What Is Your Colleague Type?

(Note: An edited version of the following post was originally published on the iTDi blog. To access the original post, click here.)

Many things have been said about the importance of understanding our learners and how this can positively affect our teaching. What about understanding our colleagues, though? Undoubtedly, these are people with whom we already share common interests and spend much time of our daily schedule, be it in a staff-room or online. Is there a need to ‘categorise’ them? Will knowing our own or our colleagues’ type affect our job?

staff room

Image taken from Malta Union of Teachers

Having spent 9 years in various hallways, staff-rooms, FB groups, Twitter discussions, etc. I have come across similar types of colleagues all of whom had and still have something to teach me. So, here is my list:

The Newbie Type A:

This is a type of teacher with no experience and no training, at all. The boss hired them because they will not claim a high (well, as high as a teacher can claim) hourly rate and they accepted the offer because they cannot afford to pay for a training course but want to get experience. Bless them! They spend much time in the staff-room and they do everything they can to go on well with The Helper Type – they will be analysed below, too.

Possible effect on others: They offer a great chance for other staff members to refresh their skills. Usually, this is the type who asks to observe lessons and is open to suggestions. Therefore, other teachers can mentor them.

The Newbie Type B:

This type of teacher shares the same background with the Newbie Type A. However, the reason this teacher is not trained is not because they didn’t have the money, but because they think that training is for the dogs! Bless the rest of us.

Possible effect on others: They usually make fun of teachers who dare to ask for advice, suggestions, etc. so they do not share any issues that may come up in a class. They do not accept to be observed while teaching and they don’t participate in any get-together even – why would they? (sic)

The Newbie Type C(i):

This is the most typical of the Newbie types: They do not have any real experience but they have just completed a teacher training course. Bless them. They are usually in a state of chaos trying to put into practice everything they learnt in training. At the same time, though, they do not ask for help because they do not want to admit that they need any. If for some reason, one tries to offer them any suggestions, they won’t take it and they’ll keep making their lives hard.

Possible effect on others: Usually, people of this type do not interact a lot with other teachers, as this could be a sign of neediness and they don’t want that in no possible way. For the rest of the staff members, this type is not a real problem; maybe, not the most enjoyable colleague but still, there is no interference in regards to the job. However, some of them believe that their training course is the most superior of all – god forbid if other staff members do not have the same qualification.

The Newble Type C(ii):

This is very similar to the previous type; yet, they have attended a very solid teacher training course in which they were taught that sharing means caring and that learning requires more than one to happen.

Possible effect on others: Well, this is the most pleasant type to work with: sociable, caring, interested in their job, asking and responding, sharing good and bad experiences, etc. Usually, more experienced teachers learn a lot from colleagues of this type, especially when it comes to new tools or techniques. Bless them!

The Experienced Type A also known as The Mentor:

Experienced teachers, who continuously share their experience and knowledge with anyone, belong to this category. They are usually the ones who are well networked and connected, and who don’t miss a chance presenting in any local and/or global conference.

Possible effect on others: They are such a pleasure to work with. Novice teachers ‘use’ them as a point of reference, experienced teachers benefit from talking to them as they have always something positive to gain – from teaching tips to in-depth discussions, and senior staff members or DOSs have one less colleague to worry about.

The Experienced Type B:

Quite opposite to the previous type, this one is the teacher who even though is skillful and knowledgeable, they are not very approachable. Typically, these colleagues are the ones who starting teaching as a means of earning pocket money until they find a real job; yet, luck was not on their side and they ended up following a teacher’s career. Therefore, the reason they don’t share their experience is that they do not think teaching is a difficult profession – well, they don’t even think of it as a profession, any way.

Possible effect on others: Those who belong in the soft end of this category do not cause any problems to others: they check in right on time, do their lessons, and go back home. However, the ones in the hard end of it are not a pleasure to work with: they are usually bitter for not pursuing what they consider to be a career and tend to ‘punish’ the ones who remind them of their predicament, their colleagues. This punishment has many forms: not sharing classes, not participating in training and development sessions, etc.

The Experienced Type C, also known as The Helper:

This is not a very common type of colleague. Shares many characteristics with the Experienced Type A. Their difference, though, is that the Helper is always around, works 12 hours per day – well, even if they don’t officially work, they are stay in the staff-room willing to cover for absent colleagues or do extra lessons and/or tutorials.

Possible effects on others: Other than spoiling us – who doesn’t want a colleague like this – they spoil our bosses, too: school owners ‘demand’ we all have this attitude (by ‘this attitude’ they certainly don’t mean being passionate about our job; they mean staying longer, covering for absent teachers, and offering extra classes without getting paid)


The above list is not conclusive and under no circumstances does it promote categorisation and/or mocking our colleagues. It is written with humour and aims to make all of us think of the people with whom we share more than a staff-room. These are the people with whom we share the same passions, the same questions, and the same insecurities.

It also aims to make us, teachers, think twice about our own type. Do we make the lives of our colleagues better or worse? Is there a real reason for taking into consideration what our colleagues think of us? Well, in my opinion, the way one acts in a staff-room says a lot about the way they act in the classroom. It is of course harmless to be the colleague with whom people do not have a good time; it is not harmless, though, to be this kind of teacher.

Feel free to share your own experiences with your colleagues, or even better, ask them to describe you as a colleague and think of what you can do to become a better colleague, person, and, ultimately, teacher.

4 thoughts on “What Is Your Colleague Type?

  1. A great post, Angelos! I’d say that I’ve met at least one example from each category throughout my teaching career. And you are right; some types are more pleasant to work with than others. I’d add that although the Helpers are usually the best colleagues, they are the most endangered ones because they may get easily burned out. But they somehow can’t help helping 🙂

    • Thank you very much for your kind words, Hana! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed reading it. I think that now more people share and promote the idea(l)s of PLNs and more and more ‘helpers’ pop up – or so I want to believe.

      Thank you again, Hana! 🙂

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