Teaching tribes…

I’ve spent much time this week reading Ken Robinson’s Element, if you’re familiar with the TED talk and his recent lectures at the R.S.A. and Specialist School Trust conference, the first section comes as no surprise.

I’m not sure whether I’ve found my element, one for another post, but the chapter on tribes really hit home for me.

He suggests that one part of finding your element is becoming involved with a tribe, people who share your passion.

Finding your tribe offers validation of your interests. People ask why I share what I do, but blog comments, emails and people speaking about how they have used a resource, all provide an indicator that there is purpose to my work. It encourages me further, as a result it also reminds me of my need to validate the work of others. To provide encouragement, and offer advice, when appropriate. Tribes provide a circle of influence that encourage and support innovation.

The tribe also provides interaction with others who share a similar passion, as a result it encourages yourself and others to raise the bar terms of your shared interest, developments come when people build upon the ideas of others. I remember a long time ago feeling excited at finding other individuals online who shared similar viewpoints and interests, I have many teachers who I aspire to, enjoy their work and want to inherit some of their style!

I think are many developments, past and present, that are helping to develop the nature of teaching tribes, particularly within Geography. But, we have to guard against any tribe becoming exclusive, it must be open to all, even those with dissenting views. I wonder about the lack of argument that seems to take place within tribes, dissenting views, even blockers, enable us to evaluate our perspectives from a different position, hence the encourage innovation. As in all communities tribes develop (unconsciously?) a hierarchy, the challenge is for the ‘hierarchy ‘to encourage dissenters /blockers, rather than alienate, as well as new membership and fresh ideas.

The idea of synergy within a tribe is aspirational, the collective minds of the tribe collaborating on a shared project. I think we can see green roots in some areas, I wonder how long before a set of colleagues, from across a wide geographical area, collectively write a whole curriculum, teaching with the same resources, evaluating and adapting as they proceed. It seems madness people working alone…

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  1. Alan Parkinson
    Posted February 22, 2009 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    There is a definite tribe out there, and it’s growing all the time.
    I don’t think we’re far off having the collective mass to do what you’ve suggested Tony…

  2. Tony_Cassidy
    Posted February 22, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I think you done a great deal of good work in this area, collective mass I’m unsure of, mostly because it takes a leap of faith and a ‘core’ of innovators who are willing to take the burden of developing such projects.

    There is then an issue of how to encourage further contributors, beyond those that just pass judgement or take, contributing is much more difficult, because your work is subjected to the views of the group. There is also an issue of ‘group speak’,the group needs to be open enough to incorporate new contributors.

  3. Kevin Cooper
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tony, great blog, really interested by this stuff… love what you say about dissenting voices too… I think a lot of what ‘we’ inadvertantly do in schools (perhaps especially ‘good’ schools) encourages compliance above individuality. No-one enjoys a ‘moaner’ – but I reckon ‘moaners’ are probably mostly perceptive critics who have become negative by feeling unheard. Hooray for people prepared to put their neck on the line and challenge the status quo, or the prevailing think-speak. Leadership is a big issue with all this too – in my utopia leaders are gardeners, providing the conditions for optimal growth of their ‘followers’, which means different conditions for different people – just like we are supposed to try and provide for all the different learners in our classrooms. But too often effective leadership is seen as “telling people how to do it” – ironic given the changes in the classroom over the last 10 years or so.

    Sorry, off the soapbox now…

  4. Tony_Cassidy
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Permalink


    I heard the best comment last year in relation to dissenters.

    One person said ‘Why bother watering the rocks in the garden?’

    One person responded ‘I like the way they shine.’

    Great, I loved that.

  5. Kevin Cooper
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Love it.

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