Whenever I hear someone say: "Disneyland", the first thing that comes to mind is "The Happiest Place on Earth". And then I chuckle, to myself. My daughter and I have had passes to Disneyland for a few years, so I have been able to do a lot of Disney observation. Now don't get me wrong...I love the place and I love the joy it brings to my daughter. Many very happy memories. But I also observe something I call the "Disney Phenomena".
What I notice is a lot of children crying, parents stressed, yelling, frowns and tantrums from both kids and their parents. Why? Why does this happen at such an amazingly fun and wonderful place? I have two theories.
1) Children are so excited with all of the fantastic possibilities, they don't even know where to begin. They want to experience everything, NOW, and become overwhelmed. This leads to frustration and then a shut down.
2) Families have built up such anticipation for the event. They have made so many plans, either physically or mentally. But often times, things don't always go as planned. This can cause disappointment; when the expectation doesn't match the reality. This can lead to frustration and a shut down.
I am worried about this "Disney Phenomena" in the world of education. Things are changing at such a rapid rate and so many teachers are trying to change with it. This is a great thing, BUT there are complications when there is so much "new". There are so many new initiatives, strategies, tools, theories, gimmicks that it can be too much. Where do you start when you want to start them all?
As educators, the bottom line is, we all just want to do what's best for kids, but what is that? There are so many things to choose from. So many rides to experience. How do we not get overwhelmed and shut down, like the Disneyland families?
Here has been my advice all summer: Pick one thing, and dig deep. If you are trying to do too many things, you can't be doing any of them well. "Jack of all trades, master of none". This is no benefit for you or your students.
Well, how do you do it? Here are my thoughts...
1) Make a list of everything that you are excited to try. Put it in order of either excitement level or level of comfort. What rises to the top? There's your one thing.
2) Research it. How have others used it successfully? Unsuccessfully?
3) Connect. Reach out and collaborate with others that are on the same learning journey as you. Increase your PLN.
4) Start small. How can you use this to help your students move forward in their learning?
5) Plan one or two lessons/activities, at first. Once you implement them, you reflect, correct and create again.
6) Don't give up, don't shut down. Use student feedback to help with creating any iterations.
7) Keep moving forward. Add one small piece, with each iteration.
8) Celebrate the bright spots and just keep moving forward.
9) Take risks! You won't break the students and it's healthy for both you and them.
Then when you feel comfortable enough, things are rolling smoothly(ish)...move on down the list.
Here is the other thing that I worry about in relation to the "Disney Phenomena" and education; it's that expectation piece. As educators, we tend to put undue stress on ourselves to be perfect and perfect right out of the gate. This is an impossible task. We think through every aspect of a lesson/strategy and what it "should" look like. That can be a trap, because we are working with humans, kids nonetheless, and we cannot predict how they will act or react...especially a whole jumble of them. We tend to internalize and beat ourselves up when things don't match that picture in our head. My caution is DON'T DO IT! WE can only control, what is in OUR locus of control. One of those things is; how WE react. Please don't get disappointed or shut down. Try to take learning out of every experience. What worked well? What needs to be changed? Why? Celebrate small victories and build on it. BUT keep taking those risks. You have to.
We have to remember: Teaching is not about US, it's about the STUDENTS. Are they learning? Are they moving forward? Our job is to assist and guide in that. What that looks like, various.
My hope is that everyone enters this new school year with a renewed excitement and passion for teaching kids and that is what guides us all on this next journey.
Good luck and best wishes to an innovative 2016-2017 school year full of risk taking and daring greatly!
Disney photo courtesy of Expedia.com
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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