Teachers need their tribe
for positive connection
By Caitlin Hall, Contributing Writer
Creating a positive tribe environment is essential for teachers. Without a tribe, we get lost in a sea of children who we love dearly, but who cannot empathize with us. Our students cannot understand why we get so excited when they grasp a challenging concept or devastated when we have to make that Child Services call. The tribe in our profession is extremely important.
A tribe is a group of people connected by a common ancestry traditionally, but a tribe can also be a group of people connected by occupation, habits or ideas. Today, immersing yourself into a tribe most often relates to communing with those who you work with or share extra-curricular activities with.
The individuals in your tribe understand you because they have similar backgrounds. This creates a deep sense of connecting through shared experiences and ideas.
I know I am fortunate to have a school system adamant about “speaking life” into each student and adult on campus, but other school systems may not have that environment. Maybe your school system does have an environment of tribal interactions, but perhaps it is not always positive.
Because of our stressful jobs, sometimes we take our frustrations out on our tribe which leaves a negative mark on the tribal community. This can lead to a cycle of toxic “dumping” on the people who can empathize with and support us the most.
So, how do we create a positive tribe community in our school systems and increase positive connections with each other daily?
I recently read the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In his book, Ruiz writes about a “powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives.” Ruiz’s book primarily speaks to those who want a path to empower themselves and remove self-limiting beliefs, but his Four Agreements can certainly be applied to foster a positive tribal environment.
When we are positive with ourselves, we are positive with others. Ruiz claims if we are impeccable with our word, do not take anything personally, do not make assumptions and always do our best, we will live rich, fulfilled lives and make a positive impact on others around us.
Be impeccable with your word
One time in high school my senior class was brainstorming ways to raise money for our senior trip. I was having a bad day and was not amused by the “stupid stick” idea my classmates were proposing. Instead of using my words for good, I stood up on a chair in the most dramatic way possible and proceeded to tell the entire class what I thought about them.
It was not what I like to call a shining moment. At that moment I used words that hurt many of my classmates and ruined relationships with others, including my relationship with a special education student I had built a relationship with. I was not impeccable with my words.
Words are a force to express and communicate. With your words, you have the power to build someone up or tear someone down. That is why it is so important to be impeccable with your words.
Ruiz shares the word impeccable means to be without sin and sin is anything that goes against yourself (negative). To restore relationships with others and balance yourself you must “speak life” (positive) and use your words with integrity. Anything that welcomes sin (negative) disrupts the balance of your environment.
Educators need to be impeccable with their word the most because we influence the next generations. We are examples to our students. That is a lot of pressure! When the pressure gets to be too much or someone has disappointed us we often fall into the trap of gossip to release our pressure. While talking with a trusted friend is a great avenue for stress-management, slandering someone is not and it fosters a toxic tribe environment.
Creating a positive tribe environment means you must be impeccable with your word. Refrain from gossip, speak kindly to others and be sure to stay true to your word.
Don’t take anything personally
My first job in D.C. was to answer constituent calls and letters from concerned citizens in Indiana. The majority of the time these phone calls consisted of men and women expressing their anger and frustration about what was going on in their state. For a long time, I took the nature of these calls personally.
I was hurt and angered a stranger would call and speak to me that way. I was just doing my job. Not until I received a phone call from my grandfather did I realize these calls were not a personal attack towards me. Nothing they were saying had anything to do with me. These people felt unheard which made them frustrated and angry.
Ruiz states, “Personal importance or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.”
Their actions and words had nothing to do with me. Their actions and words had everything to do with them. They were projecting their fears and anger anyway they would feel heard.
When people feel fearful, angry or stressed, they often find others to use as an excuse for getting mad. Finding another as a target is a physical release of what they are feeling inside. When this happens, remember their actions and words have nothing to do with you. It is a reflection of what that individual is struggling with.
Someone in your tribe is going to have a bad day or a series of bad days. Remember, their actions are not about you and let it go!
Don’t make assumptions
Recently, I met with a group of local women who have become part of my after-school tribe. One topic of conversation which came up was making assumptions. We all agreed we make assumptions that our partners can read our minds and will do what we have not outwardly asked them to do. When that task does not get completed we are the ones left angry and resentful. We assumed our partners could read our minds. We assumed what we thought was important was also important to them. It was not.
We often think our partners or co-workers know what we think and we do not have to say what we want. As a result, we hurt ourselves.
Ruiz states, “We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.” We are afraid if we ask for something we will be rejected which creates this fear of being ourselves around others.
All we are doing by making assumptions is hurting ourselves. Ask questions and be authentic! You do not have to pretend you know all the answers or be afraid to ask for help. Opening communication between you and your co-workers will reduce assumptions that disrupt the positive interactions within your tribe. Do not be afraid to ask.
Always do your best
Finally, as long as you are doing your best at anything you do every day you are doing okay.
Ruiz states, “When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you will subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgement, guilt and regrets.”
Putting your best effort into your career and relationships is the physical act of being impeccable with your word, not taking anything personally and not making assumptions. You do not have to be the best at any of these things, but you can certainly do your best.
Do your best at loving yourself and loving others. Be intentional with your actions and thoughts daily. When your thoughts and actions are in a positive space you will create space for others to develop their positive actions and thoughts until a positive tribal interaction evolves!