Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thoughts On Teaching and Disney Imagineers

 If you have read my other website, you know that I admire Walt Disney very much. He was amazingly creative and I think his mind was one of the best of all time. When he was alive, Walt had a special group of workers called WED (which was taken from Walt’s initials) that built the amazing things he dreamed up. After his death, WED grew into W.D.I. and now it is Disney Imagineering. These Imagineers as they are called upon to create everything you see on the Disney properties, worldwide. Everything from the design of the Resorts to the queues for the attractions; these people are amazing. I wrote an article once saying that I wished I could be an Imagineer. But the more that I think about it, I don’t wish for that anymore. I wish I could hang out with them and watch them work, because as a Teacher/Librarian I feel I am kind of am, an Imagineer.

I say this, because I have seen the Imagineers’ 10 Commandments. I have listed these commandments below with my reasons for believing that I am like an Imagineer.

  1. Know your audience – I do this by designing my lessons to make the most sense for the students I am working with.
  2. Wear your guest's shoes – I think about how I would receive the lesson I am teaching. Does it bore me or is it too slow? If so, it will be for the students (my guests) also.
  3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – I try to use good story telling techniques, tell good stories not lecture too much. I also try to use clear logic in my lessons and the way my room is organized.
  4. Create a weenie– In Disney’s terminology, this the focal point of a park or an attraction. In teaching it is my hook that gets the kids interesting in your lesson.
  5. Communicate with visual literacy – I always try to use non-verbal ways of communication, using color, shape, and actions to keep the class interested.
  6. Avoid overload - Resisting the temptation to teach too much, to have too many objects is sometimes difficult, since I only have a certain amount of time to cover so many topics.  But, the Imagineers believe, you can’t force people to swallow more than they can digest, that you need to try to stimulate and provide guidance to those who want more. As a teacher, I need to be aware of this also.
  7. Tell one story at a time – Teaching one topic or skill at a time is ideal.  The Imagineers say:  “If you have a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories, people can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical.”
  8. Avoid contradiction – I try to do this every day or else the students won’t believe me and won’t listen for very long.
  9.  For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of fun – I try to make learning fun every day. If they don’t enjoy coming to my class, they aren’t going to learn a whole lot from me.
  10.   Keep it up – Once you get to the high level of teaching where you are researching your topics before you start teaching them; you are designing lessons at different levels, adapting them and changing them as needed for the best experience for the students and then presenting these lessons in fun and interesting ways, which helps the students to learn the concepts you are teaching, you need to keep doing it. I continually change the experience of the library as the classes and students change from year to year, thus giving them new, interesting and exciting things to look forward to.
Most teachers who are still vibrant, good, exciting teachers do these things. These are the teachers that students remember when they grow up (for the right reasons). These are the teachers that students talk about at the dinner table with their parents. These are the teachers that other teachers talk about in meetings and workshops. These are teachers we should all strive to be. These are the Imagineers in our schools.

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