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Pushing the Edge

Trust your Instincts: Turn towards Positivity and Possibility

Knowing vs doing - take action

You know the moment, I’m sure.

You’re drawn in –  you want to explain – you want to show how something CAN be done.

Then slowly but surely it starts to dawn on you.

At first you resist that inner voice, that instinct that tells you to bail out – to disengage.

Yet that cautionary voice grows louder and louder.

‘What are YOU doing? Get out NOW.’  

I’m chatting with colleagues, one of them is speaking excitedly about a new teaching practice. 

I pipe up, indicating that I’ve been using that practice myself, in one of my classes.

It’d had made an impact on so many levels – lifting engagement, deepening the quality of discussions within class, and firing up students’ passions and interest for the subject. 

As I shared the benefits, another colleague piped up. They had concerns with the teaching practice, from an access and equity perspective. 

  • Thinking through their concerns – I suggest a possible way forward – a way to navigate the hurdle/barrier. 

You see for me, where hurdles or barriers exist, that’s when the work starts – to see what we can do.  

  • They block my suggestion – indicating how it wouldn’t work – drawing attention to the issues facing disadvantaged school communities. 

I’d spent most of my teaching career working in such communities

  • I indicate such to them. 

It was as though I felt the need to demonstrate my credentials – to back myself up.

Trust Your Instinct - Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran

Image: Geralt (Pixabay)


Stop right now Greg.’

  • Trust your instincts
  • Trust that inner voice forged through experience.

I’d been in this situation many times before.  

The topics may have been different but the situations were a carbon copy of this one.  

Someone raises a problem | I go into problem solving mode.

Someone closes a door | I seek to open it – excited at the possibilities beyond.

Someone says ‘No’That just inspires my sense of activism.

Where a hurdle or barrier exists – I’m all about devising ways – with my students, colleagues…. – of navigating up, over, round, or through the hurdle or barrier. 

  • It may not always work – first, second, third…time but I’m (we’re)  gonna give it a good go. And I’m (we’re) gonna learn from those attempts. 

BUT you know what, sometimes no matter what you do or say

  • No matter how you twist, turn and contort yourself – along with the issue itself;
  • No matter how many possibilities you devise – taking into account the seemingly never ending objections or barriers…

…the answer will always be: NO | NOT POSSIBLE | NOT NOW | OR | NOT GONNA WORK.

You can give it a good go. Indeed, sometimes it can be hard to resist the temptation.

For me though, I set myself a CHALLENGE nowadaysIt’s a three-step process. 

  1. To catch myself when I’m in a NO, NO, NO situation, (Trust Your Instincts Greg.)
  2. To dis-engage; and
  3. To turn myself towards possibility.

And by possibility I mean, turning towards educators who have a ‘let’s give this a go‘ – ‘let’s try to find a way through‘ – ‘let’s think of alternatives‘ mindset.

You’d probably call it a Growth Mindset (Video). Some refer to it as Grit (Ted Talk Video). 

Regardless of the label, I know that when I’m giving more SPACE to these forward-focused, problem-solving educators:

  • that’s when I grow;
  • that’s when I THRIVE in my own voice; and
  • that’s when Action takes place. 
6 comments… add one
  • Jennifer Potier

    Unfortunately. Many educational institutions are riddled with individuals who are afraid to change! i used to get disheartened by colleagues, but now, I agree with you, when the hurdles come, start jumping! have the courage in yourself, and the trust to know you are on a path worth exploring. It may not be the right path, you may have to double back and start again, your path may take all sorts of twists and turns. Strive and persist to reach your destination.

    • Greg Curran

      Thanks so much Jennifer – found myself nodding furiously in agreement with you. Courage + Trust in yourself is vital – as is knowing that the path may not be linear as you say. Those twists and turns are often instructive – big learnings can happen there even if we don’t realise it at the time. And if you feel alone – reach out – with the world of twitter now there’s so much support and inspiration available. Cheers Jennifer – do stay in touch. Love to hear more about the paths you’re taking.

  • Sue Williams

    Greg , as usual you make great points. Sometimes when I work with teachers 2 or 3 times I come across that negativity. Yes you focus on those with a growth mindset. Let their peers show the way and they will either try to follow or move on to another place (you can only hope!) because we have a community of teachers and encourage a collective agreement and expect colleagues to adhere to it as we expect students to do the same!

    • Greg Curran

      Cheers Sue. Love the approach of tapping into peers – directing your energy there and having them show the way. You’re right that can sometimes lead to movement or at least shifts along the path. And sometimes we need to be okay with those little shifts too – as long as they’re in the direction we’re moving!!

  • Alan Thwaites

    Here’s something we all know because we all feel it: we want to be liked, even loved, we want to be respected and we want to be valued. If we feel these things, we are energised and emboldened to give things a good go! We are empowered to express our opinions and ideas from our position of warmth and safety. We confidently skip and dance through the day, at least in spirit.

    On the other hand, none of us thrive on contention, hatred or rejection. I am not talking about energetic debates with friends here. I am talking about the kind of contentions that result in those little cliques who mutter about us in the staffroom or who stop speaking as we walk by. That uncomfortable coolness we feel. The short, sharp, even sarcastic responses to whatever we say and the stoney silences where once there was conversation. We stop skipping and feel like running away as fast as we can and never coming back!

    So there we have the line in the sand: remain silent and keep skipping or risk being rejected. Unless you are crazy, the choice is obvious! Why would you ever speak out to change the status quo? It’s simply too risky.
    It is much safer to remain silent when we notice redundant content and pedagogy depriving students from learning opportunities. It would be too uncomfortable to intervene if we observed young teachers having the joy of teaching and learning sucked out of them by “experienced” colleagues who have become embittered and disconnected from any moral purpose they might once have possessed. It is so much easier robotically deliver politically driven priorities that measure a student’s worth by their performance in Maths and English than it is to emphasise what really matters. Playing it safe means that when I am old, and I’m writing my memories that no one will read, I will be able to reminisce about all the nice comfortable chats I had with my colleagues in the staffroom over coffee and jam fancies. Nice!

    Stephen Covey recommends that we always “start with the end in mind”. Near the start of my teaching career, over 30 years ago now, I noticed an experienced colleague who clearly hated his job. He was disconnected, unreceptive, and critical. He always beat the kids out the front gates at the end of the day. I thought to myself that he could not have always been like that, not at the start of his teaching career at least. By what process did this man become a kind of walking-dead educator? I talked to him about his feelings on education. Later, I asked myself what I needed to do to make sure I did not go down the same path. While he does not know it, this man was the most influential reverse-mentor I have ever had. He taught me a lot.

    I learned that:
    – I must trust my instincts
    – if you ignore your instincts, you will slowly but surely die inside
    – eventually nothing will really matter anymore – not your job, not curriculum, not pedagogy and certainly not that which matters the most – your students
    – if you notice something that is wrong, something that takes learning opportunities away from students, you must step over that line without hesitation – you owe it to your students and to yourself

    Take the easy option of remaining fearfully silent when you should speak up? It is not the criticism you should fear, nor loss of popularity for speaking out. What you should fear it not being able to look back on a life that has made some difference to your students and to your colleagues who care for their students.

    Never be afraid to step over that line and the possibilities your actions might trigger!

    • Greg Curran

      Thanks so much Alan. As always getting us thinking and pondering.

      The line that really grabbed me…”Playing it safe means that when I am old, and I’m writing my memories that no-one will read, I will be able to reminisce about all the nice comfortable chats I had with my colleagues…”

      Yes indeed trust your instincts, as you say, the cost of not doing so is far too costly.


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