I’m Not Being Negative

“We need to make the positive so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.” – George Couros 

I saw this quote tweeted numerous times recently while following the #npc19 hashtag. Mr. Couros was a keynote speaker at the NASSP National Principals Conference . Here’s an image of the quote that showed up for those in the crowd to see:

I believe I understand the meaning behind this…be positive…don’t let those trying to bring you down get to you…something like that. I get it. 

But…

I want to add maybe just a little bit of balance. I often find one-liners that are fit for a Powerpoint slide can be misconstrued and misunderstood. Let’s be sure we’re not lumping those who are critical for the sake of clarification or understanding or debate in with those being negative. There’s a big difference. In the US (both in schools I’ve worked in and on Twitter) there seems to be a lack of ability to deal with critical comments/analysis. On Twitter, just this week, I read multiple threads of educelebrities ignoring (or blocking) any comments that challenged their ideas or thoughts…they would reply to almost all positive comments but ignore the rest and/or block all who dare question their statements. That is a big red flag for me; signs of someone who doesn’t really want to have a dialogue, but would rather look good for the ma$$e$. I certainly understand that it may be impossible to reply to all comments, but it becomes quite obvious what’s going on when the ignoring/blocking occurs habitually. 

I believe this is a perversion of Mr. Couros’ quote*. You’re not making the positive so loud you can’t hear the negative…you’re just ignoring the critical and the questioning…the critical thinkers…questioning information…isn’t this the sort of stuff we want out of our students? I don’t know, it just appears to be a bit hypocritical. 

I also started thinking about the setting for this presentation…hundreds, maybe thousands, of principals taking this thought/idea back to their school; positive loud, negative hushed. If we’re ignoring the critical teacher or the questioning member of the community, we could be missing out on a valuable point of view. Then, what type of environment are we setting up in that school? Not one I want to work within, I’ll tell you that…and I’ve done it before. A school I previously worked in operated under an administrator who sought to intimidate teachers and students. There was no dissent and no questioning. It was not a healthy environment for anyone in the building; effectively stymying teacher and student growth. 

So, where do we go from here?

I guess I’ll ask those who use Twitter for professional growth to be critical and questioning…even if it means opposing the herd.  If you see what appears to be a ludicrous statistic on the amount of time students can focus or how many minutes parents interact with students…ask for a reference. If you see a cheeky one-liner that sounds really good, but just isn’t substantive, ask for clarification or tweet to provide some balance. Edutwitter needs this badly. Just going along with these somewhat asinine ideas only serves to dilute the powerful tool that is Twitter. Unlike generations before, we’ve got this ability to connect with teachers around the world every second of everyday…amazing…let’s work to make it the best it can be. 

Before I go, I’d like to and some balance to this article that is meant to add balance…

  1. There is no correlation (positive or negative) between one’s amount of twitter followers and their expertise. Whether they have 80 or 80k followers, seek to learn from them and give all the same initial respect.
  2. Make sure you’re attacking the idea/concept/quote, and not the person. I am 100% writing this more for me than anyone else…this is an area where I have to be better. Many times, I’ve written a tweet, thought about its purpose, and then deleted. But, sometimes I don’t delete and, instead, hit ‘tweet’ and I’m not interacting with the best of intentions. I’m not too happy with myself at that point.

*I want to make clear this post is not meant to be an attack of Mr. Couros or his quote. I sincerely just want to add balance and contextualize the quote a bit. There is every possibility that he addresses exactly the points I’ve made in this post on his blog or during his presentations. None of my examples here are specifically about him. I actually wouldn’t be surprised at all if he agreed with a lot of what I’ve written.

3 comments

  1. entered comment, deleted comment, nothing thoughtful to add, just my support, thank you for being the voice of reason

  2. I truly believe that I could have written this or should you have asked, I could raise my hand up very high to indicate that this, too, has been my position and experience.

  3. I completely agree! I’m having a hard time with the lack of civil discourse that is perpetuated on social media. As a history teacher, I work hard to make sure that my students know that it’s okay to disagree with peers (and with me), but it has to be done in a respectful way.

Leave a Reply