Disney Hidden Treasures: 2 of ?

There are few places in Disneyland that I like more than the animation academy. I guess technically the animation studio is in California Adventure but whatever it’s part of Disney parks. It’s one of my favorite places because it’s one of the places were you can just sit and relax and enjoy Disney.

The thing that really makes this place great is the loop of Disney Classics playing in the background. You can sing along with everything from “Hi Ho” to “Let it Go”. The screens surround you. They let you experience the movies. You get to see concept art and sketches come to life. And best of all nobody judges you when you sing along.

The Animation Academy also has some fun hidden gems. You can learn how to draw a different Disney characters with the Disney animators. They show you some basic steps for how to draw a Mickey or how to draw Pluto. Every half hour brings a new Disney characters to life and you get to be part of that magic.

My attempt at drawing Minnie Mouse

You can also head over to the Sorcerer’s Workshop where you can draw your own cartoon. The first room of the sorcerer’s workshop contains zoetropes, a spinning device that allows cartoons to come to life. Afterwords head down to the beast’s library to learn which Beauty and the Beast character you’re most like. Then brush up on your karaoke skills by singing like Ariel in Ursula’s grotto.

Next go talk with a turtle with turtle talk with crush. This is a surprisingly fun interactive encounter. Crush actually talks to people and answers your questions about pretty much anything that you want to ask him. He’s curious about human swimming wear and will even tried a dab if you ask him. I’m not joking about that last one. Some kid asked him and he tried it. It was really funny.

So while some folks might just know the Animation Academy as a place where you can go meet Anna and Elsa, I know it is a place where I can sit, relax and enjoy everything that I love about Disney.



I am a teacher.  Recently, there has been a lot of news about why teachers are upset in Arizona.  There have been walk-ins and demands and video posts and blogs and opinion pieces.  Teachers have weighed in far and wide about the conditions of education in the state of Arizona.  I thought I should weigh in too.

I am a public high school teacher.  I do not speak for my school or my district or my peers.  I can only speak for myself.  But I need people to know what it means to be a teacher in Arizona.  I need them to know what my day looks like and how I spend my time and what I do to help students.  It is not always fun.  It is not always easy.  It is always gratifying.  So please don’t see this as a complaint.  I merely want to add some light to the plight of teachers in Arizona.

I am a public high school teacher in a Title I school.  What does that mean?  Here’s the definition from U.S. Department of Education: “Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.”  So, what does that mean, exactly?  Well, to be blunt, it means that many of my students are from families who live near, at, or below the poverty line.  Many students qualify for free or reduced price lunch because their families, for whatever reason, don’t make enough money.  How many students qualify for this service?  From the same website: “Schools enrolling at least 40 percent of children from low-income families are eligible to use Title I funds for schoolwide programs designed to upgrade their entire educational programs to improve achievement for all students, particularly the lowest-achieving students.” To qualify for Title I funds, almost half.  The school I teach at is slightly more than that.

Great, I hear you say, your school gets more money from Title I funds, right?  Well… much like most things in education, it’s complicated.  I am not a finical expert on how to use Title I funds and I won’t even pretend to be, but the funds must be used for certain things and only those things.  And they are monitored.  Schools can get into a lot of trouble for misusing those funds.  There are several very long documents here if you want to read up on it yourself.  But the actual point is that I have a lot of students who can’t afford basic school supplies.  Here’s what I require for my class: a binder ($3.59), a composition notebook ($2.64), 100 index cards ($1.72), notebook paper ($2.50), and a calculator ($12.97) (walmart.com).  All together, with tax, this comes out to around $25.00.  My students can buy everything they need for my class for under $30, maybe cheaper if they find it on sale at “back to school” time.  And yet, every year, I have multiple students who can’t even afford those things.

Now, $30 would not break my bank if I had to do this for one student.  Heck, I could even swing two.  But it is not one or two students who need it help.  Every year I have 3-4 students per class (that’s 24 students a year) who can’t afford the materials.  If I were to purchase supplies for every needing student, it would be over $700 out of my pocket just for basic class supplies.  That is just for basic supplies.  That doesn’t include markers, colored pencils, dry erase markers, dry erase erasers, construction paper, scissors, rulers, or Kleenex.  Luckily, there are some great students at my school who are willing to help and share with their classmates, but I will end up buying about $500 of supplies for my students every year.  True, I get $50 to spend at Office Depot every year, but that money doesn’t buy a lot.

I am a public science teacher.  This is important because I buy a lot of science materials.  I am fortunate enough to be in a district that wants to see students doing science.  So we have things like beakers, thermometers, meter sticks, stir rods, microscopes, and even some pH meters that sort of, kind of work (as long as you don’t stand too close to them while getting your readings).  We also have a lot of supplies in the form of microscope slides, chemicals, and fetal pigs.  But our tap water is awful for chemistry and I have to buy DI water if I want to use anything that would react with the minerals in our tap water.  It is also expensive to get concentrate hydrochloric acid every year, so I use it sparingly.  That means a lot of experiments with vinegar and baking soda, that I also purchase.  There are other things, too, like lima beans and pony beads and paper clips and plastic cups that get used for various lab and hands-on activities.  So that adds to my yearly expenses because those materials come out of that same $50 classroom supply budget.

Being a science teacher also means lab reports, practice problems, quizzes, and answering endless questions about how to do this or that.  It means being involved with students, it means offering tutoring hours, it means being available for them when they are struggling.  It means grading.  This is one of those things that I definitely struggle with because I feel like if I make a student do something in class to help them learn, then I should give them feedback on it.  Right now, I have a stack of papers on my desk that I didn’t get to last week (we’re coming up to meetings, don’t you worry).  I was at school at 6:00 am this morning and I didn’t leave until 4:00 pm.  That is a normal day.  Every day.  I spend 6-8 hours every Sunday grading and planning and prepping for the coming week.  I spend this time because I care.  I read every answer and make comments.  I cross out and make draw lines and annotate their assignments so that they can learn what they did wrong and do it correctly next time.  Again, I’m not complaining.  But I am trying to enlighten people who think teaching is a 40 hour/week job.  It’s not.

But I like numbers.  Let’s look at the numbers: ~60 hr/week for 38 weeks (the average school year – fall break, spring break, and wine break) = 2,280 hrs.  Let’s divide that by 50 weeks (I am just assuming that most people get 2 weeks off/year) = 45.6 hours per week.  So, can we please stop this “it’s only 9 months” and “teachers get all these breaks” comments.  Everyone gets breaks and days off and can take time off.  It all evens out in the end.

I am a public high school teacher for all students.  This means that I have students who are on individual education plans and 504 plans.  I have students who want to doctors and engineers and lawyers and students who don’t even want to graduate high school.  I have students who can’t stay awake because they work until 11:00 pm every day to help pay the bills.  I have students who can’t focus because they are going through hard times in their personal life.  And I have to teach them all.  So there are meetings with parents and with counselors and with students and with other teachers.  There are phone calls and emails to try to get these kids on track to graduate or to understand why a student earned a B on a test instead of an A.  This takes up a larger part of my day than you think.  Two of my classes took a test today so tomorrow, I will email all 60 parents about their students’ current grade in the class and if they are on track to pass.  Technology has made this easier (thank you, Mail Merge, the teacher’s best friend) but there are still many parents who do not have email.  And since everyone has a cell phone, there are also many parents with an out of state phone number.  Since districts are underfunded, we don’t have out of state calling abilities from our classrooms.  Instead, I have to use the one phone in the office that can make out of state calls.

Here’s the bottom line: TL;DR edition: I love my job.  I really do.  I love talking to students and learning about them.  I love it when they get it.  I love it when they want to be my friend on FB and follow me on Twitter.  It can’t put into words how I feel when they come back and tell me how my class affected them.  I have a wall of student pictures and letters and notes that fill me with joy every day.  But, I would also like to have the funded to do my job better.  What other job requires their employees to shell out their own money to supply their clients?  My dad worked in sales for many years and was never expected to use his own money for client interactions.  He was always paid back if he did.  Yet we expect teachers to just give and give and give without getting a lot in return.  And we have.  Because we love what do.  But enough is enough.  It’s time for teachers to get a little back for all that do.

Disney Hidden Treasures, part 1 Of ?

I enjoy going to Disneyland. So much so that I travel to the magical kingdom at least once a month and pay homage to the mouse. On my treks, I have many spots that are less known to people but magical to me to. I’m not sure how long this series will be or even how often I will post new locations, but here’s the first:

Mickey and the Magical Map:

This show tells the story of Mickey, an apprentice map maker, who desperately wants to be a full map maker. He notices that the other map makers left a spot unpainted on their map. Determined to make his mark and prove his worth, Mickey tries to paint the spot. Spot has other plans. Thus starts Mickey’s magical and musical adventure.

Mickey’s adventures take him to wonderful places north, south, east and west where he witnesses musical numbers by Mulan, Pocahontas, and Stitch. There, he learns the importance of the journey and of leaving his imagination open to new possibilities.

Mickey and the Magical Map is a great show where you get to see some of those lesser seen characters such as Pocahontas and Mulan, as well as hear great songs from Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid. The music, dancing, and original numbers are fun and catchy. I guarantee you’ll be singing them for the rest of the day. The appearance of familiar characters will have the little Musketeers cheering. The message of enjoying the journey is one that all big kids will appreciate.

On top of the show being wonderful, the stage is located next to the Troubadour Tavern, which is home to an amazingly delicious baked potato. Grab a bit and get ready to grove along with Mickey on his adventures.

Fantasyland Theatre is located across from Small World at the Toontown entrance. Mickey and the Magical Map has showtimes most days between 10a and 6pm.

To the people who look to me

If you’ve ever read my blog before, you probably realize that I really don’t have all my apples in a row. Despite the fact that I am in my mid-thirties, I am still figuring a lot of this stuff out as I go. I think most adults are. I’m pretty sure that’s actually the secret of being adult: we’re all just making it up, we just have the confidence and experience to make it look like we know what we’re doing.

In light of the fact that I really have zero clues about what I’m doing, it fills me with great awe that people look up to me. I take that responsibility very seriously. I want those people to know that words cannot express how awed and humbled and thankful I am for them. They keep me thinking about how to make myself better: a better teacher, a better listener, a better friend. They make me challenge old ideas and want to embrace new ones. They make me want to live my life as the best possible version of myself that I can. I really can’t thank them enough.

I also want them to realize that mistakes are ok. Goodness knows I have made my fair share. Change is ok. It is scary and can be confusing and can sometimes be sad, but most changes in my life have been for the better. And the things that caused many nights of tears healed as time passed and helped mold me into the person I am today.

It’s ok you don’t have it all figured out. I certainly don’t. It’s ok to be frustrated as you try to figure it out. I certainly have been frustrated with road blocks in my life. It’s ok to be you and be silly and have fun and still be an adult. Goodness knows that I love Disney movies and laughing about goofy stuff.

Above all, I want you to know that I am your cheerleader. I want you to be successful, whatever that means for you. I will cheer your accomplishments. Because honestly I appreciate every one of you and want nothing but the best for you.

Resolution, smesolution

It’s a new year, full of new adventures and new experiences and new friends. And the same me. New Years tends to be the time for people to make outrageous claims about how they want to change their lives, hopefully for the better. But most of the time these “resolutions” last the three weeks it takes for the memories of bad holiday choices to fade. I have decided that I’m not making any resolutions this year.

Instead, I am going to continue to reflect on my life and behaviors and make adjustments during the entire year.

This year, I’m going to continue to reflect on and improve my teaching. I am going to look at my lessons and their outcomes and adjust my strategies. I’m going to listen to my students (both their voices and their actions) and be responsive to their needs. I am going answer questions and encourage exploration and reward positive thinking. I am going to help and be available but have boundaries because I am also a human.

This year, I’m going to continue to reflect on and improve my relationships. I am going to make time for friends and family. I am going to listen to their problems without offering unwanted commentary. I am going to help them when asked and ask for help when I need it. I am going to spend time with people I want to spend time with and not worry about the people that I don’t want to spend time with. I am going to be more accepting of my friends’ opinions, but not be afraid of sharing my opinions with them.

This year, I am going to be kind. I am going to be open to new ideas and experiences. I am going to not be afraid to be myself. I am going to not be afraid to change. I am going to not be afraid to not change.

This year, I am going to be the best version of myself that I can be.

7 days in black and white

I recently shared my “7 days in black and white” challenge pictures on Facebook. I wanted to put all seven together and showcase part of my life. So here it is, 7 days, black and white, no people, no pets, no explanation.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

What’s your #7inblackandwhite?

Hey, I’m 34

Or, I will be very soon.  It made me think about the things I have learned as an adult and how much I still don’t really know or understand.  Like molecular orbitals diagrams.  I am just never going to get the hang of drawing those diagrams!

There are some things I think I’ve figure out okay, though.  I pretty confident in my own abilities.  I know my limitations.  I understand when I am pushing myself to my limits and when I can give more.  I think a lot of people are still working on figuring those things out, so I’ve got that going for me.

There are things that I just haven’t figured out yet, though.  How to stop blaming myself for other peoples’ failures or faults.  That’s a hard one as a teacher because I want to blame myself when my students don’t “get it”.  I know some of the blame is mine: how well did I deliver the material?  How clearly did I set my expectations?  But I need to keep in mind that a lot of the blame can also be shouldered on them: How much did they study?  How hard did they work for it?  How often did they come to me for help and clarification?

Or how to stop worrying about what other people are going to think about me/judge me.  I don’t worry so much about strangers.  Eff those people who judge without knowing me.  It’s more the people in my life that I worry about judging me or thinking less of me.  If I do this, will my friend not like me any more.  If I say this, will this person stop talking to me.  Why hasn’t this person texted me back yet?  I must have done something wrong.  I need to keep in mind that people are busy, people are honest, and I can’t control what others ultimately think about me.  The best I can do is be the best version of myself possible and know that the people in my life like me for who I am.

How to live in the moment and stop worrying about what happened in the past.  I find myself thinking about past mistakes a lot when I should be enjoying current moments.  I need to let go of those past mistakes by acknowledging that they happened, but moving on by trying to not make the same mistakes again.  Making new mistakes is a given.  Doing the same thing over and over again is one definition of insanity.

Another year old, but maybe not another year wiser.  I look forward to having more experiences, making new mistakes, and enjoying all the wonders I can.

Happy birthday to me!

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