Disneyland Hates Busy Days

Post date: Mar 22, 2019 3:55:34 PM

Uh... what?

I'm reading Window on Main Street by Disney Legend Van Arsdale France. It retells his experiences in the opening of Disneyland. It's full of fun little back stories and details that I haven't read anywhere else. Last night though I read something that I not only haven't read before but that really surprised me.

Disneyland, at least in the early days, hated busy days. They quickly learned that those days were the least profitable for the park. It is quite simple really. As France quotes Dick Kunis, another Disney Legend, saying "people waiting in line aren't spending money."

At that time the entry fee to the park was pretty low so the majority of revenue was made from people buying merchandise and concessions. While I don't know if that it still the case I firmly believe it is. Not only do I believe the entry fee is still pretty low (just, wait, hear me out!) but I firmly believe they are making way more off merchandise and concessions. As far as the price being low I know it is popular to complain about how ridiculously expensive the park is but I don't see it. A movie ticket costs up to $20. A ticket to a 3 hour Lakers game will run you $200+ most nights. Concert tickets? $80+ if you're seeing a big act. Hamilton? Ha, forget it! Disneyland is comparable in price and offers a significantly longer (and I'd argue better!) experience. I think that's why people spend so much more money in the park throughout the day. Balloons for $8? Sure! $28 cheap plastic popcorn holder? Why not? $4 water bottle? No, don't, water is free (with ice!) at any restaurant window. The point holds though that if you're standing in 2 hour lines you aren't buying any of those things.

Put simply, busyness is bad business!

So, of course, this led me to reflect on the busyness in my own classroom. My classroom is extremely busy by design. When I first started teaching I quickly learned that down time and transitions were behavior killers. Simply for management's sake I started to design my lessons to take just a little bit longer than the class period allowed. My students having a task waiting for them every day before they walk in. They know they are to start it whether I'm in the room or outside welcoming students. If they are not working before the bell rings they are considered tardy. I start them on the lesson promptly after that. As I said, those lessons are often designed to take a bit longer than the period allows. This causes me to rush through parts and really doesn't leave much breathing room for questions and the like. I've done most of them so many times now that I can easily find time when I need to but it is still a constant push to get through. If they somehow finish my overly designed lesson before the period ends they have "Side Quests" on our class LMS page to work on.

The pressure to keep busy isn't just due to management though. All of us in education are under constant pressure to teach certain topics before The Test. One of things I love most about teaching AVID is that those pressures really aren't present. In Social Studies though they absolutely are - especially in the 7th grade World History Curriculum. As I tell parents at the beginning of the year all we have to do is teach the history of the entire world over about a 2,000 year period. No problem! California's new Framework was supposed to alleviate some of the struggle but instead went to add three more huge world cultures - India, Persia and Mongolia to a list that already includes Rome, Christendom, The Renaissance, The Enlightenment, Mayans, Aztecs, Inca, Japan, China, Arabia and West Africa. Uh huh. Sure. We are constantly pushing to get through all the topics while doing them some kind of justice. The only way to do that is to be busy, busy, busy.

France's comment has me wondering what cost I paying to teach the way I do. Yes, my kids are exposed to all these cultures but do they really learn much about them? Honestly, no. They'll forget the basic tenets of Buddhism as soon as we're on to our next religion. We covered it in 3 days alongside 2 other Chinese philosophies. Without a doubt we were busy those three days. I lectured. We read a story. We discussed scenarios. We made a comparison chart. We did it all. We did it fast. We were busy. But, we sure didn't have much time to shop.

In another section of the book France describes how worried some of the Disney management team were about the opening days - and especially the days after Summer ended and the kids all went back to school. They feared that the park would be empty and investors would flee. They initially wanted the park to be packed because it makes it look popular and therefore a good investment. I have to wonder how quickly they realized the busy days only looked good on the outside and were not particularly effective on the inside. I know there's an element of that in why I am busy. I take pride in "getting through" all the Framework in a year even though I'll readily admit my kids don't actually learn all of it (or at least retain it.)

How can we, can I, make time for our kids to breathe? To shop for souvenirs (which is based on the French word meaning "to remember!") and to digest what we've taught? Exit tickets are one idea but honestly, to me, they've always felt like busywork and, as a result, I rarely use them. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that last 5 minutes should be just as valuable as the first 5 and we should find a way to make it so. I don't have any answers for this one - at least not yet. I just know this is something I'm reflecting on deeply now and I think others might as well. What is our busyness costing us?