If you have been in education long enough, you know that change is inevitable. In my 18 years as an educator, I have seen the pendulum swing back and forth several times. It can be overwhelming and confusing at times to know which philosophy to back or which soap box to stand upon.
With that in mind, I can always, always count on my tribe to guide me. Merriam-Webster defines tribe as “a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest.” Every educator needs a tribe. This is your core group of people that support, challenge, inspire, and listen to you. You know, your peeps.
Your tribe can consist of people you see everyday, your work spouse, your students, your gurus, and/or former colleagues. My tribe is all of the above.
I depend heavily on my “work wife.” She challenges me to be a better educator. She is my sounding board when I have an idea and a listening ear when I’m frustrated. On the days she is not at work, I struggle. I’m lucky in the fact that not only is she an amazing teacher and partner, but she is fun to work with.
I am fortunate to work at a school surrounded by some of the hardest working educators in the world. The teachers, staff, and administrators I work with have one common goal: what’s best for the kids. Day in and day out…the students come first. It is because I work with such phenomenal teachers that I come to work everyday with my A game. I don’t want to let them down. Even though I am the instructional coach, I learn just as much from them. My administrators and my mentor support me in every way. They trust my opinion and respect my experiences. I could not be innovative or take risks without knowing they’ve got my back. They are part of my tribe.
Even though I don’t see them everyday, or near enough for that matter, my former colleagues are still part of my life. There are certain teachers who have made huge impressions on me. They taught me how to truly enjoy teaching. They taught me to slow down and think things through, to look at the other side of the coin. My supervising teacher while I did my student teaching taught me to leave my class at the end of the day as if a sub was going to walk in and teach the next day. In other words, clear your desk of piles, have your plans perfect, and be 100% ready to go! My two best friends in the world are former colleagues of mine and two of the BEST teachers I have ever seen! They taught me how to love my students like a mama bear. These educators have gone on to other schools, positions, or retired, but they made an impact on me. They are my tribe.
I was once asked in an interview who my educational gurus were. I faltered. I had a bookshelf full of professional texts and magazines. I had a read and researched many educators in grad school. Why couldn’t I name a few in this interview? Well, you’d better believe I can name them now! Through every phase of my educational career, I have had a professional hero or mentor. The day I was hired for my first teaching job, I was handed the book “The First Days of School” by Harry Wong. I read it cover to cover and it still has a place of honor on my bookshelf. Dr. Jean Feldman helped me teach kindergarten by teaching me to sing and have fun with my students. When I became a Literacy Specialist, I studied Fontas and Pinnell and taught many kids how to read. Just this past week, I met George Couros at a conference. His book “The Innovator’s Mindset” has transformed my leadership style. They are part of my tribe (and don’t even know who I am!).
Finally, the most important members of my tribe are my students. They may change year to year, but they will always be my kids. I’m an educator. I’m overworked and underpaid. But I do it for them. I believe that I can make a difference and I will not fail them. I’ve heard people say time and time again that teachers make lasting impressions on students. I agree. But what often goes unsaid is that students make lasting impressions on their teachers, too. They are a BIG part of my tribe.
So why have I spent 30 minutes writing a blog post about My Tribe? Well, my advice to all educators is find a tribe. Build your tribe. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and make you a better person. Who are the members of your tribe? Have you ever heard the saying “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”? Well, show me your tribe, and I’ll show you what kind of teacher you are.
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