Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Intuitive Educator

I have been wondering about teacher intuitiveness, in particular, why some teachers seem to be able to tap into their intuition and employ it more, and why some teachers appear reluctant and less likely to follow their intuition.

I am confident that I am an intuitive educator.  As a classroom teacher I rely on my intuition to guide me, and I am hopeful I do the same as a leader.  I know this, because I have spent the majority of my career digging deep into my my practice, analysing what I do, why I do it and what makes something more successful than other things.  When I haven't done something so well (as in, when I screw something up), either in the classroom or in the office, then I run my eyes over those situations as well - I suspect with a too critical eye sometimes!

It is from this behaviour of stopping and analysing what I do,  that I have discovered that my intuition derives from a mix of tapping into a variety of resources.  My intuitive formula is made up of a mix of experience, strategy, what I like to call 'reading the emotional barometer', and a variety of tools.  These resources support and supplement my intuition as a teacher and as a leader.


I consider experience as a process one might have of getting knowledge, skill and (fingers crossed) mastery/wisdom from participating in, or experiencing events, or from the day to day accumulation of 'doing'.  When I apply it to myself, I am meaning experience as a classroom teacher, within leadership and across all aspects of my life.  Mostly, for me, it is from first hand experiences (meaning, I was there), sometimes it is from the stories of others (I may not have been there but I played some role in supporting the situation from the sidelines), sometimes it is from physically doing or participating it something, and sometimes it is a more academic experience, where I have studied, read and learnt about things.

In Practice:
Tapping into my experiences forms the backbone of how I tap into my intuition.  For example, throughout my career, I have worked extensively with students who might be classified as 'challenging'.  There are very few behavioural experiences I have not 'experienced' first hand - from the psychologically alarming to the physically dangerous.  All of these collective experiences have allowed me to hone my intuition (some might call it 'spidey sense') in such a way that I am able to head most potential disasters off at the pass, before they come crashing down into an almighty version of the next apocalypse.  Sometimes, the warning signs might appear minor (to the uninitiated), but experience gives you tools and strategies you can use, and for the most part, mine will alert me of impending disaster.


By strategy,  I am talking about using strategies like problem solving, thinking skills, a variety of behaviour management techniques (like restorative justice), numerous leadership theories, practices and styles (such as agile leadership and transformational leadership), coaching, and perhaps one of the most important - the strategies of instructional practice (including understanding a wide range teaching strategies such as problem solving and being able to tap into student voice and agency).

In Practice:
Understanding a wide range of strategies that can be utilised as both a teacher and leader is critical because it means that your intuition has a repertoire of tools to reach for.  Imagine the behaviour management scenario above - your 'spidey sense' has warned you of a potential situation about to unfold, experience has helped hone that 'spidey sense' but because you also have a wide range of strategies to call upon, you are not stuck wondering what to do - instead you are able to work through options.

Reading the Emotional Barometer:

This is about your emotional intelligence (EI).  In this case, its about your ability to identify, monitor, and use your own emotions (intrapersonal intelligence) in a productive and positive way as you interact with others and with situations within life.  The more you understand your own reactions and emotional responses, the better able you will be to understand and see it in others (interpersonal intelligence).  This is about four key attributes, your self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management.  Your EI plays a big part in your intuition as the better able you are to tap into and sense  your EI, the more able you are to tap into your subconscious and be aware of the subtleties of others emotions.

In Practice:
During any interaction you might have, being able to 'read' the situation is vital.  As a teacher (or leader) there are many examples where it is easy to become frustrated.  When you are working with students (or adults), being able to turn that frustration into a positive pathway by managing your emotions shows the other person that you value them and that you have control over your frustration and anger.  Using 'I', rather than 'you', statements will avoid all involved heading into the territory of the 'defensive'.  Using your EI to validate others by acknowledging how they feel helps you walk the talk by valuing others.


In this case, I am referring to tools such as your mindset (growth vs fixed), resiliency - how able are you to bounce forward after any situation unfolds, 'bloody mindedness' (being determined to reach a goal) and your moral purpose - knowing your WHY.   There tools are all things I use to sharpen my intuition.

In Practice: 
What you focus on is what you most often manifest - do you have a growth mindset where you see an opportunity in difficult situations or do you stuck in a mire of negative self feedback?  Rewiring how you talk to yourself, being able to bounce forward from setbacks by learning from them, and tapping into your reasons for being an educator gives you a greater control over the days where educating is hard work!  It gives your intuition a more positive and powerful narrative to tap into.

6 Tips to Hone your Intuitive Educator

1. Reflective Practice 

Reflect, reflect and reflect again.  The more you know about what is working, what is not so successful and why this is the case, the better you are able to grow your experience and strategy base.

Ask Yourself:

What was it about this lesson/day/situation that was successful?  Can you replicate it?
Am I excited to go to work today?  Why/Why not?  What would make me excited?
What evidence do I have that my students are succeeding?  (Soft and hard data)
Are my students/teachers thriving?  How do I know?
In what areas can I improve professionally?  How can I share my skills with others?
What new ideas have I implemented lately that keep me on 'top of my game'?
How well balanced is my life - and how do I know?

2. Data 

Data, soft and hard, is a great way to know you impact.

Ask yourself:

What does the data tell me (soft and hard)?
Which data paints the picture of success?
Do I teach my students they way they are predisposed to learn or in the way I teach?
What does student/teacher/parent voice say?

3. Observe: 

Paying attention (being mindful) of the world around us is a rich source of information.

Ask yourself:

What did I notice today?
What is new or different in my environment, and what might have caused that?
What is the emotional temperature today, and what impact dd I have on that?
How do my interactions change things - for the betterment of others, or not?

4. Read: 

Reading about new methodologies or practices is an important part of being an educator.  Information is awash in our world, tapping into this to improve our practice should be second nature.

Ask yourself:

What new things have I learnt today?
Where do I source new information (twitter, social media platforms, blogs, research) and interact with others to learn new things?
How do I keep up to date on current pedagogies?

5. Inquiry: 

Teacher as Inquiry should be a core part of being an educator - investigating into practice is always going to result in better practice.   Try things out, experiment and reflect on what you do.

Ask yourself:

How do I inquire into my own practice?
What resources and evidence will I need to ensure my inquiry will result in improved outcomes?
Who is the inquiry for?
How often do I ask 'why' about my practice?
Do I really understand why something is successful or not?
What do my students say about our classroom -how much voice, choice and agency is there?

6. Observe others: 

Getting outside of our own classroom or office to observe what and how others do things is important.

Ask yourself:

How does my practice improve by observing others?
Why does the teacher/leader I am observing do things that way, how might I learn from this?
What did I notice?
Do I understand what effective practice is - how?


Tapping into your educators intuition is a key tool in your tool kit.  Because my own intuition arises from the intentional growing and modifying of the above attributes, it is something I rely on every single day - not just in my leadership but in my life.  I am now left wondering how I might help my own team sharpen and strengthen their own intuitive practice because the more I reflect on it, the more certain I am that it is in this intuitive practice where we find where the real magic lives!  Think about it - who are the best teachers and leaders you know?  For me, the more I think about it, it is the teachers and leaders who know how to tap into this intuitive resource that are the most successful.

How is your own intuitive educative ability?


  1. Thank you for your "musings." I see this "spidey sense" as you do, as a combination of experience, reading, professional conversations and emotional intelligence. It's the emotional intelligence that turns it into intuition rather than just learned reaction. And the hard work that makes it more than just the innate ability of our Marvel friend.

    1. Indeed it is hard work - one of the reasons I went into leadership was so that I could work alongside other teachers who wanted to and could hone these skills in order to make a difference for students. Agreed re the EI - interesting how this is the area some are reluctant to hone!

  2. Yes!..Another inspiring blog. In my practice I found it took a while for me to feel the faith in all these new pedagogies. We seemed to find our way through all the messiness of learning and often saw amazing growth in our learners. After reading this I'm thinking that this was just as much about realising i had developed faith in using my intuition as it is about applying new pedagogies. Thanks for the sharing.

    1. I like how you have relayed it back to having faith in your abilities - I think that's very true as too often we discount our successes or allow others to cloud our judgements.