A Classroom Lesson from Aladdin: Be Yourself

There’s the funny scene in the Disney animated version of Aladdin where Aladdin has just come into the palace as Prince Ali, and he’s trying to win Jasmine over. If you’ve seen the movie, you’re probably familiar with the scene out on Jasmine’s balcony. As Aladdin’s getting ready to go visit her, he’s trying to get advice from the Genie. The Genie transforms himself into a bumblebee, and leaves Aladdin with one final piece of advice: “Beeeeee yourself.”

“Yeah, right,” Aladdin replies.

Aladdin doesn’t believe a street rat has anything to offer a princess. He feels pressured to act like a “prince.”

Here’s the inherent problem Aladdin is having: he was pretending to be something he wasn’t. He was trying to become what he thought people wanted him to be rather than leaning into his personal strengths. 

In fact, as he’s trying to win over Jasmine, none of the “Prince Ali” stuff actually works. And it’s not until he gets royally rejected (pun intended) that he acts like himself, which is what actually wins her over. 

Most of us know and understand the theme of that movie: we should be the people we are created to be and not try to imitate someone else. But how many of us forget this message the minute we step into our classrooms? 

I remember back when Common Core was first introduced. We were essentially given a scripted curriculum and told to follow it. We could add some personality to the lessons, but we didn’t have any control over the content. Our administrators said that they wanted to be able to walk out of one classroom and into another and feel like they had not missed anything. 

We were given a curriculum that was already planned out, already scripted, and already organized, which is not inherently a bad thing. The problem was more the implementation.

I probably don’t have to be the first one to tell you how difficult the first few years of Common Core were. If you taught through them, you probably understand.

I’ve also seen similar things happen on a more micro level with individual teachers. They find a lesson plan online, or read something in a book, or their colleague does something in class that works really well and is shared it. Rather than working through it to understand it, they just make copies of everything and give them out to students. 

But it doesn’t work. The activity, or the lesson, just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of effect in their class. Then, they get upset, talk about how it didn’t work, and give up.

Copy and paste curriculums don’t work well because there’s one key element that is missing: you. 

If you are doing nothing more than just copying what someone else has done, it’s probably not going to be effective in your class. Your students are a different makeup of students. Your personality is a different type of personality. Your class atmosphere is a different atmosphere.

If you are doing nothing more than just copying what someone else has done, it’s probably not going to be effective in your class.

Rather than copy and paste, sift through the elements of whatever you find. Understand the content, the purpose, the skills for the lesson and pull those out. Modify things like terminology that you use in class. Not every teacher uses the same terminology, so use what your students are familiar with.

Get rid of the stuff that’s not going to work for you. If it has content you haven’t taught, or won’t teacher, remove it. If it has extra content that you’re not concerned with, take it out. If it uses technology that you don’t feel comfortable with, find something different rather than trying to force it. 

Think about who you are as an educator and utilize those strengths to your advantage, regardless of whether you came up with them yourself or you got them someone else.

But don’t just copy and paste something that someone else has already done. It’s not going to work nearly as well and you’ll probably find yourself frustrated.

Be yourself. You can’t be anyone else.

Bee Yourself Aladdin, How I Outed Myself on Accident

Published by Lee Tucker

Lee Tucker is a high school English teacher who not only teaches literature and writing but also creates it himself. Lee is a huge fan of fantasy and science fiction, video games, comic books, and all things nerdy.

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