Teaching can be an isolating profession if you let it. Our schedules demand us to be on and in the classroom the majority of the day. This leaves many teachers with very little time to build strong relationships with teachers who surround them. When teachers exists in isolation— without the support of people with a shared vision— the road can seem a lot more difficult. It is one of the truest parts of the human condition— people are not meant to be alone. We thrive in community of others who listen and support our efforts. The same truth exists in the teaching profession. As teachers, we need a support team who can celebrate our successes and help see us through the difficult times. Finding your teacher tribe is an important part of improving in your craft. For some, finding the right tribe can make the difference between staying in the profession or exiting.
Jim Rohn once said: ”You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Our purpose should be to find the people who are in pursuit of excellence in themselves and in the field of education. Finding the people who add value to our mission is a vital part of our progression as educators. Unfortunately, there are those people who are more interested in finding fault in the educational systems and offering no solutions. These people are destructive to our mission to do right by students. The result of finding yourself surrounded by these people can cause you to forget why you wanted to teach in the first place. Whichever type of educator you choose to surround yourself with will ultimately begin to define your attitude towards education.
Whether you have found your teacher tribe or are feeling as though you exist in isolation, there are many places to look to find to other teachers who are just as “crazy” as you. These people will help to continually inspire us to do better and reach further for our students.
Throughout my years in education, I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by some of the most passionate educators that one can imagine. Some part of finding these people has been through sheer luck and happenstance, while other parts have been a little more deliberate. As teachers, it is important that we gather as a collective and support one another in the pursuit of our mission.
In every school there are bright spots where teachers continually go beyond the call of duty. These are the teachers who spend their down-time with their students helping them learn a new skill, grasp a difficult concept, or simply strengthening relationships. For this reason, it is unlikely that these teachers will be found in the staff lounge complaining about the many difficulties that come with teaching. One must seek these teachers out. No matter how busy the person may be, they will be willing to help a fellow educator do what is best for the students. These teachers care about the learning of all students, not just their own. If you are lucky enough to have these people on your teaching team, the process is that much easier. I have been fortunate to have been graced by a team of like-minded educators who will stop at nothing to ensure that all students have the opportunity to take a seat at the table of their own learning.
From my team, evolved a cohort of educators who call themselves the Guerilla Teacher Academy. The group is assembled to be a nimble task force which creates change in the local educational system— specifically in our school. Our belief is that teachers excel and innovation is born out of educators in community— not isolation.
Our experiences within the world of social media are what we make them. The communities that we build in these virtual spaces can either be filled with positivity that enriches our knowledge of the world around us or a lesser more negative experience filled with mindless dribble that is senseless and bordering on the negative. Twitter is one of the best social media platforms that I have found to connect with other educators who share information, experiences, and positive insights into the field of education.
One of the surest ways to grow your Professional Learning Network (PLN) is through engaging in Twitter Chats. These chats typically run an hour in length and happen on a weekly or monthly basis. During these chats, you have an opportunity to listen to and share ideas with educators from all over the country and beyond. Not only do these chats allow you the ability to share information, they provide an outlet of inspiration. For a list of many of the education chats happening, visit the link provided in the resource section of this post.
Not only has Twitter allowed me to connect with other educators through virtual spaces, I have even met some of these educators in person at a local EdCamp. If you have never been to an EdCamp, I highly recommend you keep an eye out for them. Unlike most conferences, there is no set list of presenters until participants arrive. The conference draws on the expertise of the people who are in attendance. Many of the sessions are facilitated discussions around a topic. This allows teachers to build on strengths and grow in areas of interest.
EdCamp draws a group of educators who are extremely passionate about the work that they do. The energy of the attendees is contagious. The people are jovial and more than happy to share their expertise and their stories. You will leave the conference not only with new information and strategies, but inspiration and new people in your tribe.
The standard educational conference model can be a good place to meet educators with a passion for their work. It can also be a place that perpetuates worn out methods and acts as a sounding board for all that is wrong with education. The larger conferences attract teachers who run the gamut. After attending one of the larger conferences, I made a decision that I would be much more selective about the conferences that I would attend.
The ideal scenario in any conference is leaving with useful information, inspiration and new connections. While attending the National Teacher-Powered Schools conference in Minneapolis, I lucked out and found all three. The energy in each of the sessions was palpable. Not all conferences provide this level of engagement. Even when a conference is less than we hoped for, there are countless opportunities to connect with other educators. After all, information is sometimes best spread through informal conversations.
I can remember one of my college professors that teaching was a lonely profession for her. The truth is that teaching can be lonely if you let it be. Alternatively, teaching can be a profession enriched by the community of people who surround us. If you feel like you are going it alone, reach out and connect with other educators. You will be a better teacher because of it.