The majority of teachers in elementary schools in the US are SJ types. The majority are ISFJ or ESFJ. Here’s what we know about these teachers.

  • They like predictability.
  • They have a strong need to maintain control.
  • They like quiet desk work with some lectures sprinkled in-between.
  • They prefer workbooks over free time.
  • They think about staying organized in the moment.
  • They are not interested in the future.
  • They are not interested in doing things differently unless they’re forced to.

This means that when you send your child to elementary school it’s likely that their teacher will teach how to follow rules and never try anything new.

The opposite type of teacher would be something like an ENFP. An ENFP encourages the exploration of the unknown, which inspires people to do great things, of course.

But why would someone who inspires people to do great things choose to be involved in a totally uninspired system? They won’t, of course. (Maybe this is why ENFPs are the most likely not to graduate from college.)

So when you worry that your child needs a traditional school teacher, think again: your child probably needs the opposite of most teachers, and if you are willing to risk taking your children out of school, then you qualify to be their teacher by dint of the fact that you are taking a risk to try to inspire greatness.


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45 replies
  1. Ann
    Ann says:

    My children are in school and boy does this post ever ring true!
    I am an INTJ. I clash with SFs like crazy, both in my personal life and when dealing with educators. To the point where I have had to give all communications with the school over to my husband, who skilled in diplomacy.
    Thank you for this post, very interesting.

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    No damn wonder then. Holy cow. Most of the frustrations I experienced with teachers in school, and most of the ones my sons have experienced, can be explained by this. Just follow the rules and shut up.

    I’m INFP, driven by my own internal compass, and if I can’t internalize the rules, I don’t want to follow them. I’ll fight them, actually.

    Interesting that when I was in high school my initial thoughts were to become a teacher. I do love to teach. So glad software development lit my fire hotter.

    • Dana
      Dana says:

      Hi Jim,

      I’m an INFP, too. I have a daughter about to start school in the Fall. I’m wondering, how did you deal with this conflict between the teacher’s rigid style and your son?


      • Jim Grey
        Jim Grey says:

        For my INFP son, for whom it’s all about his internal values, I helped him find some values he already had that he could apply/adapt to the school situation. I helped him understand the values inherent in school so he could see why and when his values conflicted, which created anger and resistance in him, so he could get past that.

        For my ISTJ/Asperger’s son, we’ve had several talks about school rules and why they exist, and which ones are worth fighting and which ones aren’t. Like the silly up/down staircase thing when he was in middle school. The staircases are all wide enough for two-way use, but they instituted this silly rule that the north staircase was up and the south staircase was down. My son, logical to the core, thought it was stupid when he had to pass the south staircase to get to the north staircase so he could go up, and so he refused to do it. He got lectured, put in detention, written up, and finally suspended so often did he disobey this rule. I sat down with him and agreed with him that this was a stupid rule. I also explained that schools have more students than adults and that they put many rules in place just to keep order and conformity because frankly 1,000 middle schoolers could take over the joint if they really wanted to. Then we talked about the cost of his goal: was all of this trouble worth it over the stairs? Should he find a different goal? I suggested peace would be a better goal: just to go about his days at school in peace, for one day they would end. I never heard of any more problems with the stairs after that.

  3. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Brilliant! My brother is a teacher and I’m pretty sure he isn’t a SJ, but that explains why many of his colleagues don’t get him and his methods.

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    A teacher is in a position of direct contact with the student within the school system. Some of their duties and interactions with students can be likened to a sales clerk or a cashier with a customer within a department store. A teacher is a cog within a system. A teacher is tasked with carrying out the policies of the government, school board, administrators within the school district, and the community. So the teacher is much more than an educator when you consider all the duties assigned to him or her.
    There is no doubt the teacher has much influence in school policies and education. However they don’t act alone as their actions are monitored and they are evaluated along with everybody else. I want to point these facts out as part of the big picture. These facts have to be taken into account as the role and the influence of the teacher is somewhat limited in a school system environment.

    • Teaching Refugee
      Teaching Refugee says:

      Teachers have almost no impact on school policies at any level. That is for administrators, politicians, and parents. Notice that in any article on education in any publication, they interview PhDs, bureaucrats, and parents. No one ever interviews a teacher to ask, “so what is it REALLY like trying to implement this?”

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Thank you Teaching Refugee for your comment. When you say no impact on school policies at any level, I am guessing you mean no impact as far as their formulation is concerned. However, I have to believe they do have an impact by virtue of the fact they have to implement some of them to at least some degree. And when they do try to implement some of them to no avail or limited success, they give their feedback to administrators to refine or scrap them.

  5. Hilary
    Hilary says:

    I’m an INTJ who taught first grade for two years. No one in my school understood me. My principal (ESFJ) tried to get me fired my first year because my students and classroom didn’t run the way she would do it. My assistant principal the following year was a blessing. She still didn’t get me or the way I ran my room, but she said she talked with my kids and they all described feeling safe, happy, and engaged, so after several days of reflection she concluded, “It’s not how I’d do it, but it works for you and your kids, so keep it up.”

    My kids drove other teachers NUTS though. They were talkative, “rude” (meaning they asked a LOT of challenging questions), and they never took anything as a given. I’ve always felt that the purpose of education is to challenge the status quo – but that’s hard for one adult and couple dozen six years old do to within a huge school bureaucracy.

    • Jules
      Jules says:

      I’m also an INTJ. It didn’t take long for me to leave the teaching profession in the traditional school setting, but I look forward to homeschooling my own kids!

      • Hilary
        Hilary says:

        I’m not sure I would have questioned school enough to go against the grain if I hadn’t been in the classroom every day and seen how many ways schools are restricting kids and learning. Now I’m also looking forward to homeschooling my own kids.

  6. sarah
    sarah says:

    I wonder how many ISFJ or ESFJ end up homeschooling their kids? Do they view the school system with no problems?

    • CeeBee
      CeeBee says:

      I’m an ISFJ stay at home mom. Maybe this is why it’s really hard on me to stay at home with my kids because sometimes, I just want them to follow basic rules. Or things I’ve told them repeatedly. They are also 3 and 2 so it’s yeah, we’re still in the little people phase. And I do not handle “chaos” super well. It literally hurts my brain. I wanted to home school my kids, but I can’t. My son never wants to sit down with an alphabet book or paper and learn something here or there. My husband says I have to “sneak teach” him but my brain doesn’t work that way.

      I’m pretty sure my husband is an ENTP or an ENFP, and he was the kid in school objecting to teachers and sneaking a little cassette player into his stuffed bear to listen to at naptime in preschool. So in a way, being with my husband and his constant idea of bucking at the status quo has really helped me. But also, my parents were big rule followers and I was never allowed to step out of line… at all. So I think that shaped my personality a lot, as well. I would never be a public school teacher. I did teach private music lessons for a time and I was good at that but that’s a situation where 99% of the time, the student wants to be there doing what they are doing. It’s typically one on one. It is most certainly not corralling 20+ students with their own ideas.

      But when it comes to my children’s education, I find whatever the formula is for standard education is definitely lacking. Ripping out the arts, shop classes, home ec. classes. All these tests. Reading other blogs with comments by moms and teachers saying that if your child is five and about to enter kindergarten, they should be able to sit. And I don’t think that’s true. I recently read a kindergarten teacher say that she really dislikes when parents enroll children who can’t sit still and I was just shocked. I think there is a distinctive lack of expected individualism in both the educational system and parenting. My kids are who they are and my job is to try and harness all of their energy in a good direction.

  7. Teaching Refugee
    Teaching Refugee says:

    I am an ENFP who was a Rookie Teacher of the Year for a large suburban district with over 50,ooo students. I loved the kids and helping them learned but I HATED the day-to-day of teaching. Plus – working with all those inflexible SJs! And I know I drove them nuts, too.

    The district sent me to a leadership seminar and we took the Gregorc MindStyles. I scored as “abstract random” (basically an ENFP) and the leader got all excited and told me they hadn’t had an AR in a year or two. I overheard her talking to someone during the break and she said, “I got an abstract random if you believe – you know she won’t last.” I didn’t – two years.

  8. Julie
    Julie says:

    My son is an INTP. No wonder school didn’t go so well for him. They would be assigned to write an essay on their favorite color and he’d be researching particle physics on the internet. then I’d get a phone call about how he wasn’t learning. Home school was the best thing ever! My only regret…not doing it sooner. I am an INTJ and I do teach, resilience skills, drug/alcohol prevention and parenting classes. I do love it because every class encourages not only asking the hard questions, but finding workable solutions.

  9. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    This is such an interesting topic. I just keep getting more and more turned off to traditional education/educators. I went to private school, and I was lucky to have educators who were neither of those personality types.

    We are unschoolers and I jokingly refer to my oldest child as a Kindergarten drop-out. ;)

    *I guess my ENFP husband is a rare breed who graduated from college with a mechanical engineering degree. But this is a second career for him and he needs that piece of paper. Before that he was a successful stock broker and manager and he didn’t have a degree.

    If he hadn’t wanted to fulfill his dream of working in the space industry as an engineer then I’m not sure he would have ever gone back to college. This is really interesting.*

    • Emily
      Emily says:

      Love to hear about the success of people in their second careers! So glad it worked out for your husband. We are in our 30s, and my husband starts medical school this month. Kind of scary in a good way! In his first career, he was a pilot. My husband thinks it would be so cool to work at SpaceX. His dream was to be an astronaut. It never happened.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        That is awesome! My husband was also in his 30’s when he went back to school. Now in his early 40’s and thriving. Within only two years of obtaining his bachelor’s degree in ME he was making six figures. It was totally worth it and he loves his career. SpaceX *is* really cool and they are creating their own space suits for their astronauts. ;)

        Good luck to you and your husband! It was tough for us for a couple of years but we made it through. Since you are an INTJ you are probably the best mate to have during career/life transitions because you can remain logical and focused on the future goal and not the present craziness.

  10. Emily
    Emily says:

    This is fascinating! I am an INTJ who taught music at a public school for two years before going to law school. Maybe this explains why I never really felt the teaching job was a good fit for me. I was also homeschooled, and teaching was my first experience in the public school setting. Maybe all the odds were against me from the start.

  11. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    I don’t think you know too many elementary school teachers. I personally know many teachers at all grade levels and can’t think of one who matches this description.

  12. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline says:

    I think I am an ESFJ, but I started homeschooling three years ago and I don’t think I homeschool with a closed mind or with an intense level of control. I don’t love workbooks and I am a big fan self-directed learning. On the other hand, when you ask one person to watch over 30 kids and provide a zillion pieces of data, how else can they do that without organization and adherence to rules? I am teaching drama at summer camp this week and man, is it like a zoo! Anyway, the type of people who are elementary school teachers also have compassion and a desire to be helpful. They also seem drawn to holiday themed sweaters.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      People are also drawn to that kind of job because of all the holidays and time off. Entire summer’s off sounds really nice and appealing.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        yes it sounds great – until you realize that many teachers are not paid during the summer months and will nonetheless spend time to prepare classes and such. I personally think that school teacher is one of the most demanding professions – you need to be constantly “on” – after all there is no way to take a break while you are teaching a class independent on how you teach (lecture, group work….). You have to react constantly to your surroundings and have to be aware of the many things going on, you usually are on your feet the whole day and then you have heaps of stuff to grade, or correct, or edit, or comment. It only is a dreamjob if you have never done it.

        By the way – the same non-payment in summer scheme applies for a majority of university professors who get summer salary from research grants or for significant administrative jobs. Nonetheless – work during the summer is not much different from my usual 70 hour week. No, even if it says official you work 9 months, it does not mean you will slack of and just hang out for 3 months in the summer (well, technically you could but then your research would take a huge and rapid nosedive).

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          My sister in law is a professor in Baltimore and she is able to work out her salary to breakdown to pay her every month for 12 months instead of 9 months with nothing for the 3 months. She usually does lots of traveling for pleasure during her time off as she is 38 and single/no kids, sometimes it is mixed with research/grants and conferences to attend. There is a completely different feeling than having class schedules every day during the semester. I’m sure it is different based on the area of specialty you teach and what she does.

          Also, the appeal of summers off comment was more tongue in cheek than anything else. I know of plenty of teachers in my district who do the bare minimum to get by, and some make horrible life choices, so they are not all saints and do-gooders. Every day there is a new article in the news about how bad it is in our public schools and how some teacher made a bad decision with a student.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            I am sure there are many people in all possible professions making horrible life choices – and doing sloppy work. It is in my opinion important to make sure we don’t condemn a whole profession – even if we do not like the institution.

            And, to respond to the 9 versus 12 month salary – it depends on the institution. Not all institutions allow for the 12 month spread. And if you are at a research tier 1 institution in the sciences or engineering it is unlikely that you will be traveling for fun and just hanging out for the summer. At an UG institution with a limited research program it is much more likely that the summers are somewhat more relaxing. Sure, it does not mean that one never has a holiday and I personally consider research motivated travel as fun, but it is not like sitting on the beach. Are there people who abuse the system and have tropical vacation on their grants? Probably, but some of them end up in prison for misappropriation of federal funds.

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            I’m just throwing this comment in the thread because there isn’t a reply button.

            The three month off thing….are these people unable to properly budget their yearly pay if their institution won’t do a 12 month spread?

            I don’t understand that argument. I also don’t understand that they work without pay….what job doesn’t do that? Most salaried workers work beyond a 40 hour work week without extra compensation.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          The hardest working people that I know are not elementary school teachers. How many hours do they work a week?

          The hardest working people that I know are professional in industry engineers and technicians who put in 80-100 hours per WEEK of hard work to accomplish a goal of putting rockets in space et al. Farmers, Doctors, Lawyers, Entrepreneurs and self-employed contractors are another group of hard workers. Elementary teachers don’t even come close to being described as hard-working by me. Love their job, passion to teach kids, puts in an extra few hours here or there unpaid, yes I agree with that. But I disagree that they are the hardest workers out there.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            *The “list” of hard working fields is not exhaustive, but only an example to compare a few. There are many many more occupations that work harder than the ones I listed. The point is that I don’t think of k-12 workers as those with the “highest demands”. Give me a break.

            Also, please don’t assume that I am disparaging an entire field of workers by merely pointing out facts that there are pedophiles and sexual abusers in their ranks with access to children every day. We have had some horrible scandals in LAUSD that are atrocious. I should be able to point them out and use that as an example without it meaning that I think ALL teachers are pedophiles. I don’t think that way but I do think it is important to talk about it without be rebuked as someone who hates teachers. I love teachers, I just think they are in an unfortunate working situation most of the time.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            no, I did not make a list of hardest working professionsals – I simply pointed out that teaching is not a breeze in terms of the workload. Perceptions of how much other people work can be severely skewed – you might see me going for a run at 6:30 pm and then have dinner on the porch and conclude that I don’t work much. What you don’t see is that I then go back to my office and work until 1 am to start again in the morning hours.

            Never mentioned anything about pedophiles.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Red, when I said some of them make horrible life decisions I meant sexual abuse of the students, i should have been more clear.

            I personally don’t measure what someone does when they aren’t working as some gauge for how demanding their profession is. My spouse only had Sunday off this week and he spent his time building a new computer for our kids and watching YouTube videos about others’ homemade aviaries for finches. That has nothing to do with the demands of his job, that doesn’t even make sense to consider that.

  13. Blackwalnut
    Blackwalnut says:

    seems like a cheap shot to disparage elementary school teachers, who on the whole are nurturing and dedicated professionals…when it is really the systemic problems in public education that need to change.

    It may be your perception that elementary teachers are unimaginative control freaks, but I would say that’s really petty. An effective teacher IS good at classroom management, but why hold that against them? It is a necessary skill to have when you have a class if 30.

    Honestly, trying to trace the problems in public education back to character traits of elementary teachers is way off the mark.

    As much as I

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Meh… My kids teachers were manipulative control freaks and verged on emotionally abusive.

      We all have our own experiences here, and with this particular subject they seem to be less than stellar.

      If teachers are unhappy they need to figure it out and leave the system.

      • Blackwalnut
        Blackwalnut says:

        Hey, I pulled my kid out of public school, too, but not because his teacher got a certain result on a personality quiz.

        Had nothing to do with individual teachers.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          Sure, but then I’d argue there are a lot of crappy teachers.

          It’s not hard to get a teaching job k-12.

  14. layla
    layla says:

    i am an INFP – i lasted exactly 6 weeks until my principal decided she was kicking me to the curb. of course under contract, and not wanting to abandon the students as well as not wanting to be a quitter – i finished the school year, and have no desire to teach in a public school setting ever again.

  15. redrock
    redrock says:

    in response to the three month off practice, which I think is for historic reasons to allow people to tend to their farms in the summer.

    The question is not that one is unable to budget for 12 months, the key is that you are employed for 9 months – benefits like health insurance, short term disability, pension or retirement contributions are stopped during this summer-off time. However, how exactly this is done depends on the institution. The details depend on the institution – many will allow you to work in the summer, and continue to pay health insurance, and you can use the facilities such as research lab and so on, even if you do not have the full “summer salary” support from research grants (and I am talking about University here). At many institutions you also will have to pay more then the three missing months (5.5 or so) to pay for the institutional contribution to your pension/retirement/health insurance/social security for the summer.

    It does not mean one is unable to budget – for myself even without any summer pay, which was never happened to me, I would have no problem to live within my means. The summer pay is an institutional thing not a personal one.

    If you are not paid by the institution you are also not obligated to perform administrative duties, but this rule is severely watered down and many committees, student advising and such continue over the summer. There are many different variants of this practice – many colleges and universities have moved to a 12 month pay where the same salary is spread from the original 9 month to a 12 month period. The latter reflects in my opinion much better the work distribution throughout the year.

  16. redrock
    redrock says:

    .. forgot something in my reply to Jessica: and yes, the vast majority of my colleagues works more then 40 hours/week (I think something between 65 and 80 is the norm, don’t know about HS or elementary school teachers). However, 3 months without pay is a different thing and I strongly doubt many people in industry what do this and work for the company during that period but go and find another job to fill the gap.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      It’s one thing to demand higher compensation and another to properly budget.

      Anyone going in to teaching is fully aware of the structure.


      • redrock
        redrock says:

        I don’t understand your response – I did not complain or anything just tried to explain the general setup of the summer months and summer salary. And the difference to working overtime. And, there is nothing wrong with negotiating for a better compensation – I don’t think teachers are particularly well paid for their efforts. Anybody in industry or corporate settings or any other setting has the freedom to negotiate for a better compensation.

  17. Kathy Donchak
    Kathy Donchak says:

    Love this post. I began work as a teacher and I am an ENFP. I taught elementary music and even worked for years as an educational consultant – hitting my head against a wall with my conflicting views. I homeschool our boys and considered sending them to a cooperative school this year, but once I began asking where all the free time was in the day and the time for mindfulness I was met with a dead stare. The best schools I have ever seen refuses to hire certified teachers for all the reasons above. Acton Academy in Austin Texas is my dream model. No teachers – only guides. They are on to something.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I’ve read about them. I toured lots of schools in Austin private and public.

      I think they have pretty high tuition for Austin- something like 10,000 a year. in that area that really isn’t gonna change much of anything because most people there don’t earn a lot, and those that do already send their kids to Thomas and Andrews.
      I have to look into it again but there is something that really bothered me about their model and I just couldn’t get over it but I’ll have to get back to you.

      • Kathy Donchak
        Kathy Donchak says:

        I was fortunate to be able to see the school in action last summer several times. The remarkable young people show how much we all have to learn about their abilities to be in charge of their learning. As far as costs goes, I find it reasonable for the experience and it would be difficult to compare it to other private schools due to their structure. I am interested to hear your thoughts from reading their website, though.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          Right.. As you can see here:

          They have a very strict schedule and only go outdoors 3x per week for 30 min max each.

          They force core subjects, they do standardized tests, and the owners self assessment of when and/if a child comes back to the school after issues (I.e. Religious counseling) since they are a Christian based school.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I have yet to find any school that offers my kids the same education that they receive at home. Unschooling is freedom, no tests, no coercive mandatory learning and outside/inside play for as long as they want.

            jessica’s description of the school is a huge turnoff to me. If school was my only option then I would keep looking.

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