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Disneyland/CA Adventure: the right way

My husband and I recently embarked on our Disneyland/California Adventure trip, our first big trip after having our son 13 months ago.  Determining that my son was too young to bring this time, we made it our “dream trip” of going to Disneyland as just two adults.

Obligatory Castle Picture

Obligatory Castle Picture

It was excellent of course, and magical, other than the blistering 100 degree heat.  We stayed at the Paradise Pier and had club level privileges, which meant free breakfast, snacks, and movies to check out.  We enjoyed Paradise Pier, it being the cheapest of the three Disney hotels, but the pool was small and often crowded.  Walking around the other hotels, the pools were generally empty and much larger!  When we take my son when he’s 3 or 4, we are planning on the Grand Californian, which has a Redwood Cabin style and a beautiful lobby.

Other perk of staying at one of the hotels is the California Adventure hotel entrance.  It made entering and leaving the park much easier, and closer.  We were able to enter the park one hour early on both days, which was perfect because we were able to get into Cars Land and the Radiator Racers ride before it got too busy.  We also got vouchers for a disney pin and lanyard, which I wore the whole time and added a few pins to my new collection.

While staying at one of the hotels isn’t vital, it can make the stay extra magical, especially if you have children.  Not having to worry about parking, renting a car, can in itself lessen the stress of the trip.  Another tip, beware of a van posing as the Disneyland Resort Express from the airport.  We didn’t get cheated out of money, but it was a much less comfortable trip to the hotel.  Look for a huge bus, not a van as the correct choice.  Also it’s credit card only with the real bus (cash only with the fake one).

Now back to matters of the park.  Food is extremely expensive so if able, bring your own or at least some snacks to tide you over for meals.  Bring your own water bottle to fill because the water is about 3 bucks per small bottle.  If eating at the Blue Bayou, while expensive, one Monte Carlo sandwich can easily feed three people, especially with the bread and gumbo they give you.  My husband and I ordered each our own and had way too much. It was extremely delicious and a great way to beat the heat in this dark, cool restaurant overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Do make reservations though as it fills up quickly.

We went after Labor Day, and the park felt crowded even though we got to do every thing we wanted to in just two days at both parks.  Having a park hopper is great, because you can go in between parks, we did this both days. Next time we plan on going beginning of December, because the heat was miserable, making the trip not quite as “magical” as I remember in past years.

Also note that the park is more suited for toddlers and up.  There are some rides babies can do, but especially with the heat, I wouldn’t suggest bringing a child under the age of three.  Of course, all kids are different, and if you do bring a baby, make use of the stroller passes, just ask for one at each ride. This can make going with a baby much more feasible, since you don’t have to wait in the long line a second time for the other person to ride.  I plan on bringing my son once he’s at least three and a half, as I have heard kids under this age can also be afraid of the many Disney characters walking around.

Another fun thing is to start traditions with your family if you plan on making Disneyland a common vacation.  I always get a hat and a t-shirt when I go, and ended up getting an R2D2 Mickey ears hat.  This can be especially fun for the children, knowing they can pick out one or two things.  You can even hit up the big Disney store in Downtown Disney the day before you go into the park, so that you and your kids have their Mickey ears and shirts ready to go as they go into the parks.

Another important thing to note is Downtown Disney (shopping/food district right outside of the parks) as I just previously mentioned.  It gets very busy at night, even during the weekday, so be aware.  I suggest going to Earl of Sandwich for casual dining, much cheaper (7 bucks per hot sandwich) and very good.  I also suggest Tortilla Jo’s for more sit down dining, the prices were 30% more than what you might expect at home, but service was good and it was a good environment.  I would avoid Rainforest Cafe, as it’s always super packed and the food is only mediocre for the same price at Tortilla Jo’s.  I didn’t try the restaurant Catal (by the Uva Bar), but I looked inside it and it was more of a relaxing date night environment, away from the bustle of the other places.

All in all, a Disneyland trip is what you make of it.  If you want the full experience, I suggest getting a Disney hotel, at least for the first time you bring your children.  They do make the trip special, sending treats and milk up to the room, and giving vouchers to use in the park.  I also suggest going during a cooler time, especially if bringing small children as overheating can be prevalent with triple digit temperatures.  Downtown Disney can be fun but can also hurt your pocket book if you aren’t careful.  The key is to plan and budget beforehand, and know that things might not go an expected (hot temperatures, favorite ride closed), but to keep a good attitude for you and your children.

High school: preparation for life or artificial social environment?

As I’ve now reached seven years since being in high school as a student (I’ve been on the other side as a teacher in the past few years), I’ve come to an interesting question.  Is high school a preparation for life post-graduation or is it an artificial environment that doesn’t reflect adult life?  In my pondering, I have found it is both, depending on how focused the student is on academics vs. their social life.

Some examples comes to mind of the latter.  In schools, we all know there is an issue with bullying.  Students being verbally/physically/sexually abused, often kept secret at the fear of retribution of the bully.  Is this a reflection of the workplace?  A reflection of how adults interact?  While there is harassment cases in the workplace, they are often treated with justice and harsh consequences for the perpetrator.  If you verbally abuse your boss/coworker (teacher/co-student), in the workplace (school), how are these treated differently?  A student may call a teacher a bad name or curse the teachers brains out, but often the retribution is detention, a call to the parents or maybe a suspension.  If you treated your boss or coworker this way, most employers would fire you on the spot.  We give these students many chances, often too many, I believe that it doesn’t teach them appropriate workplace environments.

Another example that comes to mind is skipping class.  I had students in my class who would show up once a week, yet I still had to manage their behavior, keep them in my grade books, and call their parents even though these students had no intention of doing any work in my class.  One of my students had a 2% grade.  This is also a poor reflection of college and the workplace.  If you skip work, you will get fired eventually.  If you skip college, the professor isn’t going to call your mommy to make sure you take summer school so you can graduate.  We often don’t give consequences to students who skip or have no intention of working or graduating, taking away precious time and resources from the students who actually want to learn and succeed in life.

How do we solve these issues?  How can we as educators, parents, change the way high school is handled in many of our cities?  In one of myeducation classes, we watched an enlightening movie called “To Sir, with Love.”  Set in the 60s, teacher/engineering student Mr. Thackery, was assigned a classroom of rowdy, vulgar, apathetic seniors (sound familiar teachers?).  Instead of attempting the normal curriculum, Mr. Thackery realized the way to train these students is to treat them as adults as opposed to children.  He would have all the students call each other by “Mr.” and “Miss.” as well as train them to budget, cook, interview as well as math, reading, and writing.  Some students could barely read or do arithmetic, so he started from the bottom.  It’s an inspiring story of a teacher who took these students under his own wing, and altered his curriculum that would benefit the students and their direction in life, rather than going with the assigned curriculum.

You see, a major problem in today’s schools is that we, as teachers have a too broad of audience in each class.  In one classroom, you could have the student who will become a CEO of a major company, and another who will live on the streets selling drugs.  You may have a student who becomes a professional baseball player, and another who becomes a middle school PE teacher.  How are we supposed to teach to students if some of them want to succeed and do great things, and others just care about when they’ll get their next hit?

I don’t have an exact solution, but I do have an idea that is starting to sprout in today’s education circles.  In my state, we just passed that Charter schools can be created.  There’s online high schools, and homeschool, and arts schools and tech schools.  But there’s not enough of these.  Now I don’t think we should necessarily have different elementary schools but certainly different choices of types of high schools should be optioned.  Why should the student who wants to get a  P.h.D in mathematics be in the same math classroom as the student who just wants to work for his dad’s construction company.  Why should teachers have to deal with such a broad range of students, from the students in Algebra 1 who want to learn math and those who could care less?

By high school, students need to be preparing for the future.  If a student is interested going into a vocational job right after high school, then a vocational school might suit them.  Or if a student wants to become a software engineer, then they might go to a STEM sponsored school.  This way, the students who are interested in the same material get to be in the same school.  This will help teachers manage their classrooms more effectively, as well as give different focuses to the different schools.  I know these high schools do exist, but like I said, if it became the norm for a student to choose after middle school to go to a vocational school, an arts school, an engineering school, or a online school, then that would be a option in most cities.

In my opinion, high school should reflect an environment the students will encounter in their adult life, whether that be working as a mechanic or going to 12 more years of school to become a doctor.  We should encourage less of socializing students and more on academics/vocational training.  Arguments for normal school have been to give students the ability to interact and work with their peers.  If any of you have been in high school, you know that this socialization process includes many inappropriate circumstances, such as bullying, sex, drugs, and peer pressure.  If we hope to save our public schools in our country, we must change how we view high school and give students more opportunities to succeed by providing options that suit their future.

 

How social media is a reflection of culture and our views of education

Social media gives us a good view into our American culture, whether it be our subcultures in our cities or the macro culture of the US.  Now with any generalization, there are always exceptions, so don’t harp me on those.

When you look at your Newsfeed or Twitter Feed, what do you often see?  Do you see people celebrating an A on a math test?  Or that they finished writing a fantasy story?  You might see this 1 in 100 posts, but it’s extremely rare.  More often than not, you’ll see complaints, delusions of grandeur, entertainment, or foodies.  You’ll see someone excited about a big trip or that someone had an amazing dinner.  These aren’t in themselves bad things, it’s fun to share life’s exciting moments.

But what about the other times?  It seems like we complain about the mundane or the challenging.  I’ve seen so many posts on just wanting to get out of school, to long for summer break, winter break, spring break.  Our culture seems so focused on just “getting done with school” so we can go do those “fun and exciting” things.

Is this really how we view school?  Education?  The mundane such as chores or homework?  There are some that do value school, that see it as an opportunity to learn new things, to fulfill dreams, to interact with other people.  But more and more, I see the attitude towards school and education as one to get “power through.”

Being a teacher myself, this attitude frightens me.  It means that many students, parents, other teachers don’t value education as they once did.  Education used to be a privilege, especially college education.  It was something to look forward to, knowing you were going to open your mind to all sorts of knowledge.  I still remember being excited about school, excited about learning, but as time waned, my attitude towards school was often to just get through it.  Now that I am graduated, I miss the intellectual challenges, I miss the debates, I miss learning new and exciting things.

How must we counteract this attitude towards education?  How can I change people’s attitudes about school?  It starts with ourselves and our personal attitudes of education.  Instead of posting only about exciting things or complaining about mundane things, I should post about what new things I am learning, pursuing, things I am passionate about such as my Christian faith, or infinity or violin.  I should encourage others to join me in learning new things or in expanding our knowledge on a subject.  This could mean joining with a friend to go over math proofs or taking a programming class with a friend.  It could mean having people proof read my fan fiction or helping me build a soap car for the 4th of July parade.  The opportunities are boundless.

I value education and learning very highly.  I hope to teach my son that education isn’t just a classroom, isn’t just homework, but it’s immersive through our whole life.  Our goal shouldn’t be to “finish school so I can be entertained” but it should be “how can I learn the most?  How can I use normal life to teach me about science, math, economics, English, grammar?” While entertainment in itself isn’t bad, it shouldn’t be our goal in life.  Let’s be creators, not consumers.