True Colors: The Personality of Education
By now, you’ve heard me mention Ginelle, SOAR®’s Operations Manager. Ginelle is a certified teacher; she was actually my son’s (favorite) teacher. She is very kind and easily wins respect from her students. But, she holds everyone accountable. I believe she is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet and am thrilled to have her on our team!
Around the office, Ginelle and I often rant about how we would make the world perfect… if only the world would ask for our opinion. 😉 During one of those rants, Ginelle got rather animated while telling this story. So, I asked her to share it with you…
Back in high school, I was always the kid who got into trouble for talking. Or reading. Or doing something else while the teacher was lecturing. I was always pretty smart and loved learning new things. But, I really didn’t like school. I failed classes and skipped school. Even dropped out the second half of my junior year.
During this time off I did some soul-searching and headed back to school for my senior year. No, I didn’t like school. But, I realized I didn’t want to work at McDonald’s for the rest of my life. So, I took extra classes over the summer and at night to graduate with my class, earning almost all A’s that year.
During that time, I decided to become a teacher. I wanted to be the kind of teacher I had always wanted. I wanted to allow my students freedom to express themselves and explore topics that interested them. I wanted to give my students a break from copying definitions from the dictionary and completing hundreds of mind-numbing math problems for homework.
I worked my way through college and started working for a great school district. One day, we had a professional development session where we were introduced to True Colors. Suddenly, my checkered past in school made a lot more sense.
What Is True Colors?
True Colors is a personality inventory that uses four colors to describe personality types. People take the True Colors Indicator Test and come up with their True Colors Personality Spectrum. Their spectrum shows the strength of each of the personality types. The four personality types/colors are:
Orange: Adventurous (action-oriented; seeks fun, variety, stimulation, and excitement).
Green: Curious (problem-solver; seeks knowledge and understanding).
Blue: Harmonious (compassionate; seeks to encourage and to care).
Gold: Responsible (dependable; seeks to follow rules and respect authority).
There were over 40 teachers at this professional development session. I was one of only two teachers who had Green as my strongest color. Only one other person (the P.E. teacher) had Orange as his strongest color. The rest of the teachers were split almost evenly between Gold and Blue.
With my school, approximately 46% of the teachers were Gold, 46% were Blue, 5% were Green, and 3% were Orange. At first I thought that this must be a fluke. But, we learned that these results are very typical of teachers across the country. We also learned that administrators are almost always Gold.
Students, however, closely follow the percentages illustrated on the chart for the general population. There is a major “personality discrepancy” between teachers and students!
Each color has a distinct learning style:
Greens need freedom to explore topics that interest them. They have a difficult time with drill-and-kill learning and routine.
Oranges need to have fun and excitement. They have difficulty with structure and lectures. Often, Green and Orange students’ needs are not addressed in the Gold and Blue dominant world of education.
According to true-colors.com, Orange and Green students are the most likely to experience trouble in school, because they find the institutional environment of school stifling.
This information helped me understand why I had trouble in school. As a “Green”, my need to explore my own interests was not met.
I had great difficulty with the repetitive way information was presented. I also understood why I felt such a strong need to go into the teaching profession; I wanted to give students a different learning experience than they were likely to get in the Blue and Gold education world.
So, Why Are so Many Educators Gold and Blue?
For one, Blue and Gold people are more likely to enjoy the environment created within the school and the classroom. Therefore, they are more likely to consider a career spent there.
Secondly, the values of Blue and Gold personalities fit very well into the current structure of the American education system. Also, Gold-dominant administrators are highly likely to hire teachers whose beliefs about education and classroom-discipline align with their personal views.
What Can Be Done About This Situation?
If You Are An Administrator:
If you tend to hire teachers who are Gold or Blue, make an effort to think deeply about why you choose to hire each candidate. Administrators have a tendency to hire people who are just like them.
It is human nature to quickly recognize and gravitate towards people like ourselves. Take a step back from this way of thinking. During your next round of interviews, identify personality types of interviewees. Take that into consideration when making your final hiring decision.
If You Are a Teacher:
Address different learning styles within your teaching. Add some activities that allow for movement and excitement. Allow students freedom to explore topics that interest them.
Break out of the routine! If you recognize that some of your “difficult” students may have Green or Orange personality types, do what you can to differentiate your instruction to meet their needs.
Be understanding of organizational challenges that your students may face. It can be difficult for Gold educators to understand why students have such a difficult time with organization and time-management. Remember, just because these skills came naturally to you, doesn’t mean they will come naturally to your students.
Be accepting of teachers whose teaching style differs from your own. Teachers with different personality types will have different styles of classroom-management and instruction. Just because a classroom is not run the same as your classroom, doesn’t mean it is not an effective learning environment.
If You Are a Parent:
If your child is a “reluctant learner”, understand that his or her personality type may find the school atmosphere stifling. While there is not much you can do to change the school environment, you can change the way that your child learns at home.
Break homework into 5-10 minute sessions to break up the routine. Give your Green student the freedom to decide when and where to do their homework. Incorporate movement and competition into the routine for your Orange student.
Encourage your child to explore topics that interest them outside of the classroom. If your child enjoys history, take him to the museum. If your child has a passion for sports, see a soccer game together. Not all learning takes place in the classroom. Give your child the freedom to explore her interests outside of school whenever possible.
(True Colors is a Trademark of True Colors International.)
To our students’ success,
Susan Kruger, M.Ed.
Creator of SOAR