What type of teacher are you?
Research into teacher personality types and effectiveness is increasing. Kim et al (2019) have looked at the personal characteristics of effective teachers and the personal characteristics of teachers with low burnout tendencies. They found for teacher effectiveness, extraversion was found to have the largest effect size (+0.17), and agreeableness the lowest (+0.03) and the characteristic most associated with less teacher burnout was emotional stability (effect size =+0.21).
There are all sorts of teacher types, because there are so many reasons to teach, and that's a good thing. Well, sometimes it is. Although diversity is important to any profession, there might be a few types we'd rather not have.
1. Toxic Handler
This is the teacher who is an expert at handling those tricky moments when a toxic teacher leaks negativity. They can change conversations quickly and steer a course for happiness. They reframe issues in a different light, rephrase and re-balance. They are positive forces for good and often make great diplomats. They head off trouble before it reaches senior management and so act as a filter and gatekeeper too.
2. The Loose Tongue
They fail to taste their own words before spitting them out and often put their foot in it. Unable to keep a confidence, they can be counted on to create an awkward silence and spoil a surprise. This teacher doesn't mean to be a gossip but they just can't help spilling the beans.
3. The Twitterer
Always Tweeting and always checking, the Twitterer is always following A-listers, updating and 'liking'. Can often be seen taking selfies and constantly lets others know what others are doing. Loves to ‘react’ and 'comment'. Spends more time on social media than actually teaching.
4. The Time Keeper
This teacher will let everyone know how many get-ups there are until the end of term. They have serious destination addiction and can often be heard saying, “Is it half past three yet?”. If a Time Keeper isn’t saying this then they will probably be saying “It’ll soon be hump day” along with “Nearly the weekend”, “Only two more weeks until half-term” and “How many more get-ups?”.
5. The Hypochondriac
If anyone sneezes or coughs in a staff-meeting then this will visibly distress a hypochondriac. They fret over washing their hands are perpetually unwell and fear children 'with all their germs'. Be prepared to be placed in quarantine if you say you don't feel 100%.
6. The Busy Bee
This over-stressed has no time to talk because they are 'too busy'. If they do talk then they'll just tell you how busy they are. They say they are 'snowed under with all the marking' and are having a 'nightmare day'. They are always busier than you and constantly hassled and 'totally swamped.'
7. The Health Guru
This teacher runs to school and always has a healthy glow. They eat 10 a day, drink kale juice, exercise in class, insist on walking meetings and share the latest research on why children need standing desks. Their desk is like a mini-outlet of Holland and Barrett and offer colleagues nutritional and fitness advice without being asked.
8. The Imposter
Doubts everything about their teaching. This tortured soul is constantly vulnerable and worries like mad about being 'found out' as a fake, amateur and fraud. They are permanently paranoid and lesson observations tip them over the edge.
9. The Class Clown
This is the school comedian with a reputation as being a bit of a stand-up. Up tempo chatter, ad-libbing and improvisation come as standard and they love to LOL. They are light-hearted, fun-loving, popular with children and are hard not to like. Follow the raucous laughter and the class clown will be at the centre of all the commotion.
10. The Besties
Not one but two. This pair will always meet up at lunchtime and can be found in each other’s classrooms frequently sharing laughs and tales of woe. They are as thick as thieves and somehow manage to be on playground duty together as well. They love teaching but would hate it if their 'bestie' wasn't there for support.
11. The Coffee Addict
Easy to spot as this teacher is totally wired and shakes a lot. The drink coffee like water and will get their TA to cover the class while they race to the loo. Caffeine withdrawal can make this teacher unpleasant to be around.
12. The Lazy Teacher
Not a slacker but a real intelligent and efficient teacher who gets children working harder than they do. Lazy teachers do everything with a purpose and work incredibly hard to avoid TSB or Teacher Stress and Burnout. They make sure that children do more so they learn more.
13. The Data-demon
Obsessed with levels, grades, percentages and spreadsheets, this teacher deals with numbers, not children. These are really boring teachers who tend to be office-based and like to 'drill down'. They refer to children as 'data-points' and their favourite words include 'distribution', 'cohort', 'assessment' and 'performance'.
14. The Rocky Balboa
This is someone who fights their corner. They also fight for their children and their school. They are fiercely proud of being a teacher and have a deep sense of social responsibility. Knock them down and they will get up again. They want to serve the community and don't give up on anyone, least of all themselves.
15. The Wellpoisoner
The toxic types come in all shapes and sizes but this is a saboteur who indulges in micro-politics to undermine others particularly management. Their pipettes are always ready to squeeze little drops of poison into conversations and policies.
16. The Pirate Teacher
This teacher is daring and adventurous and often sails into uncharted territories. These entrepreneurs like taking risks and see teaching as an adventure full of challenges and excitement. Constantly looking for ways to hook their learners, they seek uncommon experiences, focus on rapport, immersion and enthusiasm.
17. The anti-Ofsted
This teacher hates Ofsted and sees no purpose in it. Will take every opportunity to question its existence and attack all those who work for it, including decision-making, research, news and ideas. Often a member of the walking wounded, the anti-Ofsted has often been on the receiving end of some 'tortuous Ofsteds' and been judged inadequate.
18. The No Fuss Teacher
This moderate teacher just gets on with things and doesn't like to make a mountain out of a molehill. They like to sit on the fence and don't want to get drawn into any politics. They like what they do and are quite happy to be at school taking each day as it comes.
19. The Resnatronic
A Deputy Head who either cannot achieve Headship or who chooses to remain a deputy, plateaued or a career deputy.
20. The Performer
To them, teaching is all about edu-tainment. They enjoy the spotlight so much they actually volunteer to do assemblies. They are renowned for getting carried away and talk far too much. They appear as the Dame every year in a local amateur Panto at the church hall.
21. The Bitter Lemon
This teacher is someone who has lost their mojo and their spark. Once a magical, high-octane teacher who asked difficult questions, the bitter-lemon has now sadly lost their fizz. They entered the profession to 'make a difference', now they are a bitter sweet to suck. Their glass isn't half-empty because it's either empty or they have no glass.
22. The S.U.M.O Teacher
This no-nonsense teacher doesn't dwell on things and prefers it if other teachers did the same. Their advice: Shut Up, Move On and avoid BMWs - people who spend their time Bitching, Moaning and Whinging. A SUMO teacher lives by the formula E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome) and understands that how we respond to life's challenges really matters and for the most part we have control.
23. The Sergeant
This teacher isn't someone with a military background but will have watched lots of TV programmes featuring SAS veterans who shout a lot and kick everyone into shape. They are authoritarian, controlled, intense and see everything as a mission.
24. The Mother Hen
Nicknamed Mrs Doubtfire, this teacher is the school comfort blanket that everyone snuggles up to for counselling and cuddles. Children and staff love this teacher and without their presence, school just wouldn't function. They are really decent human beings.
25. The Post-it
A teacher who loves lists and has to have all their ducks in a row. Their classroom is covered in Post-it notes with reminders, ideas, things to do and top tips. Nothing scares them more than running out of Post-its and so the school supply can usually be found secreted in their classroom somewhere.
26. The Optimist
This teacher has a mindset that shines and sees the positive in every situation. They don't fall prey to self-pity or paranoia and detest anyone that spends their time moaning and leaving toxic waste behind them. They live at the positive end of the battery and fuel happiness and motivation around the school.
27. The Buddy
This teacher makes friends with children and gets on their level. They blur the boundaries by being too relaxed and don't mind children using their first name. Their over-familiarity and friendliness makes other teachers cringe and often leads to immature and impulsive behaviour in children.
28. The Mood-hoover
This is a high energy consumer who will suck the life out of a positive conversation within seconds. They are pessimistic, constantly complaining and permanently negative. This fault-finder adds no value to the school. Optimists try hard to pull the plug on their hyper-critical behaviour but mood-hoovers can be cordless, thoughtless and hard to diffuse.
29. The Scatter-brained
An inoffensive teacher that is forever forgetting what to do and where to be. You will hear them saying "Sorry!" pretty much all the time because they have forgotten playground duty, forgotten that meeting or forgotten 30 maths books at home.
30. The Mindful One
This teacher is commonly found colouring in the staffroom and holding lunchtime clubs for stressed-out colleagues. Oozing calm and a sense of order, the mindful one can be found in the school's Mongolian yurt hearing children share their feelings and meditating on their positive visualisations.
31. The Late Teacher
Punctuality is their weakspot which for a teacher isn't good. Their lessons can often overrun which makes them and everyone else late. Work is usually handed back to pupils at least 2 weeks later by which time everything has been forgotten.
32. The TED Teacher
This teacher has watched just about every TED-Ed video that has ever been made. They've even done a couple of local TED-Eds themselves. They know all the latest research and will happily run a CPD session so long as it involves a couple of clips about scientific learning. They get on well with Hattie teachers and can't get enough of researchED.
33. The Legend
This is a teacher who used to teach in the school about ten years ago and left for promotion. They then "came back home" and now strut their stuff again as a senior manager and never waste a second reminiscing and saying things like "Do you remember when David did that assembly? I've never laughed so much. Where's he teaching these days?"
34. The Blogger
This is an interesting breed of teacher keen on sharing their innermost with the world at large. Highly self-reflective and full of opinions, a blogging teacher has to tread carefully and not offend as it can reflect poorly on their school. They often have their own website that no one really looks at.
35. The Burned Out Teacher
Sadly, a school has more than one of these and they are easy to spot. Disillusioned and de-motivated, the burned out teacher is a damaged victim of a system that has not cared for them but kicked them, over-worked them and spat them out. They refuse to go off sick denying they are unwell and fail to see what is blatantly obvious to everyone around them.
36. The Old School
A guardian of tradition, this teacher likes things done the way they were done 50+ years ago and has no time for outdoor learning and creativity and "all its fancy ways". They live by the sabre-toothed curriculum because it suits them just fine. This old school teacher can't understand what all the 'well-being' fuss is all about. “When I started, well-being was whether there were any biscuits in the staff room."
37. The "Not Long Now" Teacher
This is the teacher who has weathered many storms but can see the light at the end of the tunnel and retirement is flashing. They are fearless, unflappable, unusually happy and "will miss everyone" next year - no one believes this.
38. The Explorer
This playful teacher is someone who puts outdoor learning above indoor learning and so won't be seen much in the staff room. They can be found with children fire building and lighting, shelter building, clay pigeon shooting, trekking across marshes, paddle boarding, beekeeping and making bows and arrows. These ruddy-faced pioneers have Tarzan hair, have cuts to their knees and dirty fingernails.
39. The Visible Teacher
This is a teacher who is out there meeting and greeting children and parents at the start of the day. They can be seen around school at lunchtimes and at home time because they truly value the school community and are outstanding role models.
40. The Umbuntu Teacher
This teacher lives by the African “Ubuntu” philosophy as espoused by Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela that “I am because we are” or “I succeed because we do”. You will often find this teacher has somehow been able to pull together a huge event so that everyone feels part of something alive. None of the kids on his class ever seem to want to be off sick.
41. The Ego-Maniac
This teacher really is full of it having an exaggeratedly high estimation of their ability and refusing to accept criticism. They think they know it all but they know very little. Often an expert in one subject of the primary curriculum suite, they pretend that they have blanket expertise.
42. The Grateful Teacher
This teacher keeps a gratitude journal. They take nothing for granted and can often be the person behind that random act of kindness you experienced last week.
43. The Under the Radar
This is a new member of staff who keeps a low profile and doesn't want to upset anyone. They are learning the ropes and learning the school culture. Now and again they offer an opinion but they won't disclose much if anything.
44. The Martyr
A hard-working teacher that lets everyone know about their well-being and just how hard they are working compared to everyone else. They have control issues and are at risk of burnout. They come to work when sick and infect the whole school. They often complain and they bring imbalance to the team.
45. The Supply
This is the super-human teacher that completes the list. The Supply is often abused, overlooked, taken for granted and marginalised but without their contribution schools would fall in on themselves and close by lunchtime. The Supply is a highly skilled professional who rarely gets the recognition and appreciation that they deserve. They fill gaps, meet storms head on, fly under the radar and take the flak. These one-day warriors are a blessed relief to schools that need someone reliable, someone that can change colour like a chameleon and deal with the unexpected including Ofsted. The Supply earns their keep and have the toughest gigs in the business. The Supply is the overlord of improvisation, ad-libber extraordinaire and a clever kahuna so often stereotyped and misrepresented.
There are probably plenty more teacher types you could add to this list. Whoever you are, you make a contribution to the life of your school and you make it the fascinating place it is.
Which of these characters have you worked with this year? Share your experiences here.
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.