Friday, December 2, 2011

Looking for my tribe

As I've been thinking recently about what I'm looking for in a new school, one of the things that springs to mind is that I'm looking for a good fit with the people that I will be working with.  I'm looking for people with the same vision of how technology can transform learning.  I'm looking for a "can do" attitude that encourages trying out new ideas and challenging the status quo in order to improve student learning.    I'm looking for people that I can learn from and that I respect.  I'm looking for mentors who can make me into a better educator.  I think this is something that Seth Godin would call looking for my tribe.  Seth explains that the idea of a tribe is to connect people and ideas and that the power of the internet is that it connects individuals so that ideas can turn into movements.  I'm feeling that recently the internet has connected me with those of a like mind - educators I would never have come across without this technology.  Actually this time round, the internet has been a powerful thing that has helped me to search for my tribe - it has certainly been better than going to a job fair.

It's not always easy or comfortable to challenge the status quo - sometimes it's downright dangerous.  But not challenging it can be dangerous too.  One thing my mother taught me is that hard work doesn't kill you - it's stress that does that.  Stress comes from being undervalued and from having to suppress your feelings in order to maintain the status quo.  Having to push your ideas and feelings down, having to settle for mediocre and lowering your standards is selling yourself short and  simply leads to frustration, resentment and bitterness.

Last May the oldest person in my family died - she was my Auntie Josie who was in her 98th year and who managed to live independently up until a month before she died.  One of the things I respected most about my auntie was that she was true to herself and did what she wanted, not always what people expected of her.  Being born before the First World War and being a woman, it was probably hard for her to honour her dreams, but she struck me as being a person who didn't compromise much.  She did what she thought was right - and that was probably what kept her going for so long.

I was thinking about my Auntie Josie last week as I read a blog post entitled Top Five Regrets of the Dying.  One of these is "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings".  I think what was written here was important:
We cannot control the reactions of others.  However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level.  Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life.  Either way you win.
When I think about the teachers that I work with, and the way they have moved forward with using technology over the past two years, it has been because of having honest conversations about what they were doing and why.  I think that initially some of these teachers didn't like me questioning the way they'd been doing things, but I think most of them have come to see that things are better now as a result of these conversations - and I can see that these conversations have been positive ones because of the trusting relationship that we have built up.

I need to go further though.   I need to go faster.  I'm excited that I've set off in search of a new tribe and I'm excited that it's the internet that is helping me to find it.

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