The Happiest Place on Earth

If you have ever visited the happiest place on earth, you would likely agree that the service, the cleanliness and the experience exceed expectations. In fact, the Disney service model has been studied by corporations worldwide.

The more I learn about the Disney philosophy, the more I notice the ‘begin with the end in mind’ approach. Simply put, Disney’s goal is to create happiness. They have written specific service guidelines for both cast members and management. Specific behaviours are listed under each guideline outlining how to achieve the end goal.

An example presented to Disney employees: how do you answer the question, “What time is the 3:00 parade?” It would be tempting to give a snide, sarcastic response. However at Disney, employees are taught how to answer that question informatively and respectfully.

At Disneyland, the guest experiences are of utmost importance. Should not the same be true for us within a school? Shouldn’t we too have pride in our environment and teach our students to do the same? Our attention to detail and our day to day behaviour should demonstrate that we value our environment and each person within: students, colleagues, parents and guests. Despite temptation, despite fatigue and frustration, despite seemingly silly questions, sarcasm and condescension have no place either at Disneyland or in a school.

Turns out, we can all learn a few things from dear old Walt. After all, wouldn’t you like to work at the happiest place on earth?

Spring Break

Perhaps the best part of Friday night was the realization that the alarm clock need not go on. Low and behold Saturday morning I awoke at regular time and could not sleep. And yet, I reveled in the realization that I did not have to get up and that a week of non-alarm clock mornings lay ahead.

In the field of education, we often hear snide remarks about the amount of vacation time we have. Yet this week I witnessed the increasing restlessness of the students and the fatigue of the staff after the marathon of report cards. The emotional, physical and mental toll was evident.

Those of us who work in that building called school understand the necessity of this break and how deserved it is for those who work within. Others may scoff at us. I say, enjoy…

“I Shall Not Hate”

After hearing Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish speak at convention, I shook his hand and bought his book, I Shall Not Hate. I read it this week and though I understand the individual words on the page, I struggle to understand the world he portrays.

… the oldest of nine children growing up in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip… all living in one room 3 metres by 3 metres, no running water, no electricity, no toilets… his mother cutting a banana to share between her nine children… the family left homeless after their home was bulldozed to widen the road for tanks… working through the night and attending school during the day… living amongst hatred, discrimination and war… the unpredictable and often humiliating ordeal of crossing the border between Palestine and Israel which he did many years, twice a week…losing three daughters and a niece to the shelling of his home…

Through the world of words I enter a foreign land and into the life of another. I am reminded how fortunate I am to live where and when I do. The details of his reality are incomprehensible to those of us living in a world of freedom and security.

And yet, despite his circumstances, this man is an advocate, a doctor, a father, a humanitarian, one might even say an optimist. As the world searches for peace and reconciliation, let us look to Dr. Abuelaish for inspiration.

Take comfort today knowing you are safe and educated, that you have food to eat and a place to call home. Share stories with your students to open their eyes to the world beyond their own. And the next time you sing O Canada, relish the reality of these words: the true north strong and free. How very blessed we are.



Our most precious resource

Despite the freebies and inevitable purchases, there is one thing much more valuable that I take away from convention each year: a renewed sense of purpose. Dr. Yong Zhao spoke of a learning environment where we strive to enhance the inherent value in each student. Taylor Mali reminded us that we are in the greatest job in the world. Izzeldin Abuelaish emphasized how lucky we are to work day in and day out with our most precious resource: our children.

Education is often deemed the one thing that can change the world. Too bad more of our politicians don’t agree. Yet regardless of what the politicians believe or what the statistics in the Fraser Report denounce, I feel privileged to be a part of this profession.

As thousands of teachers come together for our annual convention, there is a collective understanding in the room: people who get it, who live it, who breathe it. People who know that what we do makes a difference in the lives of children. People who know that our roles involve much more than curriculum, report cards and test scores.

Yes, we could study, analyze and compare the data. Or, we could exchange anecdotes about our interactions with individuals each and every day. Which would tell us more about the difference we make in the lives of children? After all, our students are more than simply a number on a page.