying to figure the whole thing out :-) I love seeing it applied in real life situations.. I think my SIL (who works in special education and helps in classrooms) would find this super-interesting!!

  • OK, you win. I am ever quite sure whether I am a J or P (oh so much an F) but this has me pretty convinced I am a J. I was nodding the whole time!

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