Books, Education, K-12, Motivation, Reading, Teaching Tools

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us


Recently, one parent loaned me a book by Seth Godin.  Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us would probably not have taken me quite so long to read if I wasn’t stopping to take notes every 5 seconds! I found a lot of applications to teaching and learning that I definitely found valuable.

One of the popular conversations in education these days is the need to teach our students how to deal with failure.  I’m going to save my thoughts on that for another post.  But I found that Seth Godin had some interesting things to say about the tendency to fear failure.  According to him, “what people are afraid of isn’t failure.  It’s blame.”  He goes on to say that any thing that is really worth doing is going to generate conversation – and probably criticism.  He urges, “If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing.”  I think that’s a great message that we should convey to our students.

Along those same lines, Godin gives the secret of being wrong. I hope he doesn’t mind if I divulge that right now.  “The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong!  The secret is being willing to be wrong.  The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.”

I deal with this in the classroom daily.  Students will be afraid to even attempt an answer sometimes.  I sometimes coax them into it by asking them to think of the worst thing that will happen if they are wrong.  Or I point out a recent incident (and trust me, there are many) when I was wrong and I surprisingly did not self-destruct. Invariably, I can convince the student to take a risk by using those techniques.

I have many other notes, but I will leave you with one last thought that I read near the end of the book.  As is often the case in my life, the timing could not have been more perfect.  You see, the day before I read this particular passage, I took my 5th grade class on a tour of Rackspace, a company located near us that has been named one of the top companies to work for.  In a section of Godin’s book called, “Ronald Reagan’s Secret,” Seth Godin gives the example of Graham Weston, executive chairman of Rackspace, who needed to convince his employees of the wisdom of a recent business decision. Instead of giving a speech to persuade them, however, Weston met with every single employee “who was hesitating about the move and let them air their views.  That’s what it took to lead them: he listened.”

So often, that is what our students need.  They just need someone to listen, to assure them that their voice has been heard.

Teachers like that, too – every once in awhile 😉

9 thoughts on “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us”

  1. Terry,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this fabulous book. I read the book a few years ago, and reading this post has inspired me for a reread!
    I think it is so powerful when we can model for our students anything, in this case, how to react to being wrong. I, too, have had many opportunities – unplanned!- to show my students one way to react when I am wrong. It is great for them to see their teachers making mistakes- and living to learn from them!
    Thanks for reigniting my desire to read this book!

    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comment, and would love to hear your thoughts after you re-read the book! I’m glad I’m not the only one who makes many unplanned mistakes!

  2. I am looking for some books to read this summer and it sounds like I may have to add this one to my list. Thank you for sharing it! I looped with my class last year and see such a difference in the number of them who will answer a question even if they don’t know that they are right-they take many more risks than they did in Kinder. I don’t know if that’s experience and maturity or the fact that I pirposely try to create that kind of environmnet for them-but there’s a real difference!

    1. I wonder the same thing with my students, since I have pull-out classes and the same students often come to me several years in a row. I like to think I have a little bit to do with them becoming more willing to take risks, and I’m sure you have a bigger influence than you think!

  3. Interesting post! I read his “Icarus Deception” last year, and gleaned a lot from it. I’ll have to check out this title, too. Thanks for your great posts in my inbox every day!

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