Saturday, January 22, 2011


"American stunt men are smart.  They think about safety.  When they do a jump in a car, they calculate everything:  the speed, the distance...Everything we do is a guess.  If you've got the guts you do it.  All of my stunt men have gotten hurt."   - Jackie Chan

There are certain times in our life when we come to a fork in the road and have to make a decision.  Do we head down the traditional, beaten path that is clearly marked and know where we are going to end up?  Do we hike down the less conventional trail which has twists and turns, but that we still believe will take us where we would like to go?  There are pros and cons to following each of these.  The traditional path is easier, it's comfortable, and the results are tried and true.  Most people are going to go that way anyway, aren't they? The trail less traveled is going to guarantee that we are going to get a good workout, that we would have really flexed our muscles along the way, and it likely would have break us out of the rut we might have been in. Yet even by choosing this more challenging pathway, we often know that we are going to end up pretty close to where we thought we would get, but with some slight modifications.  Definitely more adventuresome is the latter, and those who have this willingness to take on the additional challenges are to be commended.

However, the people who are really changing my thinking today seem to ignore both of these paths and create their own.  These individuals are not the type who follow a pathway anyway, they blaze a trail which is often in a completely different direction than most people are going.  And these people have one thing in common that propels them through these uncharted waters:  each of them has GUTS.

"Gold medals aren't really made of gold.  They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts." - Dan Gable, US Olympic Wrestling Gold Medallist

I like people with guts.  Being around people with guts makes me feel 10 feet tall, and able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound.  And in the last few weeks, there have been a few people that have done exactly what they always do, they inspire me (and many others) with their guts.  While there are so many people like this out there, and I hate to exclude any of the people who shape my thoughts, these are a few examples GUTS for me in the past few weeks:

1)  Chris Wejr - Principal of Kent Elementary Bucking the trend with his post called The Death of an Awards Ceremony subsequent radio interview about Awards = GUTS

2)  Chris Kennedy - Superintendent of West Van changing the way that Superintendents do business by making himself completely accessible to the public at all times, as outlined in this article in the Vancouver Sun = GUTS

3) Brad Epp and Blake Buemann - Teachers at my school who are using this survey to have their students evaluate their teaching so that they can get formative feedback and improve their methods of instruction = GUTS.

4) Joe Bower - Teacher in Red Deer, Alberta, who continuously challenges our thinking of assessing student learning first rather than assigning students grades in his blog "For the Love of Learning" = GUTS.

5) Jonathan Martin and Patrick Larkin, (via Karl Fisch and Daniel Pink) - Through their introduction to their staffs and implementation of the "Fisch Flip" of instruction, where students get the content at home and get the benefit of teacher instruction during class time = GUTS

6) Suanne Wallin - Teacher at Westsyde Secondary in Kamloops, BC who is completely committed to making connections to students in her classes, and believes that EVERY LAST STUDENT in her 'Strive' Program can be successful.  My visit to her classroom last week has truly inspired me to think of students and the services that we provide in a completely different way = GUTS

These people all inspire me in very different ways.  Through their actions, they have challenged conventional thinking, and have bared their values for all to see and critique.  These individuals know that the worst thing that we can do is stay put, and have made some pathways that might have been thought of as 'risky' in the past not only safe but possible.  And as much as each of them is incredibly talented, I would argue that the characteristic that sets them apart from others is the very reason why they are to be admired: each of them has GUTS. 

If you have examples of people in education that have GUTS, please feel free to add to this list above with your comments, and to share what it is they are doing with your Personal Learning Network.  The more that we hear about people with guts, the more it inspires each of us to be courageous in our own situation.

We all know people that are good at what they do.  We sometimes look with envy at those with raw talent.  And we all admire those with guts.  But if I had the choice to take someone with more talent than guts, or someone with more guts than talent, I'll take the one with more guts every time.


  1. Great post Cale and fantastic selections.

    Thought I'd add a few more "Knute Rocknes" within our ranks of BC Educators:

    Remi Collins who continually asks the questions that serve to refine his craft and for ‘laying down’ his 5 essential elements in a report card: What is the Role of Report Cards

    David Wees and his GUTS to put forward the notion of rewarding innovators” within education: Reward Innovators with Responsibility

    Aaron Akune who is boldly redefining the role of Vice Principal (with his staff and team) as that of “leader of learning”: Learning as Leading

    Jaki Braidwood @5_Alive who models inclusivity at her blog - allowing learning to be 'messy' and moving from the known to the unknown by turning it over to the kids: The Ripple Effect

    I'd work with any of these educators . . . anywhere, anytime!

  2. Thanks for adding to this list, Gino, and I couldn't agree more. What a team this would be to work with!

  3. I had the pleasure of working with one of these "Knute Rockneys" mentioned by Gino.

    @5_alive is a great teacher because her entire focus in class is on building relatiosnhips and a positive classroom community. She just happens to use technology very effectively to do it.

    I can't wait to hear about her twiducate adventures and classroom project (and I have no idea what that means)

    As a principal, I hope to support more gutsy people in their passions, not ge tin the way with administrivia.

  4. I don't have to go far to find a person with guts! Terry Ainge is just two doors down from me. He has the GUTS to ask great questions that challenge all of us in our school community to reflect on what we do on a daily basis, how we do it and why we do it. He also has the GUTS to relinquish control and place others in leadership roles.

    Most importantly, he demonstrates the GUTS to stand up for the best interest of every child!

  5. I know that I speak for many by adding Cale Birk (@birklearns) to this list of educators with GUTS! Cale, your posts consistently challenge our thinking and inspire us to reflect on our practice. There have been many many times over the last 6 months when you have demonstrated the courage to thoughtfully articulate what many of have been thinking (and wanting to say). You "put it out there" and that takes GUTS! Through their examples, Cale and the others listed on this page are helping us to do a better job in our own school communities. Thanks for the mention, @aakune, your attention to relationships and building a learning community is done along with the many other things that need to get done in a secondary school = GUTS

  6. As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
    Henry David Thoreau

    Avoiding the beaten path takes a great deal of time and energy - physical, mental and often emotional. The people listed above (and many others) have both guts and persistence. (Though you could argue that persistence also takes guts!) Kudos to them, to you and to everyone else that strives every day to venture off the beaten path.

  7. Thank you for including me in such amazing company. Avoiding the beaten path isn't always the popular one at times either because change can be uncomfortable for some. Perseverance is absolutely necessary as is trusting your instincts. I'm grateful to be in the presence of individuals such as yourselves that continue to inspire me to grow as an educator. Reading this post couldn't have come at a better time. It made my week.

    Thank you, Gino. And thank you, Kyle. Without administrators like you who choose to support and trust my midnight revelations and new directions, this road would be considerably more difficult.

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