An Educator’s Journey Through Special Education Blog 9

True Colors

Blog 9


Well, this has been kind of interesting. Our special education presenter, Darla Gundler, who has a handicapped daughter who is now a surgeon, spent some time with us going over True Colors. She talked about her daughter’s rise through the special education school system to become a successful surgeon. And about how her daughter’s success is a true testament to our nation’s schools and their special education teachers and administrators. Darla also mentioned that True Colors played a significant role in her daughter’s success.

So, what the heck is True Colors? According to its website, True Colors is a user-friendly temperament and personality typing program that has been helping people of all ages, all over the world understand and recognize differences that can lead to miscommunication and conflict.

“It’s a personality test,” said Darla.

Years ago, I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. And I don’t think that was the only personality test I have ever taken. It was so long ago that I don’t remember the results. So, I guess I could use an updated personality test, and I think this True Colors thing will be it. But first, let me go back to the history of personality tests before diving into True Colors with you.

Let’s go way back in history to the very beginning, okay? Let’s go back to the ancient Greeks before Christ was born. Hippocrates was a Greek physician about 400 B.C who many know as the guy who said, “Do no harm.” However, many of us don’t know that he came up with the theory of the four human fluids. He said these fluids influenced human emotions, temperament, and personality in what he called the Four Humors. Hippocrates was a contemporary of Plato, and many of Plato’s works reference Hippocrates’ work. As someone who is also a history teacher, I find that interesting. And I’m reminded of the human chain of the teacher to student, and then the student becoming the teacher of another great student. A great example from the Hippocrates period would be Socrates to Plato, Plato to Aristotle, and Aristotle to Alexander the Great. That is really cool.

Now back to Hippocrates and his four bodily fluids. Somehow, that sounds a little risky, doesn’t it? Well, let’s go for it anyway. Hippocrates’ four fluids of personality were; Blood, Phlegm, Black Bile, and Yellow Bile.

According to Hippocrates, people who had a ruddy complexion that showed extra blood near the surface of the skin were usually jovial and friendly. People who had excess phlegm were considered to be quiet and sluggish. Black bile was associated with depression, and yellow bile was associated with aggressiveness.

Now, moving from before Christ was born to the modern era in the United States, personality tests were used by the U.S. Army during WWI around 1917. The U.S. government and military wanted to determine which soldiers would suffer from shell shock if put in the trenches on the front line.

Moving along the timeline, Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, offered his four personality types in 1921. They were, Thinking, Intuition, Sensing, and Felling. The Thinking type of person is deliberate and intentional. Intuitives are the explorers and are good with the abstract. The Sensing type is more experiential. And the Feeling type are the empathy and moral dilemma type.

In 1956, Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs brought about the Myers-Briggs personality test that I have taken in the past. Myers-Briggs has 16 personality types. And I still can’t remember what mine was from all those years ago when I took the test. But if I was to guess, I would say it was the Adventurer Type.

In 1967, we saw David Keirsey’s Four Temperaments; Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational. And in 1978, Don Lowry finally came up with the True Colors Personality Test that Darla Gundler was talking about above. This is the one that helped her and her daughter navigate the special education world to a successful career as a surgeon. The True Colors test is the personality test all of us participants of the first cohort of the CT Aspiring Leadership Academy for Special education completed.

The four True Colors primary personalities are Orange, Gold, Green, and Blue. The Orange personality were people who were a bit adventurous. Gold were rule followers. Green seeks knowledge and understanding. And Blue was unique, authentic, and family orientated.

My self-test results came back with the highest score in the Orange area. They told me that I was a bit of an entertainer and liked to do many different things. I had to agree with them. I try to entertain my students every single day. The group’s leaders also told me they were doing a complete personality profile on me and would get back to me with more information on how I could become better at what I do as a special education teacher.

My complete profile came back, and a lot of it was true. I have a unique profile. I was the only person in our cohort with a primary color of orange. Right away, I got labeled as the fun one who would start the party and probably get a little crazy. I was also the only one in the cohort with two colors tied for second place. The colors were blue and green. My last color was Gold.

According to my completed profile, the first 2 colors are called a power combo. The first two colors represent what a person leads with and what clearly brings them joy. The first pair of colors for most people truly represents who they are, how they operate, and how they see the world.

And unlike the other participants in my cohort, I had two of these power combos to work from. My Orange/Green combination has great potential for wonderful ideas and action. They tell me I can see a possible solution and act on that possibility at a moment’s notice. However, if not careful, I can also be the “ready, fire, aim” guy. My true strength is in my ability to envision something and act before others can even begin to see the concept.

My second power combo of the Orange/Blue combination provides a powerful one-two punch to create relationships. My Orange personality is often attractive to others. It gives an impelling force, while the Blue provides the social skill of a people person to make connections with others.

So far, I think I agree and like how this personality test is going. My True Colors profile also tells me I’m a charismatic person because many admire my personality and ideas. Now, I like this test even more. I don’t think I minded taking this test one bit.

However, there are some challenges though. Not everyone I meet likes me all the time. As an Orange, when I see myself as easy-going and flexible, others may see me as goofing off. Oranges are said to be clever and good negotiators, but sometimes others see them as manipulative. I like to explore all practical options, and some may see me as scattered. When I welcome new ideas, others may become annoyed that I’m unable to stay on task. I’ve always pushed the boundaries on what is possible, and others sometimes see me as taking unnecessary risks. Orange personalities also maintain open-ended options; others can see that as resisting closure or decisions. I am occasionally bold and assertive, too, which sometimes causes people to think I’m obnoxious. I really value my freedom, while others can sometimes see that as immature. I’m definitely adventurous and courageous. Others sometimes see me as self-centered. I try to be fun-loving and enjoy life. However, some see that as irresponsible. I also love being spontaneous. But, some see that as flakey. And I’m usually carefree. Some call that impulsive.

The challenge here is the world doesn’t always see me the way I see myself. Thus, some people become annoyed with me and can say things that go against who I am. However, after taking the True Colors Personality Test, I am a little wiser now. Now, I know the way the Blues, the Greens, and the Gold (my dimmest color) see themselves are most likely not the way I see them either. My picture of them is probably incomplete. I need to reframe what I see in others so I don’t become annoyed by them. I also have to be careful about what I demand from them, so I’m not pushing their unique stress buttons. And it would be nice as well if the world would reframe the way they see me and not get annoyed by what I do or push my unique stress buttons.

This color philosophy above and all of us reframing what we see is a great way to get along with people and be more productive as a team. And this same thing could work wonders in our schools’ classrooms and special education rooms.

I also like how my profile offered communication tips for the color types. We Orange people are witty, charming, impulsive, optimistic, and physical. So, it would help if people used sound bites with us. Green is analytical, cool, calm, inventive, and hypothetical. So it would help if we gave them time to ponder. Blue is enthusiastic, communicative, idealistic, peaceful, and sympathetic. It helps when they are acknowledged and appreciated. Gold is loyal, dependable, sensible, faithful, and caring. They communicate well with people who are prepared and give them details.

I’m primarily an Orange. I get stressed by too much responsibility, imposed structure or deadlines, repetition, routine, being stuck at a desk, a lack of variety, lack of options, too many rules, regulations, and details. In an abbreviated manner for the other colors, Blues hate broken promises. Green gets stressed over incompetence. And Gold is bothered by disorganization and lack of structure. Check out the True Colors website for a more complete list of what stresses out the Blue, Green, and Gold colors if you’re curious about it. If we know what stresses the other out, we can avoid doing those things to them.

At work as an Orange, I don’t want to be told how to work. A Green personality doesn’t like being asked to do something illogical. A Blue hates being treated as a role rather than an individual. And a Gold gets stressed out at work from not having SOP rules, procedures, or a model to work from.

It’s like what Socrates said, “Know thyself.” True Colors takes it one step further, though. They say know yourself and know the other, too. As a special education teacher, I think that’s excellent advice. Don’t you?