On Drinking the #WGEDD Kool-Aid…

Team #GVEPpride arrives in Chicago!
Team #GVEPride arrives in Chicago!

On Thursday, October 15th five educators from the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership had the privilege of flying to Chicago to attend the inaugural What Great Educators Do Differently conference #WGEDD This is their story…

Disclaimer: Drinking the Kool-Aid often has a negative connotation but we choose to use it’s more modern meaning indicating that we embrace the #WGEDD philosophy.

Our Team  Before  #WGEDD:

Teacher #1 has been connected and drinking the Kool-Aid for almost a year now. This teacher was first offered a drink by her principal.  Initially she declined his offer. Then, because he was pleasantly persistent, she decided to take a sip.  She never looked back!  When she first heard of the #WGEDD conference she just knew she had to attend.  Together with Teacher #2 they planned the trip.

Teacher #2  is Teacher #1’s counterpart on our sister campus. These two call themselves “Teacher Twins.”  So as you can probably guess when Teacher #2 saw how much Teacher #1 was enjoying the Kool-Aid she had to join in. She got herself connected and has never looked back!  Like Teacher #1, she just knew she had to attend the #WGEDD conference.  Together they planned the trip.

Teacher #3  was not connected and didn’t know there was any Kool-Aid to drink.  She is a phenomenal teacher with energy and enthusiasm who was on the brink of burning out. She was isolated on an island all by herself, or so she thought.  Teacher’s #1 & #2 knew they needed to bring her along.

Teacher #4 is a steadying force for Teacher’s #1 & #2.   He is not one willing to accept any old Kool-Aid.  He attended the #WGEDD conference because Teacher’s #1 & #2 asked him to.  He was connected in theory but had not yet found his tribe. He was still a twitter egg head.

Teacher #5  is Teacher #3’s counterpart on our sister campus.  He was to be our barometer.  He is a seasoned educator who has not yet become connected. He is a great teacher and, of his own admission, doesn’t really want someone telling him what to do.  He was not interested in drinking anyone’s Kool-Aid.  With our encouragement he agreed to come along.

Team #GVEPpride After  #WGEDD: *Note we now have a hashtag-we’ve learned the importance of branding our school and telling our story!

Teacher #1  She still can’t stop smiling. She was motivated, inspired and uplifted by every single person she encountered during the #WGEDD conference! She was so proud of her team too.  They listened critically, reflected then eventually embraced what they were hearing.  She knows there’s more out there for her to do but for now is content to live out the #WGEDD philosophy with her students, teachers and admin. by her side.

Teacher #2 She was always an innovator in her own right but now, after #WGEDD, she realizes that the sky’s the limit! She continues to grow, connect and collaborate both in the twitterverse and face to face with her fellow teachers.  She lives out the #WGEDD philosophy every day while bravely sharing her greatness with those around her.

Teacher #3  She is now a connected teacher-hooray! By the end of our weekend she had a twitter account, was tweeting and had plans to start a school social media account to which she plans on posting podcasts of the amazing students in her school sharing all the awesome things they do!  She is on fire and there is no stopping her!  She’s a giver and will now share the Kool-Aid with anyone who will listen.

Teacher #4 He’s become a believer! He no longer has an egghead for a twitter picture, has begun connecting with others in the twitterverse and is eager to learn more about joining in (maybe just watching at first…) some of the amazing twitter chats that are out there.  He now willingly admits that the there is value to drinking the Kool-Aid and is spreading the word to his fellow teachers!

 Teacher #5 He’s still not ready to take the leap into the twitterverse but is no longer a naysayer.  After #WGEDD he took a leap of faith and decided to sip the Kool-Aid.  He has stepped outside of his comfort zone and is trying new things in his classroom.  His students are loving this new approach! It has been so exciting to watch him embrace and embody some of the things that he learned at #WGEDD.  He is even becoming a vocal advocate among his fellow teachers!

So that’s our story.   Did anything earth shattering happen at #WGEDD that caused the changes in our team?  The answer is no. But something did happen –  people happened, face to face connections happened, sharing happened, learning happened, laughter happened, friendship happened, excitement happened, passion happened, reflection happened, growth happened – a network of greatness was born.

So what were some of the take-a-ways from #WGEDD that bolstered those of us in our team who already believed and converted those who did not?  It’s impossible to include everything but here is a small snippet of what we learned:

  • Be Brave!  If we expect our student’s to take risks, stretch their thinking, not be afraid to fail then we too must do the same.  Embrace your vulnerability then go out there and share your greatness!
  • What Can Go Right?  When you’re being brave and trying new things remember to think about what can go right.  Focus on the positive!
  • Brand your school!  Celebrate all the amazing that is happening in your school.  Use social media to share what you are doing with families and the community.  Create a school or district hashtag.  Remember that if you don’t tell your schools story someone else will…
  • Connect and Collaborate!  There is a whole world out there just waiting to connect and share with you and your students.  We live in a global society. No longer do we need to stand alone in isolation.  Go out there and grow yourself a PLN!
  • Move outside of your comfort zone!  Change is hard, change is scary-no one is denying that. But if we want true growth for ourselves and our students then we must challenge ourselves to move into that sate of unrest.
  • People before Purpose!  There have been, and will always continue to be, many different initiatives in education.  There will constantly be new buzz words and programs you are expected to implement.  But ultimately it comes down to the people.  If you as a teacher are willing to embrace the #WGEDD philosophy then it will not matter what program it is that you are implementing, you WILL be effective. Remember, it all comes down to relationships-everything else is secondary!
So in parting I challenge you to take a sip of the #WGEDD Kool-Aid.  It may not be the answer to all of education’s woes but it is certainly a step in the right direction.  Try it, I think you might like it….

The Optimistic Educator…


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