Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lessons Every Teacher Can Learn From Walt Disney

On a recent trip to Disney World, I found myself completely unplugging (except for my Disney lines app) and getting away from my work. As we arrived home, my mind went straight back to work. As I was looking back at photos and reflecting upon the trip, I immediately began to make connections between the life of Walt Disney and education. The lessons of Walt's life can be applied to the learning of our students.

Lesson #1 - Failure is part of the process to success
For as successful as Walt Disney was, his life was filled with failure. Walt failed at several jobs and had setbacks along the way, but he learned to persevere through those troubling times. The lessons learned from failed business ventures and jobs taught him lessons that were applied later in life. When we think of Walt Disney, we perceive him as a success! This statement is true but there were plenty of times he was considered a failure too.

Education Connection: Do we allow our students to fail and do we model for them how to deal with failure? I often wonder in this era of character education and trophies for everyone if we have done a huge disservice to our students. When we are learning about successful people in all subject areas, do we take the time to show how they failed before they succeeded? When students get frustrated in class, do we model how to persevere and work through the tough times? I remember back to my days as a 4th grade teacher. In this one math activity, I would provide the students with one, high level math problem. It was their job to solve it but I would not tell them the right answer. Instead, they needed to confer and build consensus with a group. At the beginning of the year, several students really struggled with the lack of help I would give them and they really struggled with not being given the correct answer by me. There were a couple of occasions where tears started to flow. As the year went on, these episodes nearly disappeared. Together, the entire class learned how to deal with failure and difficulties. This lesson was probably more important than any lesson they learned in math that year. So how can we use failure as a motivator to succeed?

Lesson #2 - A certain amount of risk is necessary for success
Walt Disney took huge risks throughout his entire career. Walt experimented with different animation technologies never knowing whether they would succeed or fail. Walt mortgaged his future to start his own studio. The building of the Disney parks was a huge financial risk too. He could have very easy taken the easier, more conservative route but instead he trusted himself and took personal risk to succeed. Without those risks, the Disney name would probably not be what it is today.

Education Connection: Do we provide our students the opportunity to take risks or do we control every facet of the learning experience? Students will never learn how to take risks unless we hand them some control of their learning. By simply giving them some choice in assignments or giving them the chance to express themselves freely, we are fostering a learning climate that encourages risk taking. Along the way, we can be there to help them through any bumps in the road. With risk comes personal responsibility and that is a lesson and skill all students should experience on a daily basis. These risk opportunities are nothing compared to Walt Disney, but we need to start somewhere.

Lesson #3 - Follow your passions
Walt Disney had a passion for art and later animation. At that time, animation was not the big business that it is today. Walt put animation on the map and he did this by following his passions. Walt's father did not want him to pursue an art career but Walt followed his passion. Many times passion brings on innovation which in Walt's case was totally true.

Education Connection: Do we cultivate our students' passions and integrate them into classroom learning? Within most curriculums, there is potential to integrate students passions into the learning process. Examples might include but are not limited too: allowing students to write on a topic of their choice while working on particular writing skills, encouraging students to make connections from classroom learning to student passions through blog writing, allowing students to pick reading material while working on non-fiction reading skills, incorporating the "Genius Hour" concept into your classes learning centers, etc. No matter the method, students will be more engaged in learning when it is connected to ideas for which they have passion or interest. Allow students the freedom to own some of their learning and incorporate their passions.


1 comment:

  1. Did this trip inspire the quote on your signature, or did you have that quote prior to this trip?