What is a mastermind group? Why would a teacher want to create one?

Education Rethink 2015-07-01

Sometimes you need a community to test your ideas and push your thinking

I first heard about mastermind groups when AJ Juliani mentioned the concept to me. I hated the term because it conjured up images of people plotting to take over the world. It had a Pink and the Brain feel to it. However, over time I heard the term tossed around in the startup world. I read about a group of journalists who created a group where they each offered one tip and asked for one piece of advice each week. Slowly, I heard more about these types of groups. Some of them met in person. Some of them existed through Google Hangouts. However, they all had a common theme of providing emotional support while also helping one another with practical, strategic thinking. I am now part of two mastermind groups on Voxer. The first group focusses more on startups (something we all have in common) while the second group focusses more on teacher-makers and the cool side projects we are all doing. There's a power in the proximity and the vulnerability of both groups because creative work can be frustrating and even scary at times.

What a Mastermind Group Does

  • Share your needs with others and ask for ideas or resources
  • Share your frustrations (there's a power to being vulnerable)
  • Share your success stories
  • Talk about potential collaboration options together

Rules for Mastermind Groups

  • Privacy is important, so there's a general rule that what is said in a mastermind group should remain confidential
  • Push for cooperation. Mastermind groups should be cooperative in structure and purpose.
  • Actively listen and offer support to one another. 
  • Only offer advice when someone asks for it. 

What This Means for Teachers

So this has me thinking about classroom teachers. What if we formed mastermind groups on our own? What if we created spaces away from the noisy echoes of social media? What if we shared our strengths and weaknesses? What if we told stories? What if we asked for advice from one another? 
I get it. Those things are supposed to be happening in schools. However, I'm thinking of something a little different. I'm referring to teachers creating groups with other teachers who are removed from their context (which is one of the best parts of a PLN) who can add a sense of perspective and clarity to their experiences. I'm imagining something that is both more personal and more professional than a typical PLN.  
I realize that this isn't for everyone. You have to be intrinsically motivated to seek out or even create a mastermind group. However, I think there might be value in teachers creating their own mastermind groups that go beyond the walls of their own buildings.