Teacher Tribes: The Art of Mentoring and Learning Together
We are built for community, all of us. When I don’t have the answer to a problem, I know my family or network of friends and colleagues often do. And that’s great because it means I’m not alone trying to figure the world out on my own. Mentoring and learning go hand-in-hand – just like giving and receiving, one cannot exist without the other. And social media has taken this concept to a whole new level.
Seth Godin says that through social media, there’s a new model by which people can affect change: Leadership. All it takes is one person to organize people into what he calls a “tribes” for ideas to take hold and become a reality. He uses many examples of this, but I like best the point he makes about how the internet was supposed to homogenize us by connecting us all, but instead has created “silos of interests and polarizing people together with similar interests.”
“When a group of people with common interests come together, a synergy is created which allows them to create something much greater than any of them could have created individually.” ––Sir Ken Robinson
This is especially true in the teacher community. More and more teachers are turning to online networks for help and support in their classrooms. Through platforms like Google +, Edmodo, EdWeb and many more, they are connecting up with seasoned teachers and novices alike to share ideas and build up their cache of learning tools, encourage, inspire and build lasting friendships.
But how do we do we find our tribe? It’s not easy to get busy teachers together. The nice thing about these learning communities, called personal leaning networks (PLNs), is that they are asynchronous and can accommodate varied levels of involvement and topics. For example, check out this Google+ community for science teachers, whose mission it is to share the best science teaching resources and blogs. There is even a Google Education Group (GEG) that helps people connect up socially and professionally in their area not only with each other, but with certified Google trainers and innovators to help support learning goals with technology.
Marelisa Fábrega and Jeff Goins also give excellent advice in their blogs on what how to find and build “killer tribes.” Their tips are very practical, and I like how they both say to choose your tribe wisely – these are the people who model your craft and who you will emulate. And who Fabrega further says, “will lift you up, help you grow, recharge you, inspire you, and celebrate with you, and who are willing to lend a hand when you need it.”
Teachers are lifelong learners. We are less interested that you programmed the latest video game than we are the process you used to do it. The process is everything to us. We learn it, then we turn around and teach it to others. That’s the cycle of joy. From this process thought experiments take place, then the discovery of new ideas, thus giving birth to amazing creativity. So being connected to a community where we actively create and inspire creativity in others is a perfectly natural environment for us.
Join a tribe, you’ll be glad you did!
Don’t know where to start? Visit my Google+ group on instructional technology here: LitSpark, and surf around for communtiies that might interest you.