Since Woot has now been recognized as a bona fide word in the Oxford English Dictionary, I hereby propose more Woot in our professional lives. Here’s why.

The Flashmob

A few weeks ago as my colleagues and I were finalizing our district’s opening days, I received a text message from a friend to check out our neighboring district’s faculty meeting finale on Vimeo.

(Be sure to watch it before reading further. Yes, that’s the superintendent leading the mob.)

The Buzz

I sent the link on twitter and was astonished by immediate retweets. Clearly, four minutes of fun struck a joyful chord among educators.

Then, the story was picked up by our community newspaper.  What a surprise to see reader comments about “tax dollars at work…childish stunt,”  “pubescent,” “ought to be ashamed.”

Whoa. In an era when teaching as a profession is disparaged, even vilified, I say let there be more leaders who know the power of “Woot.”  Superintendent Bob Farrell and team managed to do more in 4.44 minutes of fun than 44 retreats, memos, articles, and activities could do to create joy, community, and goodwill among staff.

Besides, I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember a time I experienced a standing ovation with hoots and hollers for a central office meeting.  Let’s have some of that Woot to lighten the psychological load of tightened budgets, restricted resources, and political heat.

The Sandbox

That evening I was talking with a teacher about her first days of school. She’s teaching classes in music tech and voice. She was animated as she described her students’ work in the computer lab creating their first recordings. “How do you teach that?” I asked.

“I show them Audacity basics, we go to freeloops.com, and I give them project parameters,” she said. “Then we have sandbox time.”

“Sandbox?” I asked.

“That’s what I call it when I let them loose to learn and to create on their own. They just play.”

“And they learn it?”

“Oh yeah. They love it. It’s fun.” She paused. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” It was my turn to pause. “Wait. They got it. They had fun. What are you sorry for?”

“Well, at our school if it’s not serious, if it’s not rigorous, it’s not considered real.

Aha, I thought. Stealth learning, disguised as Woot!

Let’s have a little more of that too.

The Yoga

I shouldn’t have been too surprised, however, about her embarrassment that the learning was not serious enough. I’d just experienced some of that for myself. Along with sessions on programs, pedagogy, 21C skills, and technology for our September professional learning day, we offered choices in stress management. One was Laughter Yoga.

I was a more than a little worried. Would this fly? Would people show up for a session to laugh? If it wasn’t serious and rigorous, would people consider this “not real”?

Ha! Sixty teachers showed up for what turned out to be one of our most popular sessions. Art teacher Pam Hall, a certified Laughter Yoga instructor explained, “If you don’t have a healthy outlet, stress builds up in the body and causes all kinds of health problems.”  The body can’t tell the difference between “real” and exercise laughter. You get the same psychological and physiological benefits.

“I felt a little guilty at first, choosing laughter instead of one of the other selections,” teacher Debby Corotis told me. “But then I thought about how seldom I laugh. Pam’s instruction was a jolt–about taking care of our health and laughter.  It’s not that we can’t do it, we just have to remember to do it.”

Pam later told me that one minute of laughter equals 10 minutes on a rowing machine.

Seriously?

Then I’m committing to a school year of more joy, more laughter, more Woot!

I just have to remember to do it.

 

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons Ha! by angad84

About the author
M.E. Steele-Pierce works at the intersection of policy and practice as a district superintendent for West Clermont Schools in Ohio where, she says, it’s all personal. An alum of the Harvard Change Leadership Group and currently a member of Powerful Learning Practice, Steele-Pierce considers herself a creative bureaucrat interested in how individuals and systems change. She is a contributor to the blog TLC: Teaching. Learning. Community. and is on Twitter at @steelepierce.