Find Your Tribe - Love Them Hard - Tracy Riley
This blog was created by Dr Tracy Riley, as a member of the Board of giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education. She has found her tribe in gifted education – and she loves them hard.
Your tribe is made up of the people you connect with through shared passions and commitment. Members of your tribe affirm, validate, inspire, and challenge you.
As Sir Ken Robinson reminds us, “Often we need other people to help us recognise our real talents. Often we can help other people to discover theirs.” Being part of a tribe enables validation of not only who you are and what your talents are, but also connects you with other like minds to kick around ideas, actively question and seek answers, laugh at the possibilities, and cry over the impossibilities.
Brené Brown says in her TED Talk, Finding our Way to True Belonging, “True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are.”
In other words, being part of a tribe helps us become ourselves. From the shared experiences of learning, being, and doing with others of like-mind, we gain a greater sense of identity. We are inspired by the tribe, as its members drive one another to push the supposed limits of our talents.
This shared inspiration can be intense, creating what Sir Ken calls an alchemy of synergy – this is the power of the collective, who bring our strengths and interests together to create something much greater than our individual selves.
Find your tribe.
Gifted learners, like all of us, are seeking a tribe, a powerful sense of belonging, that collectively honours and celebrates their individual strengths, differences, quirkiness, interests, abilities and qualities. Even those who may prefer their own company and working independently will ultimately benefit from being connected to like minds.
Finding your tribe isn’t always easy, despite lists of tips and tricks on social media. Gifted learners may feel as Lissa Rankin describes in her blog, like “the odd duck swimming with swans, who all seemed to enjoy a sense of belonging I never quite felt.” Research in New Zealand concluded that gifted students seek relationships with others who think in similar ways, as intellectual peers and friends in and out of school. Being in like-minded peer groups for learning is one way to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging.
A maths ability group, gifted programme one day a week, or accelerated English class may not necessarily be a gifted learner’s tribe. As another meme explains, Your vibe attracts your tribe. Finding your tribe requires confidence, risk taking, a willingness to try new things with new people in new places. How can parents and teachers support gifted learners in finding their tribe?
Lisa Gemert suggests a range of ways to enhance self-concept in gifted learners that will give them the confidence to create their vibe.
Teach service, because when we serve others, we feel satisfaction and experience gratitude.
Recognise accomplishments and contributions.
Be practically optimistic (without platitudes).
Teach social skills, like manners and sharing, to assist with developing friends.
Encourage care for others, including pets.
Praise effort and persistence, constructively and specifically for outcomes
Teach goal setting and persistence with tasks pitched above their level.
Build confidence in their intuition, helping them follow their gut instincts.
Display and share the mementoes – awards, certificates, artwork, models – from their achievements.
Communicate your admiration, gratitude, and pride through notes in lunch boxes, messages in notebooks, text messages, or other ways that work for you.
Building confidence is a fundamental step in connecting with others, through taking risks, building new relationships, engaging in new experiences or facing challenges. As confidence grows, other practical ways of helping gifted learners find their tribe include encouraging them to join local clubs and community groups, participate in competitions, attend meet-ups, volunteer, play sports, start a new hobby, get a paid job, join an online group, or start a book group, club, or other shared activity. These types of experiences may be in or out of school, supported by parents, teachers, coaches, or community members.
Your vibe attracts your tribe.
How can you help ensure that all gifted learners have opportunities to connect with like-minded peers? Advocate.
The first step to effective advocacy is to know your stuff. Inform yourself on the importance of belonging (for all learners) and the difference it can make to engagement and achievement in school by reading widely. (Google Scholar is a good starting point.)
Maximise your impact by joining with other advocates through your membership in a professional organisation or association (like AAEGT), working with parents of other gifted students in your local school or through special programmes, or engaging in other learning, development, and networking online.
Share your messages widely by being willing to work with media – social media, print media, radio, and tv.
Whatever you do, advocate for gifted learners by reminding others that all learners need to have opportunities to find their tribe. Use inspirational messages.