The Ultimate Teacher Field Trip

Imagine…it’s late on a school night, you can’t quite fall asleep yet, and you are perusing Twitter.  Can anyone out there with a night time routine sympathize with me?  So, you are laying down trying to unwind and looking at all of the awesome things Twitter has to offer when you discover this tweet:

Educators: Apply to attend a Teacher Appreciation #WHSocial with Dr. Biden & @ArneDuncan — Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) April 25, 2014

Pretty cool, right?  The White House and education officials are inviting teachers to visit?  Wow!  I was intrigued immediately and mostly curious about the requirements to apply.  I applied that evening, and I contemplated heavily how I should approach the two questions on the application about why I should be chosen and what makes my classroom special.  I tweeted out that evening that I applied and this is what I said:

Grateful for opportunity to apply for #WHSocial w/@DrBiden & @arneduncan tonight! Although a long shot, it’s fun to play the “what if” game! — Alex Bragg (@mrsacbragg) April 29, 2014

White House Selection Screen Shot

I chatted with my husband about the odds of being selected, and after realizing it would be next to impossible,  we informally laughed and repeated the old adage “you never know if you don’t try!”  I moved on with my week and continued to do what I love day in and day out-learn and create with my students.  Outside of the tweet, I did not mention at school that I applied or really continue to give it much thought.  Again, I was pretty sure it would be nearly impossible to be selected so I moved on with life!  Four days later, I was leaving Pure Barre (my new workout obsession-another story for another day!) and I received the shock of my life: I stared at this email for about 5 minutes.  Was I being scammed?  Surely this was not real, right?  I showed it to my husband and asked him if he thought it was real! I felt as though I was in a dream.  A few stressful hours and days later of trying to book last minute flights and a hotel, I had made it to D.C.!  I could hardly sleep on Tuesday evening.  In fact, I woke up at 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning to work, but really, it was because I was too anxious to sleep! The day began with an informal meet up with some of the other 20 educators chosen to attend the social.  We connected on Twitter using #WHSocial and began to make plans to meet before the day even officially began. This is the power of social media, and one of the reasons I especially love Twitter!  Following this, we began our day with a tour of The White House!  We were privileged to proceed to The South Lawn on our tour and witness Marine One land and President Obama leave The Oval Office to board and depart.  This will probably be the only time in my life that I will ever get to witness this!  I was almost in tears due to my excitement, and I kept closing my eyes to try and take this all in.  Here are some pictures of this part of the day:

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Following our tour, we proceeded to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building located next door.  We were invited to sit in the Vice Presidential Ceremonial Office for our remaining portion of the day.  While in this room, we were fortunate to hear from several people:

  • Arne Duncan: Secretary of Education / @arneduncan
  • Dr. Jill Biden: Second Lady of the United States and life long educator / @DrBiden
  • Eric Waldo: Executive Director and Policy Advisor for the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative  / @ewwaldo
  • Kumar Garg: The Office of Science and Technology Policy /  @WhiteHouseOSTP
  • Rory Brosius:  Joining Forces Deputy Director / @JoiningForces

Throughout our roundtable discussion with these individuals, we learned more about the Teach to Lead initiative, the Reach Higher initiative, the White House Maker Faire and how we can nurture military children in our schools to better prepare them for success as they navigate sometimes difficult situations associated with being a military child. Although it was exciting to here about each of these, it was especially refreshing to be given the opportunity to ask questions and share our advice or opinions with these policy leaders.  I was especially grateful for the opportunity to share my desire to see more private and public collaboration taking place at the national level, as well as the need to provide more authentic teacher leader opportunities without taking teachers out of the classroom full time.  Here are some pictures from this portion of our day:

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Following this, our day concluded with a special tour of The White House Garden where we learned more about the Let’s Move campaign from one of the pastry chefs at The White House. You can follow this on twitter via @Let’s Move! The garden was beautiful, and we were also given access to view the White House Bee Hive.  The Obama Administration is the first administration in The White House to have a fully active bee hive.  There are around 40,000-50,000 bees, and it is estimated that it cultivates around 200 pounds of honey a year!  Here are some pictures from the garden:        

Following this tour, our lovely day was officially over. I’m so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I met a great group of fellow educators who are passionate about being a part of change. As a result, we have now started a new weekly twitter chat using the hashtag #WHSoc20, which will take place on Wednesday evenings at 9EST to discuss the aforementioned initiatives we learned about at the social and other education reform topics. This truly was a unique experience, and I’m so blessed and honored to be chosen!  Please  join us for our weekly twitter chats and BE the change!

Published by Alex Bragg

Alex is the Upper School Teaching and Learning Specialist at Woodward Academy in College Park, Georgia. She is passionate about student driven learning, the art of giving and receiving authentic feedback and coaching, innovation in the classroom, balanced and authentic assessment mapping, and school redesign.

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