Guts: An alloy much stronger than gold

“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 that we 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. claude said:

    During a discussion following the viewing of the documentary “Race to nowhere”, an administrator said that his school had eliminated homework and instead gave families a booklet called ‘Supporting Learning’ that gave them ideas of things they could do at home with their kids instead. That’s guts!

    January 23, 2011
  2. Ashley Welch said:

    This blog is very interesting, because it’s true we do admire people with guts. I am usually a person who sits back and just watches what goes on and I never have guts to get out there are do something risky. At this time, I don’t know anyone in Education that has guts, but I am starting to observe at a school. I am hoping to see Principals and teachers with guts to inspire me to open up.

    January 24, 2011
  3. What a great treat to read this, Cal: I am really touched to be included.

    It is great timing too– this weekend particularly I need a boost of encouragement to be courageous, as I implement our new no-awards policy. I know it is the right thing to do, but it is undoing many years of school tradition, a tradition valued greatly by many (not a majority, but still a vocal minority).

    It is so great the encouragement and affirmation our still-so-new online community provides to me regularly; it has exactly the effect your post promotes: my PLN makes me bolder.


    January 24, 2011
  4. Cale,

    Thanks for the mention in the post. How fortunate are we to be educators in this day when we can share our trials and tribulations with one another to help continue to move our schools forward? I appreciate the compliment and being looked upon as someone with GUTS.

    However, I just see it as fulfilling our moral obligation to create the best possible learning environments for our staff and students. I am fortunate to be in a school community where that is supported!

    January 24, 2011

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