Thursday, June 4, 2015

#beyouEDU - Finding Your Tribe with Kerry Gallagher

As educators and technologists -- and a few that are a combination of both -- prepare to travel to ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia, there is much talk of reunions and first time face-to-face meet-ups.  All of the excitement is because many in the edtech community have formed tribes: groups of like-minded, highly motivated education professionals with whom we love to connect and grow.

It the midst of all this anticipation and excitement, it is important to remember that even educators are simply people.  Our tribe starts to form early in life.  ISTE is only one short stop on that journey.


As we start out in this world, we are first dependent on our parents and our family.  They are our first tribe and, if we are lucky, the group that stays with us unconditionally throughout life.  Sure, in this tribe there are more ups and downs than in others, but without them our foundation might crumble.


We grow, learn to play, attend school and find there are people outside of our family that can become important to us too.  While only a few make friends that become part of the lifelong tribe at this stage of life, we learn important lessons about honesty and loyalty in childhood.


The bonds of childhood strengthen during the teen years. This tribe is made up of the classmates who took crazy risks with us, and survived.  These are the people in our same major in college, or our roommates.  The bonds in this tribe are strong.  We will be in one another's weddings, meet each other's babies, and share life's ups and downs in the years and decades to come.

Young Adult

At this stage we'll discover a new kind of tribe: a professional tribe.  They are the teachers in our same department if we work at a high school, on our team at a middle school, or at our grade level in elementary.  If we were to sit around a table for a meal, we could not help but talk about the Civil War, the quadratic formula, or the importance of stem cell research.  We share a passion for our content.  In other professions it is similar.  These are people we are bonded to because of a common passion and drive to innovate and create within our profession and our area of expertise.


As a career develops, more tribes will be added.  Teachers tend to feel more fulfilled when they have colleagues with whom they also enjoy spending some personal time.  These colleagues can be found in the classroom next door, or perhaps in classrooms far far away.  Luckily, we are now also able to make strong connections with thought leaders and innovators worldwide using platforms like Voxer, Twitter, Google Hangouts, and something as simple as email.  In adulthood we might find our core tribe grows or that it shrinks, based on our needs and the varying pace of life.

The trick to finding a tribe that is truly committed to sticking together and moving forward together is to not see each of the groups I identified above as separate.  Any person who supports my personal and professional growth is a part of my tribe.  Not everyone in my tribe may know the others yet, but they all know of each other because I speak of each of them often.  They all form a circle of support around me.  They all form my tribe. 

My tribe is a diverse group.  Some are in my family and I see them every day.  Others are a part of my social media PLN and we have never actually met in person (ISTE 2015 will fix that in many cases).  Some know me only professionally and I only interact with them in an educator capacity.  Others have never seen me step foot in a school and know me only as a daughter/sister/wife/mother.  What makes each of them an important part of my tribe is that they are moving forward with me and we want nothing more than to support one another to be our best.

When you really reflect on your life, who makes up your tribe?

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