Finding Your Tribe.

I was invited this weekend to spend some time in the Independent Thinking Bubble – which turned out to be a beautiful country house in Wales, packed full of people whose books I had read or am waiting to read. I was slightly nervous, sitting in the car for ten minutes, plucking up the courage to go in on Friday night. By Sunday morning, I didn’t want to leave. I had found my tribe and had my soul realigned.

It is easy in times such as these to start to think that people who know that learning happens in the body, the heart and the mind are a tiny minority. You can start to believe that the words ‘fun’, ‘engagement’, ‘relevance’, ‘enjoyment’, ‘love’, ‘happiness’, ‘conscience’, ‘ collaboration’ and even ‘group work’ are the problem with education and not an integral part of the solution. Too often we read earnest, well meaning blogs from teachers who argue that learning is not fun. It is hard. And so children should not enjoy it. But hard things are sometimes fun. Leaving my car was hard, but it led to enjoyment. And I had fun. And I learned loads from some of the wisest and best in the profession. And when the lovely Neil Hawkes told me on Sunday morning that he had watched me ‘become myself’ over the weekend, I nearly cried. He was right. Being in and among people who love children, and have not lost sight of what they need, helped me to get back in touch with the teacher I always wanted to be again.

What if….I thought….all schools did this? Took their staff to a lovely place to be together thinking about how they could work to make the lives of children better? What if they sat, like we did, around a table, sharing food like a family, laughing, debating, creating together? And then went back to school on Monday. Money wasted? I’d bet my life not. It would be a school reinvigorated, a staff reunited and children would come in and see role modelled for them what proper collaboration looks like. Isn’t it sad that outside of the private sector, such experiences are deemed to be frivolous? Oh, we mustn’t have fun!

Let’s think, as teachers and leaders how to create those spaces for finding, gathering and becoming a tribe. For being together. For finding our common ground and building upon it. Let’s stop denigrating playfulness and accept that playful states are essential to learning and happiness. Let’s start thinking about how we prepare our children for a world in which ‘becoming me’ is a priority and forms a step towards ‘becoming we’ in whichever tribes we need to belong to. Because life is not about passing tests and performing as economic units. At least, it’s not just about that. It’s about living, loving and learning.

14 thoughts on “Finding Your Tribe.

  1. There is a book by ALison Stallibrass called “Being me and also us” it is a book that emerged from the Peckham Experiment in the 1950s and 1940s . The project gave birth to The Soil Assn but has yet to give birth to the “tribe” you/I/we” imagine.

  2. Have you seen the ‘teacher retreats’ in the US run using Parker Palmer’s book “The Courage to Teach”? (well worth a read if you haven’t come across it before There’s a slightly religious, quaker-y, feel to some aspects of Palmer’s work which I find a little uncomfortable (I’m not religious) but he makes lots of excellent points about the fact that teaching is inseparably bound up with our own identity. Unlike most other jobs where you have at least notional *tools* with which you work, the majority of teaching is simply from within – personality, authority, transferrence of motivation, and this makes it a scary prospect.

    When I was teaching I pondered starting a weekly book club to discuss Courage. The back of the books has guidelines for doing so. I have also pondered whether it would be possible to do something like this online – in some ways Twitter has functioned as this kind of space, but it does have its shortcomings.

    Anyway – one for you to investigate! But a very thought-provoking blog L:)

    1. Laura – your comment “teaching is inseparably bound up with our own identity” is reflected in my doctoral research too, looking at the transition between deputy headship and headship. It is about transformation of identity, personal and professional. Teaching and headship aren’t just things we do. They’re intimately bound up with who we are.

      1. Dear Jill,
        NPH (National Primary Heads) would be very interested to learn more about your research. Our own membership poll has uncovered a distinct lack of appetite for Headship. Are you able to share any of your doctoral insight?

        1. Thanks, Simon, Contact me via Twitter (@jillberry102) – am happy to set up a conversation.

  3. What a relief to hear that there are still people that care about real learning. Someone told me once that time spent in school should be a series of memorable events that challenge the pupils at an appropriate level. I was always struck by (what should be obvious, but took a while to penetrate my tiny mind) observing that nothing succeeds like Boys reading made great strides after getting into the football team . Unfortunately something upsetting (a death in the family) could work the other way, but how can that be recognised in the current setup?

  4. I enjoyed this blog, too, Debra, and am pleased the experience helped you find your mojo, though you may well not have lost it! I’m a fan of Ian Gilbert and the Independent Thinking crew too.

    Lovely to meet you at #PedagooLondon.

  5. I missed this blog! Great to read the leap of faith from car to country house. I’ve worked in 2 schools now where they have organised staff conferences. In one school, I organised it. Absolute value for money and getting staff together to bond; to share views; to review thoughts on education; in school; in their classroom is crucial.

    Schools do not facilitate this enough. On average, a conference from Friday-Sunday for 100 teachers at a decent hotel costs around £6k all in (outside London). Divide this per person. Better than any CPD event; plus internal staff leading sessions and the odd inspirational speaker will get staff buzzing for Monday morning.

    I wouldn’t mind a trip to South Wales myself!

Leave a Reply