The Horrible Awful Thing That is Wrong with Schools

Do you remember career counseling when you were in school?  Someone probably presented a bunch of career options and then tried to help you decide the best fit based on how you had performed thus far in academia with little or no discussion about your personality traits.

This is a huge, horrible problem.

I recently sat down with four high-achieving high school students to discuss college and career choices.  They were petrified. classroom

Pressure does not even begin to describe the sheer terror these four young people felt at the prospect of choosing a field of study.  Was it going to be math, or science, or perhaps they should pursue creative arts or education?  It wasn’t just a college choice, for them, it felt like they were scripting their entire lives.

I asked, “What do you think is the best fit for your personality?

Their response was one of curiosity.  One asked,  “What does your personality have to do with it?”

They had been educated and assessed in all the academic subjects, yet they had never once been given the tools to examine their own personalities.  Their entire education had been about mastering subjects determined by someone else.  At no point did anyone put forth the idea that within their own personality was the foundation for a happy and successful life.

Over the course of the next hour, I gave them all a simple Myers-Briggs Personality test, easily found online and in several books.  Within 60 minutes, we MyersBriggsTypesassessed that one was a born extroverted leader, one was an introverted creative, another was an empathetic helper/teacher, and the other was an intuitive strategist.

As I read the potential jobs that fit their personality types, they were enthralled. When I told the strategist that there were professions that required you to look into the future and create a plan to get there, she was elated, “They pay you for that?” she marveled, “I thought that was just being bossy.”

If we hadn’t done this simple test, this intelligent future leader might never have realized that the ability to think five steps ahead is a skill, not an annoyance.

It infuriates me that schools don’t provide the time and tools to help kids understand their own personality.  There are three reasons why most schools neglect this critical area:

1. There’s no place in the curriculum
Most teachers are subject matter experts; their job has become filling the students with enough knowledge to pass the test. Yet there is no teacher officially assigned the job of helping students explore within.

If I were a middle or high school principal I would have every single health teacher take one day a year to give the kids a Myers-Briggs test and then read the careers for each personality type. A single day assessing yourself, and looking at possibilities would provide more preparation for life, than almost any other subject.

2. No one can agree on the assessment tool
School principals are unlikely to implement Myers-Briggs because there would be a huge fight over whether it was the best instrument. Myers-Briggs is not perfect, but it’s better than what we have, which is nothing.  Would teachers implement it perfectly?  Of course not.  But there are no negative consequences; it just asks you to assess your own personality, there’s no good or bad, or right or wrong.

3. Most adults don’t self reflect
Many adults don’t understand or appreciate their own unique personality until later in life. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our kids started out adult life knowing that self-knowledge?  A student can master the 3 R’s, Common Core, STEM, (fill in the blank), but if they don’t understand  their own personality, , it’s hard to create a successful life.

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