By Bill Guy
“A pleasant surprise from the True Colors training was learning about the values and strengths possessed by the different groups, as well as the things that challenge them,” says Southwest Teachers Association President Laura Wood, speaking about the half-day professional development workshop that engaged some 60 SWTA site reps and the elementary district’s principals, assistant principals and other central office administrators. “As a chapter president, I found it gave me a new way to think about organizing members and bringing new potential leaders to the surface.”
True Colors specializes in training and development programs using symbolic colors to represent participants’ personality traits. For instance, gold traits include order, discipline and structure, while blue personalities are more concerned with fairness, sensitivity, creativity and concern for others. Orange types tend to be spontaneous and enjoy movement and activity, and green personalities are interested in facts and figures and logical decision-making.
SWTA was attracted to the True Colors model because it offers a simple method for improved communication based on recognition of a person’s particular type. Participants engage in a series of activities that help them identify their primary color and understand what that means in terms of their likes or dislikes, and strengths or stressors.
“Everybody probably intuitively knows that they are perhaps more introverted than extroverted or that they prefer to work in groups or that they might be more productive working alone,” says Wood, “but True Colors can help you clarify that knowledge, not only about yourself, but about your colleagues. And it provides a common language in a friendly environment to foster ongoing discussion and collaboration.”
“I really enjoyed CTA’s True Colors training,” says SWTA member Rebecca Margolis. “It was especially important to have a group that included both the top district administrators and principals and the SWTA representative council and executive board. I found out that my color is blue, so I joined with other blue folks to create an advertisement for the blue tribe. It was musical and very bluesy.”
After discovering their own primary color and exploring the colors representing the personality types of their colleagues, workshop participants divided themselves into small groups that included all four colors. Their goal was to use their knowledge and skills to respond to one of two real-life, on-the-job challenges. Some of the groups planned an ideal classroom environment that would be both conducive to optimum learning as well as enjoyable for students of all four colors. The other groups took the task of planning an agenda and activities for a school parent night that would be informative and entertaining for parents representing the characteristics of the four colors.
“It was very interesting to get to know my friends and colleagues in a different way,” says Wood. She notes that SWTA would be using the True Colors training with a group they created called Working Together, which fosters dialogue between their association and South Bay Union School District administrators.
“Working Together originated about three years ago out of a venting session after a particularly acrimonious round of negotiations,” says Wood. “But both sides were willing to listen and keep talking, and SWTA has made great strides in achieving parity as a result of ongoing participation in this group.”
SWTA’s desire to help its site reps have the tools they need to address members’ concerns at the site level — and the union’s recognition that the training might also benefit the significant number of new building principals in the district this year — led to the collaboration that made co-offering True Colors with the district possible.
“By teaching us about the strengths, values, motivators and frustrations of different kinds of people, the True Colors training prepared us to continue our dialogue, at the district and site levels, with people who may think very differently than we do,” says Wood. “It also helped us to see that many of us had more in common than we realized.”