The World of Education  

November 13, 2013
I had the opportunity to travel with my family to Disney World the last week of September and made many educational connections while there. It seems like even when I am on vacation the world of education is at the forefront of my thoughts. I would like to share some insights with you on my “Disney Education.”

Disney promotes that they are the “happiest place on earth.” What makes it so and how do we emulate this mantra in schools to create high functioning systems? To make Disney a happy place, many initiatives are happening behind the scenes. Each park is undergoing construction to create more attractions to lure visitors. They are constantly seeking feedback from their customers to improve their service. Are ESU 10 schools continually asking and looking at feedback to make their system better? Are they fully engaged in the continuous school improvement process? If not, ESU 10 can help.

Part of the fun of the Disney Experience is taking risks. My family encouraged (poked, pleaded, etc.) me to go on the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios. I was nervous, terrified actually, but took the risk and went on the ride. While it was not my favorite experience, I took the risk and completed the ride. Another example was the Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom. The ride had warning signs that you “may get wet.” The disclaimer did not stop my family from getting on the boat. What the sign should have said is “moms and dads will get soaked and kids will stay dry.” Once again, we survived the ride and had fun while doing it.

These risk taking experiences are similar to making changes in school systems. Schools must be willing to take risks to move initiatives forward. Sometimes the risks are small and sometimes they are large. The key is that educators take them. Like the Kali River Rapids we need to communicate to our stakeholders that risks are involved and the path may not be easy. As history has shown us, the easy path is not always the most rewarding. Strong leadership in school systems is essential to lead change. If leadership is lacking, ESU 10 can help.

At Disney, there were times of happiness and times of frustration (waiting in lines, rude visitors, etc.) However, when the ropes were drawn and the parade began at Magic Kingdom, all visitors watched the magic unfold. Shoving ceased and happiness was displayed on the faces of children. How do we model the magic of Disney World in our schools? How do we create a system that is best for student learning? How do we get beyond the red tape and ensure change can take place. A clearly communicated vision, leadership, and collaboration can spark the change in schools. My hope is that ESU 10 is side by side partnering with our schools to help ignite the fire.

-by Denise O'Brien, Professional Development Coordinator