Tea vs. Kool-Aid

When I was a kid, I used to make the most sickeningly sweet Kool-Aid. I would put as much of the sugary substance as I could into our biggest green glass and still have it dissolve. The result was cloyingly sweet. In the end, I was the only one that could drink it because your face had to pucker up with every sip. And that was the way I liked it.

Sometimes drinking the Educational Kool-Aid is a little bit like this. Sometimes, we make our own ideas so abhorrent to anyone besides ourselves that no one else is interested in even taking a sip. Creating change and framing and for others should not be like this. It should not be making Kool-Aid that no one else can drink but us.

Our change is not only for us; it is for others.

No one else drives this home to me more then Alyssa Whitehead-Bust. In a conversation with her, she laid out the case for change. It was not ambiguous or self-referential. She was looking forward and pushing for context to fill in the gaps. She was not trying to make Kool-Aid for me. Rather, she had a much better idea in mind.

In both a figurative and a literal way, Alyssa makes us tea instead. She takes just the right blend of tea leaves and steeps them, giving them time to develop a depth of flavor that we all wanted to have more of. You see, Kool-Aid has only a single note. It is sweet. You can add more sweetness to it, but it will never be more complex than sweet. Tea on the other hand, can be lots of things from bitter to refreshing. You are still adding something to the same environment, but you are getting very different results.

I would say that the water is like our educational system. We keep on trying to add more Kool-Aid flavoring and trying to get a different flavor, but it’s still the same result and we are the only ones that ever want to drink it. What we need, is to change what we put into our system. We need people like Alyssa who question what we are putting in the water. They are the ones who tell us that sweet is not the only flavor possible. They are the ones that tell us that no amount of kool-aid is going to help us reach our goal of personalizing learning for all students according to their needs.

We need to make tea instead of Kool-Aid.

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