Are You in a Tribe or a Clique?

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Seth Godin was the first writer to push my thinking about tribes. Perhaps someone came before him, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. What matters is how he often describes them.

In essence, a tribe is a group of people who are connected by common passions, projects, and goals. They’re driven by some sort of hunger, and the learning and work they do together helps to satisfy it. Tribe members gain influence by sharing their ideas and work and by supporting those who are eager to improve and share their own. Tribes are often comprised of warm people.

Cliques might seem like tribes because they’re held together by people who share common interests and views. How they engage sets them apart, though.

Cliques are highly exclusive: the way that members think and learn and work is often narrow, and while they may be pursuing their own very worthy goals, they often seek empowerment by undermining others. Cliques are comprised of cool kids who think they’re better than everyone else. They also seem to need others to endorse that notion.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not the most prolific user of social media. My levels of engagement tend to wax and wane depending on the intensity of my work schedule and how many hockey practices my daughter has in any given month. That said, I know who I can turn to in my network for inspiration, feedback, ideas, and support.

I keep those who share my interests close and those who are pursuing similar projects and goals even closer as we’re working together. We aren’t exclusive though. In fact, each of us are connected to many others in our networks. We may not share their passions, but we celebrate the fact that they have them and that they are different from ours. We may not always agree with their perspectives or their practices, but we choose to question rather than condemn, and we do this only when it’s absolutely necessary.

We’ve learned that promoting quality connection and shared learning matters more than having answers and being right.

It saddens me when tribes are undermined by cliques. I’ve fallen victim to this myself in the past, and I’m watching people I respect confront this rude reality themselves far too often lately.

How do you elevate your teacher voice and engage your network?

Are you cultivating a clique or building a tribe?

More important, how are you supporting the tribes that are learning and leading beside yours?

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at

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