Six People You Absolutely Want in Your PLF

Sarah Thomas, PhD
Jul 16 · 5 min read
I don’t know these people, but they were on Pexels and I needed a high-quality graphic. They look friendly.

Admittedly, I’m not a list person…lists are finite and exclusive, and inevitably, someone is omitted. For this reason, I am not going to shoutout people by name in this post, although I definitely have them in mind. They may see themselves in these descriptions, though :) Also, these are not exclusive, as the same person can hypothetically fill more than one of these roles.

Friends, how many of us have them?

Despite (and quite possibly because of) the fact that I am ridiculously introverted, I value my friendships deeply…this goes for all of my relationships, regardless of whether they began online or offline. These six personalities have proven themselves as invaluable members of my learning crew. Also, this blog post feels vaguely familiar, which means one of two things…either a) I recently saw something that made me think of this or b) I have been marinating on this for a long time, to the point that it’s writing itself. If it’s the former, no biting intended. If it’s the latter, I’m glad it’s finally coming out.

1. The Dreamer

The dreamer is always thinking of a master plan, with nothing but sweat inside [their] hand. They are the Rakims and Lucy Ricardos of education. These individuals are great at seeing the big picture and connecting the dots. They have a knack for identifying solutions, and you can often hear them starting off sentences with, “what if…?”

2. The Doer

The doer is like Cardi B, in the fact that they make “money moves.” While such moves may not have anything to do with money at all, the entrepreneurial mindset is present. These are the folks you see always on their hustle, as @MattWasFunny would say, “for the children!” When Dreamer & Doer team up…watch out! The Earth is about to move.

I was recently speaking with a Doer friend of mine, and we came to the conclusion that one of the best things you can do for these folks is telling them the words no or can’t. They will take it as a personal challenge to prove you wrong.

3. Critical Friends

At first, some may misunderstand the intention of a critical friend…they may be blunt and/or disagree with you, but their intention is to get you to level up. For example, when I was a teenager, I thought my parents were strict, but they were really trying to get me to be my best. My dissertation committee was sometimes brutal in their feedback, but that’s because they knew I had it in me to do better, and they wouldn’t let me stop until I did.

Much like these examples, a critical friend will sometimes push back or question you. While their feedback may not always come with a spoonful of sugar, this is actually a gift.

Some may get confused between critical friends and toxic relationships. These are two very different things. A critical friend should not make you feel like a punching bag; although sometimes unsolicited, their feedback should be rooted in love and respect. Also, critical friends will critique you in private while praising you in public (Carnegie). If someone is publicly ripping you, this is likely not your friend.

4. Those Who “Get” You

Each of us has something that makes us unique. All of our background and experiences intersect to make us one-of-a-kind. Especially for those of us who might feel isolated or marginalized, it’s important to know that we have friends who love and accept us as we are. With these friends, we can be our authentic selves and feel supported while, as one of my friends I have in mind would say, “walking upright.”

Keep in mind, this is not an echo chamber or yes people. I don’t want anyone to misread this and be like, yay! Let me just surround myself with folks who look and think exactly like me!


This brings me to…

5. Those Drastically Different From You

These might be the most important people to have in your crew. Based on their own view of the world, shaped by experiences, family, and the media (among other factors), they see things very differently than you do. Initially, I was going to put this as a subcategory under “Critical Friends,” but this is not necessarily the case. For example, you may have folks in your PLN who think entirely differently from you about certain topics, but you wouldn’t know because they aren’t necessarily vocal about it.

This is why it’s important to listen…truly listen…to various perspectives. Additionally, avoid othering and try to understand where they are coming from when they believe something different than you do. Don’t assume, ask questions. Foster deeper connections, and take the conversation beyond the surface level. Sometimes these conversations aren’t easy; and in those cases, it’s even more important to seek to understand.

Another thing to watch out for…do not tokenize people (i.e. “I’m not _____; I have one _______ friend!”). This checkbox approach to “friendship” is extremely disrespectful and dehumanizes people. Keep respect at the core of the relationship. I could write (and have written) a blog post about this on its own.

You may be surprised to find that the individuals whom, on paper, were drastically different from you may be more similar than you had initially thought. As a matter of fact, they may become some of your closest connections, which brings me to…

6. The Family

Do you have a little sister who knows all your secrets? A cousin who gets on your nerves, but you love TF out of them (and nobody better mess with them or they have to answer to you)? A brother you may only see once a year, but you’re inseparable when the two of you get together?


Want one? Get yourself a PLF :)

Seriously, though. I used this phrase during an ISTE ignite in 2017, and was surprised to find that I wasn’t alone in how I felt about my learning family. Quite honestly, it was a last-minute change that I threw in just to fill up one of my 20 slides, but ISTE ended up making that the title of the talk. Serendipity!

As a whole, I feel this way about my EduMatch crew, as well as a few other PLNs I’ve had the pleasure of participating in — but there are certain individuals who feel like they have literally been here my entire life. They have woven themselves into my existence, and my life would have been drastically different (and not as bright) had our paths not crossed.

When you are lucky enough to make family, you will probably end up occasionally fighting and getting on each other’s nerves, as family does. But the beauty is also that you fight for each other. Their problems are your problems. You have crew for life, and you can never get rid of these folks (not that you’d ever want to).

These are the six people that you’d absolutely want in your PLN. While you’d be lucky to have any or all of these people, you’d do even better to be this for someone else. Which one(s) are you?


A collection of ideas in version 37

Sarah Thomas, PhD

Written by

Educator/Regional Tech Coordinator. Passionate about using social media to connect w/ educators around the world. We all have a story. What's yours? #EduMatch



A collection of ideas in version 37

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