Last week my family and I made a trip to Walt Disney World over our Spring Break. As always, we all enjoyed the time in the parks and were not ready to leave at the end of the week. This is our 18th trip to Disney in the last 11 years. You would think it would get old, boring, and the Disney “Magic” would be lost by now. However, as we drove home we found ourselves talking and thinking about when we could make our next trip. What makes this place so magical and appealing to families all around the world? We are not the only family that does this. I know of at least three families without thinking too hard about it that continue to make return trips year after year. And as of last week, there isn’t any shortage of people going to Disney World. Again, what do people feel, see, and love about it?
I recently participated in a chat on Twitter with the Disney Institute. They asked four questions that led to some great discussions throughout the hour. These questions I believe cover some of the principles that are followed to create such an atmosphere at Disney that keeps families like mine coming back over and over again. The questions were about leaders, positive attitudes, management, focus and purpose. Does this sound familiar? It sounds like topics that I have heard in recent teacher faculty and professional development meetings. I would like to focus on each question and take a look at some of the responses. I believe each of these can be applied to your very own leadership as a teacher, classroom management, and purpose of lessons.
The first question was, “Have I spent enough time today really understanding what is going on with my Cast (employees) and Guests (customers)?” Have you spent time recently to understand what is happening with your students? Do you ask of your students’ tasks that you would also ask of yourself? You can do this by leading by example. There shouldn’t be any tasks below you. The facilitator of the discussion is a manager and talked about as they walk through the Disney Parks, they pick up trash like the people that work under him. Encourage your students and help develop a positive environment that is conducive to learning.
Question two was, “How can I encourage positive attitudes on a traditionally negative team?” You also have to model positive attitudes. Spend time in front of your students modeling desired behaviors. Smile! Demonstrate to your students by intentionally listening to them one-on-one and in group meetings, such as homeroom. Connect with them on their terms and interests. Consistent and immediate feedback to support positive behaviors can motivate your students to adopt good habits.
Question three was, “What is the difference between leadership and management? One response was that management is stuffy and leadership puts everyone on the same level. Another said that you manage things, but lead people. Guide your students and help manage their situations. Good leaders take others opinions into account toward a common goal. A manager does things the right way and a leader does what is right. Think about management as task and process. It focuses on efficiency and effectiveness. Leadership is about authenticity.
The last question was, “How can a leader keep employees focused on purpose? How can we keep our students focused or engaged? Engaging students is very important. Define your purpose. Make sure you communicate it over and over again. Mission or goal checks with a class are good. Set checkpoints so students feel comfortable and can see progress is taking place. Look for teachable moments. Celebrate victories as a class. Use challenges as a positive for learning. Develop strategies that can be implemented and measured often to keep your class members on target.
In a way, a Disney World park manager is like a teacher running a classroom. If they can create an environment that is inviting and what many call magical, perhaps we can take some advice and do this to our classrooms. We want them to be places that students enjoy coming to, are comfortable in, and want to come back. Everything you do should have a purpose. In a world of service, purpose trumps task!