Find Your Tribe and Fly

By Meredith Allen

The easiest thing is to react. The second-easiest thing is to respond. But the hardest thing is to initiate.

Simply stated by Mr. Seth Godin and resoundingly true. For the majority of my 33 years on this Earth, my default was set to react. Recently my needle has shifted to responding more, and now I even initiate on occasion. Shhhh, sometimes I don’t even ask permission! I owe a large part of this transition to the people I am surrounded by, who have given me a sense of belonging. My beautiful tribe. My tribe is connected, we share an interest and a way to communicate.

This tribe has formed over time and is organic and malleable — it grows with me. Through a series of very fortunate events in my professional career, I have recently experienced an AMAZING profesisonal community. After teaching music for nine years, I landed a position as an Instructional Technology Consultant on a rock star team with a stellar reputation. I immediately started “schooling up” on all things ed tech, an infinite subject with limitless information, data, and resources. Two other imperative factors can be attributed to my successful tribal acclimation. The first: I joined Twitter. My network now transcends classrooms and reaches countries all over the world. The second: I left my comfort zone. I started presenting at conferences on topics I felt passionate about, meeting & working with amazing people. Clicking “Submit” for my first presentation proposal was terrifying and life-changing.

Laurens-Marathon High School Concert Band — May 2015.

This team I speak of — seriously, rock friggin’ stars. Not only are they experts and leaders in this exciting new tech ed world I was acclimating to, but awesome people in general. They wrapped their arms around me and welcomed my inexperience, sometimes even celebrating it! This is when my needle started shifting. When I had been teaching full time with very little professional support system, I felt the presence of a ceiling, a limit to the learning. Now, fast forward to my first team meeting with my new team…No question — I was now a 100% vested member, my voice mattered, our combined vision (#makeitbetter) was priority and I now belonged to something bigger. Our work focused on shifting the traditional education system (limited, in-the-box thinking) to encouraging best practice for our 21st century learners. Let us leverage the available technology to be creative and innovative. With that comes the ability to work collaboratively (face to face and globally) and use critical thinking skills to work through real world problems. How can there be a limit or lid on that kind of learning?! The roof was raised!

I have worked harder the past 16 months that I ever have in my life and not because I needed to keep up, but because I now belonged with this team. This work, this bigger thing…obliged me to want to keep up. Insert: fire in belly. My transition is a great example of an empowered, passionate learner versus a compliant learner.

Once support was in place, I also gained more confidence than I ever thought I was capable of. I started presenting locally and that quickly shifted to presenting globally. The small groups I started presenting to (3, 4 or 5 participants) has now grown to upwards to 700! I recently quit my stable “safe” job to pursue work I am even more passionate about. I talked my husband into putting our house up for sale so we can move to a city with more opportunities for our children (keep in mind, we’re country bumpkins!). And just this week, I pulled a stick out of my parent’s Irish Wolfhound’s paw with pliers. These are just a few things that I wouldn’t have had the guts to do prior to 2015.

Proof of me speaking in front of a large group of people! #nerves

There was a recent online student chat focused on How Teachers Foster Belonging in Schools…great questions were discussed and I have initiated a spinoff set of questions for the “me’s” of the world. (yes, I initiated!)

  • What actions can we take to create stronger bonds with each other?
  • How can we help address real-world issues with each other?
  • What can we do to encourage all to speak freely?
  • How can we facilitate healthy discussions about different forms of oppression and their impact?

I leave you to reflect on the following: Are you reacting, responding or initiating? Are you celebrating one another in your workplace, family, etc.? Do you empathize? Encourage? Are you learning from others? Have you hashed something out with another to #makeitbetter?

“The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.” — Seth Godin

Our world needs you to initiate and encourage others to do the same. Sign up for Twitter, push that “Submit” button, expand your network, reach out, meet, greet. It’s your turn. Find your tribe and fly.

Meredith Allen (@msmeredithallen) is an educator who currently works as an Educational Ambassador for Soundtrap and Instructional Technology Consultant for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency.

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