Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SMARTBoard for a SMART Class!

During the teachers' first week of school back in August, some workmen came around to each classroom at my school and wrote "SBH" in permanent marker on the chalkboard in each room. For those of you not in education, SBH stands for "Smart Board Here." Seeing the man write that was one of the happiest days ever... especially since I was told LAST August that we'd be getting our SMARTBoards at some point LAST ('09-'10) school year. They kept pushing back the install date over and over until we finally accepted the fact that we were not getting them last year. Thus, you can understand why having an actual first step taken toward installation was quite exciting!! As they marked our boards, they were still unable to give us an install date, but said it should be soon. About a month later, someone came around and installed a new power outlet to plug in the projector. A few weeks after that, they came and hooked up all the cables for operating the SB. Then, the projectors came a little after that, but still no one could give us a definite date or even time frame for delivery. Not wanting to get our hopes up, we just kept teaching around the silver SBH marking. Finally, during the last week of November (3 months into the school year... 3 months after they marked my board...) the wondrous day arrived where we saw boxes and boxes and boxes of supplies arrive through our front doors. I literally could not contain my excitement as I saw them delivering a SMARTBoard down to my classroom. They put them all in the hallways outside the rooms as they worked their way from Kindergarten all the way around the school. It was so exciting and the kids were definitely feeding off the enthusiasm! When I left school that day, it was still sitting outside my classroom, but I knew it was only a matter of time.
Such a glorious sight to see a REAL SMARTBoard with my classroom's name on it! :)
Please don't mind the clutter! This is the "before" picture of the board... still awaiting the SMARTBoard.

This is the wonderful sight that I get to see EVERY morning!!!
Walking into my classroom that next day was SOOOO exciting... but that excitement was quickly dampened when I turned on my computer and read an email from our Technology Specialist (TCIS) saying it'd be at least a week until we got our SB markers and 'training.' Not only was I annoyed because I had this beautiful piece of technology and no way of using it, but now I also had no chalkboard space! The next two weeks (as a teacher in NNPS, you quickly come to learn that projected dates mean nothing) were a little challenging as I had to teach all of my math lessons on the back chalkboard, which caused chaos every afternoon as the kids turned their chairs around and found it more difficult to focus, as a result. The teachers kept asking when we'd get our markers and kept getting different answers depending on who we asked. We kept getting emails that said we'd have the stuff "no later than tomorrow"... and then two more days would pass and we'd get another email. The SB men who came to test all the boards said as soon as our TCIS handed out the supplies. The TCIS said as soon as the supplies were delivered. The secretary said the supplies were delivered but we had to wait for permission from Admin.... ugh. It was frustrating. Finally, after confirming with the secretary that the supplies were at school, we marched down to the TCIS's office and demanded our markers. It was seriously getting ridiculous at how long this was taking. She handed them to us and said that she was planning to pass them out that morning anyway. (Well, we all know how that usually goes!!) I headed down to my classroom, markers in hand, and immediately started projecting stuff on the board. I have used it for at least 3 lessons per day and am absolutely obsessed with it! When we did our Polar Express Day, I was able to move all the desks and play the movie on the SB with the loud speakers and give my kids their very own movie theater. It is awesommmmme and I am excited to see my kids so much more invested in learning just because they get to come up and interact with the SB.

One of my favorite stories I've heard about using the SB was from one of my fellow 3rd grade teachers. The first day we had the ability to use our SMARTBoards, he hooked it up to his computer and as his students arrived, he told them to say "good morning" to the SB. They kind of looked at him like he was crazy, but then hesitantly looked at the SB and said "good morning?" He was sitting at his computer in the back and typed, "How are you?" so that it appeared on the SB. Some of them answered it with "Good....?" Then, he wrote, "Did you do your homework?" And they answered, "Yes.....?" He kept reassuring them that it was a SMARTBoard and could talk to them. Hahahaha. Evil, evil, I know. But HILARIOUS!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where Do You Come Up With This?!

Since grading papers can sometimes be a very daunting task, occasionally I'll have the kids take a test, exchange papers and we'll go through it as they grade each others' papers.  Most of the kids love it, but some find it tedious and would rather that I do all the work. :) One of my boys complained that he didn't like it because whoever graded his paper the last time put HUGE check marks for correct answers, HUGE 'X's for wrong answers and drew a picture at the bottom. I don't understand why that is necessary for grading a paper, but apparently it was a more common concern than I thought, because other kids started piping up with the same news. Soooo, the next time we traded papers, I spent about 5 minutes going over appropriate etiquette for grading papers. I made sure to show them the correct size/location for a check mark, the correct size/location for an X, how to circle the correct answer, and reiterated that they should NOT draw anything anywhere on the paper. When I got the papers back, they looked MUCH better and cleaner... except for one paper. All over one girl's paper was written, "RUE THE DAY I TELL YOU!!" I'm sorry, have we gone back to the Shakespearean era? How come you don't know what our vocabulary words "anxious" or "leisure" mean, but you know the word "rue"?? And, since there is limited punctuation in your sentence, do you mean "Rue the day, I tell you." or "Rue the day I tell you."? Very different meanings. And who is this warning for?

Safety First!

Around the time of school pictures (mid October?), we also had a program come to our school called Ident-a-Kid. Through this program, parents can pay to have cards created with all of their student's current information printed on a card with their current picture. These cards should be kept on hand. Then, in case the child goes missing, the parent has all of the information and a recent picture to give to the police. Given the socioeconomic class that I work with, only 2 of my kids ordered the actual cards. Well, about a month after I gave out the cards, waiting in my mailbox were 20 cards to give the rest of my kids. These were from the same company, but a little different. Since parents didn't order the cards, they did not fill out all the kid's information. So, these cards just contained a recent picture and then labeled blanks (Name: _____, DOB: ____, Weight: ____, etc.) on the back for parents to fill in all of the info. I handed them out at the end of the day and asked the kids to put them in their backpacks and take them home. As is often the case, the majority of my class followed my directions perfectly, but there were a few rebels who decided to pull out the card and examine it and fill in the info. Clearly, being 9-years-old, they do not know all of their statistics. This led to one of my girls walking up to me (as I'm in the middle of dismissal, so only halfway paying attention), card in hand, and asked, "How tall am I?" I looked at her in frustration since she obviously had no intent to follow directions, and said, "I have no idea." She looked at me, looked at the card, looked back up at me and then took her card and on the line for Height wrote "Short." Hahaha. How could I stay frustrated at that? And how is that going to help the cops find her?!

It was exciting to see my kids so excited about the cards and being able to explain to them safety and such. About a week later, we watched their Health and Safety/Family Life videos... Stranger Danger and I Was Just Kidding: All About Harrassment. It's amazing to me that with ALL of the technology and production in our society today, that we still have to show low-budget videos made in the 1980s. I don't understand why Officer Steve in Stranger Danger has a full mullet, creepy mustache, and wears high water, acid wash jeans up past his waist. I'm pretty sure those are the people we tell our kids to RUN from, not listen to for advice! The scenarios in the story are ones that my kids COULD face today (a stranger offering them candy if they get in the car, a woman asking for help carrying her groceries to her car, etc.), but I'm pretty sure they have other more realistic/serious concerns and situations they face. As much as I love watching these videos with the kids so I can chuckle in the background, I do think that Hollywood should come out with an update!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gingerbread Men

One big thing that our administration is trying to improve this year is collaboration across grade levels. It's so easy to just get caught up with day-to-day teaching and then only meeting with your team for Wednesday planning that sometimes we almost forget there are other teachers in the building! Although the biggest focus is for us to work with 3rd and 5th grade teachers (to see where our kids are coming from/going, etc), my class is going way across grade levels and participating in Kindergarten reading buddies again this year!
Every Friday morning, one of the Kindergarten teachers walks her kids down to my room, drops half of them off in my room and takes half of my kids. For the next 30 or so minutes, the Kindergartners either read to my kids or we have an activity planned for them. Since reading buddies got snowed out last Friday, we rescheduled for Tuesday. Being that it was only a day before break, we decided to skip the reading and do a "party." (At least, that's what I told my kids it was... thankfully none of them questioned why it was no where close to being a party!) The K teacher dropped her kids off in my room for the craft portion of the party. The K students had been doing a unit on Gingerbread Men (apparently there are TONS of books about Gingerbread Men, a scavenger hunt, writing stories, activities, etc...), so she had bought foam gingerbread men for them to decorate. I had found foam stockings, wreathes, and bells for my kids to make.
She took half of my kids to her room to do "active time".... aka, allowing my kids to make fools of themselves while dancing to ridiculous songs with 5-year-olds (the Tooty-Ta, the Chicken Dance, etc). We did this for their first meeting way back in September and my kids have been asking for it ever since!
After 20 or so minutes, I lined up the kids in my room and we walked down to her room  and switched kids. I took the dancers back for craft time and left the artists to be active. All of the kids had a BLAST and it was so much fun to watch them working/dancing together. It makes me proud to see "my" kids helping/being a role model to the little tykes. It reassures me that they DO know how to show respect and they are learning something in my class!
One of my students didn't have a reading buddy, so I deemed him as the official photographer for the morning. He actually impressed me with his ability. Here are some pictures of the crafts the kiddos made:

This was my favorite Gingerbread Man made by a Kindergartner. Look how creative he got with the stickers! Using ornaments for eyes and a letter 'D' for the scared mouth!! Haha. Love it!

They had free reign of what they were allowed to do on the Gingerbread Men.... clearly.

I got bored just walking around/supervising and decided to pose for some pictures. :)
One of the wreaths made by one of my 4th graders. Notice any difference in quality?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All Aboard!!

Today is the official first day of Winter Break!! Woo hooooo! I'm pretty sure I was WAY more excited about it than my kids, which is saying a lot because, based on their over-hyperactivity this week, I'd say they were pretty stoked! :) I'm spending my break in Fairfax, VA with my family and some cousins, my aunt, and uncle. I LOVE Christmas/the holiday season, so am planning to enjoy every second of it. My goals for the break are to blog everyday (any of my 'followers' know that it's been a WHILE since I posted so I have a lot to catch up on!!), not gain more than 5 pounds (my mom LOVES to cook and is really good at it, too!!) and get caught up on sleep! I'm sure it's going to be a very laid-back break and full of memories. My family is huge about traditions, so it's always a lot of fun celebrating/partaking in those. One tradition that we've started at school (this being my second year of teaching, I can say that it was actually the 2nd annual!) is Polar Express Day!
The last day before Winter Break in Newport News Public Schools is always (or has been since I've been in the system!) a half day. This means that we're in school for about 2.5 hours. I'm not sure about you, but I think it'd probably be easier to teach a brick wall how to build itself than to teach a 9-year-old anything involving history, math, or science 3 days before Christmas/a 10-day vacation. Taking this into consideration, the 4th grade team decided to officially declare this day Polar Express Day! If you ask any of the teachers, we will tell you it's a combination of a Compare and Contrast Learning Activity and a reward for our students earning 100 Panda Paws (I've mentioned these before... they're little pieces of paper with paw prints on them (our mascot is the Panda). Classes earn them for getting caught showing respect in different areas of the school. They get a reward at every 25, and then a big celebration when they reach 100-- the GOLDEN PANDA AWARD!). Since movies/parties are highly frowned upon in the administrative side of education, we have to be very careful with how we present our ideas.
So, to make it educational, we read the book The Polar Express in class on Tuesday and then while they were watching the movie on Wednesday, students had to think about how it was similar to and different from the book!
To make it a celebration, we provided food... and lots of it. :) Mrs. Bozung's (my fellow 2nd-year, 4th grade teacher) class also earned 100 Paws, so we collaborated on how to make our parties amazing! I made 45 cupcakes on Tuesday night and she made 50 Reindeer Balls (Oreos, cream cheese, and sprinkles!), the school provided us with popcorn and candy canes, we bought juice boxes, Hot Chocolate and mini marshmallows (to go with the Polar Express movie/theme), and ordered 6 pizzas/class.
Add another bag of popcorn, 18 more candy canes, 25 Reindeer Balls and 6 pizzas and you have our spread (half of those cupcakes went to Mrs. Bozung's class!).

As if watching a movie and stuffing your face in class wasn't enough, the icing on the cake was that we made it a Pajama Party! When I announced this, the girls started FREAKING OUT and the boys shrugged/groaned and pretended they weren't excited and wouldn't participate. The day of, though, the boys apparently felt differently because they all showed up in sweatpants/bath robes (with clothes underneath, thankfully!)/onesies (not even kidding. Cutest thing EVER!). The girls were totally decked out in pink frillies/Justin Bieber pajamas/slippers/etc and brought blankets and pillows. Like everything else we do for our kids, Mrs. Bozung and I obviously went all out, too!

Aside from the students singing along with just about every song in The Polar Express, the movie-viewing went off without any interruptions. Unfortunately, though, I didn't check the length of the movie beforehand (someone told me it was 2+ hours, so I believed them.. turns out, it's only 1.5 hours long!) and it ended a lot earlier than I was expecting it to! Thankfully, the pizza had already arrived, so I passed that out and we had a nice lunch together. As soon as I passed out the last piece and the kids were about to dig in, one of my boys cried out, "WAIT! Don't eat until you say your grace!" He then proceeded to lead the entire class through the "God is great, God is good" prayer (there are like 5 verses that I'd never heard before, apparently?!). Being a public school teacher, I made no comment to support this.. but I sure didn't make him stop either! It was pretty awesome to watch/listen to and have a feeling of hope that maybe they are being taught morals after all! That hope was questioned, though, when they ended the prayer with "Thank you Ms. Wacek for this heavenly food. Amen." Haha.

Another funny quote of the day... I gave the kids some sheets to color if they didn't want to watch the movie. About 5 of these pictures were given back to me as "Christmas presents" that I'm not obliged to hang up soemwhere. :) One of the girls colored a picture of Rudolph and at the top wrote "You're MY Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'm sure it was extremely endearing.

After eating, I gave them each their Christmas presents.. a box of division flash cards, a Christmas pencil and a little jingle bell. I included a personalized card for each of them and a little note that explained the bell. It said:
In the book The Polar Express, the boy’s bell was used to determine who believed in Santa. This bell that I am giving to you is different. This bell represents my belief in YOU.
No matter where you go, how old you are, or what other people might tell you, please remember that I will always believe in you. I know, without a doubt, that YOU can accomplish anything you put your mind to. YOU are smart and capable. With hard-work and a belief in yourself, your opportunities are endless.
Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” 
-- George Sheehan

I'm guessing some of my kids have already lost their bell, but even if just ONE of them takes this message to heart, I'd consider my job worthwhile. I think it's so important for our kids today to realize that they CAN succeed no matter what their past or current circumstances. But that's a blog for another time... :)

When I was done loading them up with sugar and reading them The Night Before Christmas, I loaded them on the busses, cleaned off my desk and headed home! Another successful "holiday" party in the books! I'm already looking forward to and planning for next year!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Which Hat Today?

Thanksgiving break is over and it went way too fast, as expected. Surprisingly/Thankfully, the kids came back ready to learn and so this week has been pretty awesome so far! Only 13.5 more school days until Christmas Break - how crazy is that?! We have our first field trip on Monday, and I'm pretty excited. I have a love/hate relationship with field trips because they're usually pretty stressful (I can hardly get my students to listen in the confined space of a classroom on a normal day, how the heck am I supposed to do it on the wide open fields of Yorktown on field trip day?!), but they're also always fun. The information the students gain from seeing "colonial life" is so beneficial and such a wonderful opportunity for future teaching and learning because they actually have a concrete knowledge base to build upon. As I was working through all the logistics of the field trip (lunch counts, busses, permission slips, chaperones, etc), I felt a lot like a secretary. This got me started thinking about all of the different "hats" teachers wear on a daily basis. In fact, I think one of my favorite parts of being a teacher is the ability to experience EVERY profession at some point or another... Everyone can always think of the typical/most important ones (educator, counselor, mediator, nurse, scientist/historian/author), but I thought I'd take an opportunity to share some stories to demonstrate some of the other roles I (or elementary teachers in general) play in a typical day.

Fashion Police/Guru: Yesterday at recess, I was talking to my co-worker when a student walked up to ask a question. As she was talking, we both noticed that she was wearing a brightly colored, striped bra underneath of a very light colored, thin sweater. Since no other students were around, my co-worker asked (it was her student) point blank if that was her bra showing through. The girl nodded. My co-worker explained that in the future, she needed to make sure to wear a tank top or shirt under this particular sweater. The girl nodded again. Then, very loudly and nonchalantly said, "My mom makes me wear 'em." Now, for those of you who are far removed from 4th grade, let me explain that this is the stage of life where puberty makes it's grand appearance and kids are changing/growing like crazy. By 4th grade, we're usually past the point of mom's forcing her to wear a bra because all the other girls are doing it (as was definitely the case with this girl). Needless to say, my co-worker was quick to clarify that she was NOT telling her not to wear a bra and reiterated that she just wanted the girl to wear a tank top with this sweater. Unfortunately, these instances are not as rare as we would like. Whether it's telling boys to pull their pants up, or telling girls to pull their skirts down, or sending girls to the nurse to get a t-shirt instead of a skin-tight spaghetti strap belly shirt... we've seen it all.... in 4th grade... and once again I'm thankful that I don't teach middle or high school because I'm sure it only gets worse. :)

Copy Machine Technician: Not too much to say about this one, except that I'm AMAZING at unjamming copy machines now. Seriously, I think I might add it to my resume. For whatever reason, our copier decided to freak out after only 4 years, instead of the 5 that would allow it to be replaced. Since we work in the most strangely money-managed school district ever, they continue to send out a repair man every week (at who knows how much money per hour), instead of just buying a new one.... And since the repair man is not on call 24/7, I just had to take matters into my own hand and figure out what exactly it means when it says "clear the jam in areas 2,3,4" or "replace fuser cartridge." All in a day's work. :)

Artist/Performer: One of my favorite parts about teaching elementary students is their strange idolization of their teachers. :) Not to sound big-headed or anything, but I'm pretty sure my students  think I'm the coolest/most talented/smartest person to ever walk this planet (or at least most of them; the rest of them think I was born yesterday and honestly think they can trick me with stupid 4th grade tricks.). So, why do I say this? Well, because they tell/show me everyday. Haha. If they're not laughing at my jokes, they're making me cards that say "I love you" or "You're my role model" (well, actually it said "roll motel", but it's the thought that counts!). If they're not telling me how pretty my hair looks today, they're listening intently as I read them a story or tell them a random fact about who knows what! My favorite times, though, are when I become Leonardo DaWacek... Anyone who knows me, can probably tell you that I inherited the Wacek drawing ability, which is NONE. Literally any animal I draw looks like a combination of a horse and a cat, and every person I draw is a stick person. However, if you were ever to listen to the way the students talk about my drawings, you'd think they were being shipped to the Louvre. Seriously, multiple times I've heard my students say "Wow, Ms. Wacek. YOU should be the art teacher! That drawing is SO good!!" Ok, really? Because I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a boat, but it looks like a pumpkin... or something of the sort. Haha. I also inherited the Wacek singing ability (which again, is NONE... they're a very smart family and don't need the artsy stuff apparently). My students were not as lenient when I tried singing a Virginia Studies song to the tune of 3 Blind Mice, but after laughing with me at my voice cracking once, they were chiming right in and didn't want me to stop singing. (I would just like to point out to anyone who hasn't heard that song in a while that it gets EXTREMELY high pitched and moves SUPER fast through the verses. NOT a good one to rewrite.) All of their encouragement just makes it that much more fun to really get into my act and give them a show. I've only been teaching 1.5 years, but I've already learned that the bigger fool I make of myself, the more my students learn/respect me. Haha. Go figure.

Hairstylist: On Monday, one of my girls walked into my classroom with tears in her eyes. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me her ponytail was too tight. I looked at it and saw that it was an extension and realized that I had NO idea what to do with it. I told her to go down the hall to one of the black reading interventionists because she has two daughters and would be able to help. My student was too shy, so I offered to walk down there with her. The reading interventionist said she didn't know anything about weave, so we went to check with the nurse. The nurse said she wasn't allowed to mess with anybody's hair because too many momma's have been in the school wondering who messed up their daughter's 3 hour, $50 hairdo. We headed back to class and my student was still in pain. She went to call mom to see what to do and mom said either take it out or deal with it. The student came to me and said she wanted to take it out, but didn't know how. I looked at it briefly and thought it was just rubberbanded in, so started trying to take it out. Literally 10 seconds later, I was standing with a large mass of long, fake hair in my hand and the girl looking at me with only a tiny little ponytail poking out from the top of her head. We looked at each other for about 30 seconds before I handed her the hair and told her to have a seat and get to work. Haha. She put her hood on for a few minutes to hide her lack-of hairdo, but then before I knew it, the long, fake ponytail was back in and she said it didn't hurt anymore. Haha. Once again, all in a day's work. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

...3 Weeks Later...

Wow. It's been WAYYYY too long since I last posted, I apologize. Life has been busy and stressful and I apparently haven't been looking hard enough for the funny stories in my room because I've been grumpy at my kids lately. But, for anyone who cares, let me provide you with some updates from Room 21 over the past few weeks... and then I'll end with some humorous 4th grade thinking. :)

So, back at the beginning of the school year, each 4th and 5th grade teacher was asked to nominate/elect two students as SCA (Student Council) representatives. Now, you might think this would be difficult since it's so early in the year and we haven't fully figured out who our "model citizens" are... but not the case in my room. From the get go, I had two kids that were above and beyond very respectful, smart and showed great leadership. The first time I announced that these kids were our SCA Reps, I had to spend about 15 minutes explaining what the SCA is, deter many complaints as to why other students weren't selected and reinforce the idea that any changes my kids want to see should go through my two reps. Once everyone was appeased, we went on with life. About a month after the SCA started meeting, they began campaigning for officer positions. Each rep was encouraged to run and some took it to heart more than others. One of mine decided to run for treasurer, and the other for reporter. Now, I fully support the idea of students electing their officers, but I also think it is an unfair system. One of the students running for President has a father working at a printshop (or so I've been told) and had TONS of professionally printed posters and postcards hanging/handed out all over school. She gave away lots of candy, created an e-mail address just for the campaign and had a lot of parental involvement. Given all of that, I naturally expected her to win, but found it sort of unfair that she was running against students who could only make 2 handmade posters on the cheap construction paper provided by the school... like one of my students. Turns out, though, that all of that work and effort did not make too much of a difference because my student who did hardly any campaigning ended up winning Treasurer, and my other rep was elected as Reporter!!! That's right! Room 21, creating leaders left and right. :) They were voted into office about 2 weeks ago and we had the official Installment ceremony this past Wednesday. All the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students and teachers attended, along with some parents. The ceremony included a processional by the whole SCA (during which time one girl tripped... try yelling at kids to be respectful while trying to control your own laughter.... not easy), a poetry reading by the Reporter (The whole auditorium was silent for the first 5 minutes of the ceremony as everyone was introduced, but naturally, as soon as they said the name of my kid, the rest of my class went buckwild with cheers and applause. Embarrassing? I think so. But, I guess I can't get too mad at them for having class unity!), a speech by a principal from another elementary school in the district, and the official installment of the officers. It was a cool ceremony and hopefully gave the kids a taste of politics/the election process. So proud of my kiddos, and hope they live up to their position! 
My little reporter reading a poem about determination written by Helen Keller. **Photo used with parental consent.** 
Repeating the oath to officially take her place as reporter. **Photo used with parental consent.** 
On a not so happy note, our school also participated in a modified lock-down last week due to a threat on the school. I can't give details because of confidentiality, but for those of you who did not see it on the news, this is what the DailyPress had to say about it...

The boy's name has not been released to the media. Police spokesman Harold Eley said the boy was arrested at Palmer Elementary School. He said the boy "was transported to Juvenile Intake and charges are pending."

Eley said the school received the email threat on Tuesday night and notified police on Wednesday morning when the email was opened. Investigators traced the email to the student. Eley said no one at the school was in any immediate danger during the investigation." 


Needless to say, that was probably the most stressful day of my teaching career yet! But, everyone is safe and sound, and that's all we can ask for! 

Back to happy news, we're now well into the second quarter of school and there are only 2 more school days until Thanksgiving Break! I gave out report cards on Wednesday and surprisingly, didn't have anyone overly upset with me (which, is as it should be, since I made sure to stress the fact that "I don't GIVE grades, you EARN them.")! Hopefully we'll see improved work ethic from a few kids and better studying and effort from all of them. With the holidays coming up, I'm sure that's probably wishful thinking, but at least these next 2 months should go really quickly, before the LONNNNG stretch to Spring Break!  

Funny stories from recent weeks:
- A few weeks ago on Wednesday, we were taking our A-OKAY Club (see post from last month) out for a game of kickball and the ground was a little wet from rain the night before. As we were walking out to the field, I overheard 2 boys talking about the weather conditions.... one boy said "Oh man, everything's all wet! We're going to get dirty!" The boy he was talking to goes, "Yeah, that's good! I just wish it was raining, that would be cool. Anytime I play anything in the rain I feel SO TOUGH!" Hahaha. I completely agree with everything about that statement, but just found it so funny that a 9-year-old boy already knows that fact. :)

- My kids had to turn in posters to the Guidance counselor for a "Red Ribbon Week: Say No to Drugs" project. They brought them all into the classroom on the day they were due and I was going to collect them and deliver them to counselor all at once. One of my brightest kids comes in after a few other kids have already turned in their projects huge project in hand. He had done his poster on a piece of large WHITE posterboard, that costs approximately $0.50 at any store. As he's handing it to me, he notices another poster already in the pile, also on white posterboard. All of a sudden, he shouts out... "WOW! She copied me! She used the same poster as me!" Um, let's talk about everything wrong with this statement... a) it's a piece of WHITE POSTERBOARD! b) SHE turned it in first!!! c) WHO CARES or even notices that?!

- On Friday, we were reviewing Bar Graphs using Skittles. Each kid got a handful and had to sort them by color and then graph the data. We did the activity (a lot more complicated than it needed to be since my children are not the best at following directions) and the kids were allowed to eat the candy. One kid spilled her Skittles on the floor (I didn't even flinch because I knew it was just a matter of time... as any elementary school teacher would). All of a sudden, out of nowhere, 3 of my boys jump up out of their seats and run and start scooping them up. I got a look of disgust on my face and said, "Do not eat those, that's DISGUSTING!" They all paused for a minute, looked at me and continued. I said, "Seriously, that's so gross!"
One boy, from over by the sink, said, "No, it's fine. We're washing them off!"
I looked at him bewildered and again said, "This floor is so dirty!"
He just smiled and looked at me in complete innocence and said, "Ms. Wacek, we're black."
Thankfully, no one else heard this or acknowledged this, so I just concealed my laughter and amazement and moved on with my math lesson. Oh, the things that these kids come up with. Haha.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Put a CAP on Drugs!

The spirit apparel for today was to wear a cap. Considering I don't own any, I changed it in my class just to 'hat day'.I think the fact that I was Cowgirl Jessie from Toy Story last night at my kickball team's costume party definitely contributed to the fact that I chose to wore my cowgirl hat today... well, that and the fact that it's the only hat I own. :) 

Today was also eventful due to the fact that it was the first day of Quarterly Assessments. These are designed to track my students' progress through the year and see if they're set for the end of year SOL tests. They took the Reading Test today and I was impressed with the way I saw the students working and using the strategies and skills we've been working on all quarter. I should have the results in the morning, hopefully I'll still be impressed...!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Virginia Indians

My class is coming to the end of their second unit in Virginia Studies, which covered everything they could ever possibly need to know about American Indians. I sent home a review sheet last night and as I began reading answers, I decided they were way too good to share....

Question: How do Virginia's American Indians live today?
Correct Answer: They are intermingled with the rest of Virginians and live their lives similar to ours.
Student Answers:
- Singing songs and dancing.
- Play games, wear American clothes, and speak American languages.
- With clothes. They use dead deer skin.
- Great.
- They live across Virginia. They speak English, too. Shop at the mall. 

Question: Where are most of the state-recognized tribes located in Virginia today?
Correct Answer: Coastal Plain/Tidewater region.
Student Answers:
- Europe.
- In the desert.
- On the Earth.

Question: What was the first permanent English settlement in North America?
Correct Answer: Jamestown.
Student Answers:
- Christopher Columbus

Looks like we have some remediating to do! Oh jeez.....

Drug Prevention takes a TEAM!

Wednesday: Wear your favorite Team Jersey/shirt! Naturally, I wore my Redskins jersey. Luckily, none of my kids made fun of it too badly... the teachers on the other hand. Haha. Actually, I have a lot of fellow Redskins fans at Palmer, so Danielle was actually the one to get ridiculed today. But, considering she supports a 1-5 team with an injured quarterback, I guess that makes sense. :)

Sock it to Drugs!

Originally there wasn't any thing designated for the kids to wear on Tuesday, but naturally that wasn't working for me, so I decided to take some initiative. Brainstorming about clothing related to anti-drug slogans/use is not as easy as it sounds, but Danielle and I came up with "People Who Do Drugs are CRAZY! Wear Crazy Socks!"..... apparently, the rest of the school thought that meant we were again encouraging doing drugs (like "drugs make us see red, wear red...see yesterday's post!), so we changed it to "SOCK it to drugs"! It was fun to see the craziness my kids came up with, and funny to see the kids who just wore mismatching socks and thought that was CRAZY!
All we heard ALL day as we walked around school was "Wow, you guys have the same socks!" Oh, really? Thanks for the head's up! And, I wish I could say that we didn't wear these matching outfits out to Cheddars, Target, JoAnn Fabric, the thrift store and Factory Card Outlet, but that would be a lie.... :)

The "Red Ribbon" Activity for Tuesday was making a "hand-in-hand against drugs" chain. The children were supposed to trace their hands on a piece of red construction paper, write their names in the middle and cut it out. Then, we hung them up in a row reaching all around the hallway of the school. Can we please talk about the tracing/cutting ability of my students? Or maybe they just have SUPER awkwardly shaped hands.... hahaha.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red Ribbon Week!

Spirit weeks are definitely one of my all time favorite parts of teaching! We usually have at least two throughout the school year. The first one is in honor of Red Ribbon Week, which is a week devoted to drugs and alcohol awareness/prevention. I love spirit weeks because it's a fun way to mix up just regular old weeks. I find it to be an awesome time to bond with students as they realize their teacher is not ashamed to act a little crazy (....wait until the week progresses or 80s day comes back around!). I find that the more excited I am about Spirit Week, the more the kids will dress up and get into it! And, considering today was Monday and more than 1/2 my kids were wearing red, I'd say we're on a roll for a wonderful week! My kids are so great!

Day 1: Red Means STOP! Say NO to Drugs!
(According to the letter that was sent home, today was "Drugs Make Us See Red! Wear Red to school.".... I chose to change it a little because I don't quite understand the logic behind doing drugs and seeing red and choosing to encourage that....)

Unfortunately, along with the start of Spirit Week came the start of a week of rain, too! We all know how I feel about keeping the kids cooped up inside too long, but they actually did really well with indoor recess and the rest of the afternoon. They were working/playing so well, I didn't even have to tell them to get the educational games, they did automatically! They had a place value board game, checkers, chess, Guess Who? and puzzles!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

25 Panda Paws!

This week was the start of many eventful weeks in a row. It started off pretty typical... except that the kids were being exceptionally good!... and ended with holding our first Kickball Club Kickball Game, Dictionary Day and a Popsicle Party...and the kids acting exceptionally ridiculous (full moon!) Next week is Red Ribbon/"Say No to Drugs" Spirit Week (stay tuned for pictures!), Picture Day and the start of the Quarterly Assessments (QAs). The following week we finish our QAs, the kids will have their first substitute and the first quarter ends Friday! So, needless to say, life is a little hectic at the moment, but having all these extra activities does keep the kids on-their-toes and somewhat more focused.

Anyway, let's talk about this week. On Wednesday afternoons, all of our 4th graders participate in "Leadership Training" aka "Enrichment" aka "Clubs." :) They were started by the resource teachers who wanted an opportunity to go a little deeper with the kids who they see as naturals/extra talented at a certain subject (Art, Music, PE). So, for the first few weeks, the resource teachers do some observations/try-outs and decide who they want in their groups. Then, the 4th grade teachers divide up the rest of the kids into groups led by us. We have a Publishing Club (students will be putting together a literary magazine, I believe?), a Board Games Club (math and reading board games for some of our students who can use a little extra help but still want to feel like they're in a club!), an H.O.T. (Higher Order Thinking) Club (Chess, Sudoku, Checkers... for our crazy smart kids!), Book Club (with the Librarian), Peer Mediators (with the Guidance Counselor), SCA (with a Reading Interventionist) and the best club of all, A-OKAY! When we were trying to decide which clubs to have, Danielle (Mrs. Bozung) and I decided we definitely wanted to lead one together. We were trying to think of something that would be fun, not be too demanding of our time (with planning or standing in front of the class for those 30 minutes each week), and appropriate for some of the most hyperactive 4th graders (who typically do not get chosen for any of the other clubs due to behavior issues!). While brainstorming things we were interested in, we thought about photography (not enough cameras) and technology (too much planning). Finally, we remembered that our real love was kickball, but figuring that we wouldn't be able to play every Wednesday due to winter weather, we decided to combine it with yoga. To not make it sound serious, we were going to call it the "Health and Wellness Club" but realized that was too boring. So, I started brainstorming and playing around with the letters and decided we were going to officially be the "Anti-Obesity, Kickball and Yoga Club" (A-OKAY Club!). Last week we just introduced the club, some of the activities we would be doing, did some stretches and aerobics and taught some kickball rules. This week, Danielle had to go to a meeting during Club time, so I took all 18 kids outside for their first official kickball game. It was HILARIOUS to watch, but quite encouraging as well. We definitely have some naturals, and we definitely have some kids who have no idea what is going on. I'm thinking that by the end of the year, they'll probably be able to beat my adult kickball team.... :)

Dictionary Day was Thursday morning. Our school has a partnership with a local Kiwanis Club and each year these members donate a brand-new dictionary to each 4th grader at our school! They do a nice speech about how the kids can use the dictionaries and why it's an important book, and then present one to each kids. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera to the assembly, but try to just imagine the beautiful sight of 115 fourth graders full of pure excitement while flipping through and discussing their new dictionaries. I was very proud of my kids this year and the way they acted at the assembly and afterward. Last year, as soon as we got back to the classroom, I had at least 5 kids run up to me with their dictionaries each turned to a different page featuring popular double meaning words (a**, b****, etc...). I was able to use it as a teachable moment to point out that those words actually do have real definitions in the English language and so most of the time people don't even make sense/sound dumb when they use them, but overall it was awkward and I would've been alright avoiding it. Thankfully, this year, when the kids came up to show me their words, they were turned to "nick" (the "nickname" of one of my students... clearly they didn't read the definition), "zombie" and "kickback." Not sure if they're just more mature or less smart than my kids last year, but either way, I was fine with it. Haha.

Finally, our popsicle party. At Palmer, we have a wonderful "Effective Schoolwide Discipline (ESD)" program, that has actually been recognized state-wide. The main premise of the system is that there are appropriate behaviors in each area of the school (classrooms, bathrooms, cafeteria, hallways, busses, etc). When classes are "caught" demonstrating these behaviors, they are rewarded with a Panda Paw (our school mascot is the panda... a "paw" is just a small piece of brightly colored paper with a paw printed on it). Each class is working to get as many paws as possible throughout the year, and are rewarded at set intervals to keep them motivated. We got our first 25 paws last week (the Panda Award), so their first reward was a popsicle party and extra recess. It's amazing how much excitement can be generated from something so simple, and hopefully it'll be enough to inspire them to keep earning (I think we're already up to 17 again...!)

Oh yeah, because my students are such model citizens, we MAY be featured on the NNPS facebook page! (http://www.facebook.com/nnschools#!/photo.php?fbid=462170914848&set=a.462170809848.244332.74433199848&pid=5702421&id=74433199848) As I was teaching math on Friday, a lady with a large camera walked into my classroom (with one of our administrators), snapped 3 pictures and walked out... turns out she's the public media relations photographer or something. A week, day, hour or minute warning may have been nice so I could have planned an extra engaging lesson or ensured my students were not acting too typical or ridiculous, but nope, they got just real 4th grade! :)

I'll leave you with a "joke" from one of my kids. He walked over to me as I was in the middle of a chaotic dismissal on Thursday and quietly said "Ms. Wacek, I have a trick." Now, this child is one of my definite favorites and I don't think he could ever do anything wrong in my eyes. He also has never said more than like 7 words to me at one time, so I was quite curious as to what his "trick" was.
I said, "Ok...."
He said, "Guess what?"
I asked, "What?"
He said, "Grrrrr." Then he smiled really huge and walked away. Hahahahahaha. WHAT?! Oh they're so special. Haha.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Planet Are You From?

My class has been amazing so far this week! I'm not sure if they've all been exhausted, or have caught onto the fact that I'm exhausted and been nice, or are just saving up all their energy for Halloween so they can come back SUPER, EXTRA out of control after Halloween, but whatever it is, I'm definitely not complaining! In fact, because they've been so wonderful, I've been laughing and joking around a lot more with them and trying to plan more engaging activities (since they've FINALLY proven they're responsible).

One such activity was "Predators and Prey." We played today with Mrs. Bozung's class. The educational background of this activity is to illustrate how the American Indians got spread all across Virginia based on the different food supplies/hunting. Essentially, it's a giant game of freeze tag. We explained to the kids what a predator and a prey are, the rules to the game, and then assigned my class to be the prey first. One of the rules was that when they heard my whistle they had to freeze their bodies and their mouths. Unfortunately, as soon as I said those words, I realized I had forgotten to bring my whistle outside, so I ran back in to get it. Since we had already assigned the predators and prey, the students decided it was time to start the game. I didn't think much of it because Mrs. Bozung was out there and I figured a little extra running around was good for the kiddos. Well, clearly I thought wrong because as soon as I stepped outside, one of my students runs over to me holding her lip and I look over and see Mrs. Bozung consoling another girl who's crying. Apparently there was a collision where my girl (a foot taller) ended up with her tooth in her lip and the other girls head? Haha. Still not exactly sure of what happened, but I do know we sent them both promptly to the nurse, praying all the while that they would NOT tell her the reason for their injury was a chasing game they were playing with their teachers. Haha. They spent about 20 minutes down there and when they came out, Mrs. Bozung's girl was fine, with just a little headache. My girl ended up with a swollen, bloody lip and a toothache. But, the rest of the kids had an amazing time and definitely learned an invaluable, unforgettable lesson about the Native Americans.

Another example of being able to laugh at (I mean with!) my kids happened today during reading. I had just finished handing out a worksheet and was taking a minute for everyone to write their names. I was standing next to one of my girls' desks and she said, "So, what's it like being a teacher?" (Really, does this seem like the best time to ask me that question?! Haha.) She caught me off guard with her innocence, so I just laughed and said, "It's fun, but a little stressful at times." She smiled and said, "That's what I thought... (paused for 30 seconds)... I have a white cat." Haha. Ok, thank you for sharing. Next time, please just avoid the small talk and get straight to the point of the story.

During reading small groups, I was meeting with my highest readers and that includes my extremely hyperactive, unable to to focus student. He decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to sing Dora theme songs and continually repeat Swiper the Fox's catchphrase "OH MAN!" (I live with a 3-year-old, I am well-versed in Dora the Explorer!). Anyway, the first time he did it, we ignored. The second time, I asked him to get focused on his reading. The third time, I told him to stop. The fourth time, I said "Ok, Swiper, it is reading time. Please stop singing." or something along those lines. Well, that was quite possibly the worst thing I could have ever said because his eyes lit up and he got really excited as he then began repeating, "Can you call me Swiper for the rest of the year?? Can I be Swiper??"..... at least he was done singing.

Finally, on the way to the busses, my kids were acting hilarious/ridiculous/dancing and singing/walking very strangely/etc. I turned around and laughingly said, "Where are you from? What planet were you born on?" I then continued walking expecting them to either get in a line or just keep doing exactly what they were doing... let's be honest, I knew they were not going to change a thing. Haha. Instead, though, all of a sudden they decided to answer my question and all I heard was, "I was born in the dangerous part of the city," and "I was born downtown" and "I was born in the ghetto." Haha. Clearly those are different planets.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So Innocent!

So many of my kids have such a different home life than I had growing up and, as a result, know a whole lot more about the world than I ever did at their age (or a lot older! haha). Because of some of the things I hear my kids talking about, sometimes I forget that they're only 9 years old. Today, though, my kids were given the privilege of getting the "anti-drugs and alcohol" talk from the guidance counselor. She was holding a Budweiser can when she walked in and had my students immediate, undivided attention. She proceeded to tell them about the Surgeon General, impaired judgment and other effects of drinking. Unfortunately, I had to make some copies, so had to leave the room and wasn't able to hear their comments on this topic. I walked back in right when she pulled out an empty cigarette box, though, and am so glad I did! She again talked about the Surgeon General and how cigarettes have been found to cause illness, etc. Then turned to the financial part of smoking. She wrote $3.00 on the board and told kids to pretend that was the cost of a box of cigarettes. She also said to pretend like the average smoker smoked a pack a day. So, do the math and that's $21/week. She shared that instead of smoking, she could go to the movies, go out to a restaurant, etc. Then, she decided to show them the savings over a month. $21x4=$84. All of a sudden, my students got so chatty and I remembered that I was surrounded by children. One student was talking about video games, another about how much money $84, and then suddenly really loudly I heard a student say, "With $84 you could adopt a dog at the SPCA and even buy it a leash!" Haha. Oh, the things that money can buy. (You can only imagine some of the ideas they had when she figured out that you could save $1,008/year by not smoking! Actually, I can't remember any off the top of my head.. they may have been unable to comprehend just how much money that is. Haha.)

Later on, another student raised his hand and asked "Well, if smoking is so bad for people, why don't they just stop selling cigarettes?" If that doesn't make a teacher PROUD, I don't know what would!! Haha. Now, if only we could somehow get some CEOs thinking like these little tykes. :)

Another moment today where I was reminded that I work with children was during Science. We started a new unit about Resources (natural vs. manmade, renewable vs. nonrenewable, etc). To introduce the unit, I used a powerpoint that was a "pop quiz"/introduction. It went through some questions about pollution and solar energy, etc. Then, the question came up that said,
"Which of the following can be used over and over again?"
a) Bowl
b) Piece of paper
c) Toilet paper
d) Paper plate

It was supposed to be a 'raise your hand and answer' preview activity, but since I was excited to see the kids excited about the new topic, I didn't enforce that too much. So, a few kids start blurting out answers, and then I hear a boy say "toilet paper." Apparently, he was caught on the previous question that contained a "NOT." Anyway, there was no way I could not take this opportunity for a "teaching moment," so I ever-so-kindly looked at the kid and said, "Did you just say toilet paper can be reused?" Haha. Naturally, the entire class also looked at him and in unison said "EWWWWWWW" and then proceeded with laughter. Thankfully the boy wasn't embarrassed, but was actually looked at more as a hero/comedian. And, I doubt if my kids will ever have trouble remembering what sorts of items to "reuse," so it worked out well. My favorite moments of any day are definitely those when my whole class is laughing about something ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Nice To Meet You.... Weirdos.

During the first week of school, not only is a lot of time spent acclimating the students to the new teacher, classroom, routines and procedures, but a lot is also spent getting to know the students too. On the second day of school, my students' morning work consisted of a "Get to Know You Questionnaire." Now, with that being such a busy time of year, those questionnaires got shoved in a bag and weren't looked at for about a week. At the time I looked at them, it was mostly a glancing over while I sorted them into a folder with a questionnaire their parents had filled out for me with contact info and such. Anyway, I just found such folder and decided to spend a little time really getting to know the likes and dislikes of my students. What I found was too hilarious not to share (as I'm sure you're realizing, most things my students do are!)....

Question: Do you want to be called a nickname? If so, what is your nickname?
Timmy or Tim Tim-Tim (Is that a nickname or a stutter?)
Madman (whoooooa. What? This isn't X-Men, it's school!)
Nal'asia (from a student named Promise. Clearly the term "nickname" has not been defined for these students...)
DJ Money (Remember the self-portraits of my thugs? He was one of them... surprised?)

Question: What is the best part about coming to school?
Walking in the classroom. (hold on... that's the BEST? Everything else is downhill from there? Holy cow, this child must be miserable everyday!... or not, because this was written by "Madman")
Teach. (I honestly have no idea what is meant by that... a nickname for "teacher" or she likes to teach or doesn't know how to read or what?)
Learning. (This actually was the answer of 6 or more students.... sometimes they sure have a funny way of showing it!)

Question: What is the worst part about coming to school?
Walking. (This was from a bus-rider, so she had to mean walking AT school, not TO school... Which, makes me wonder... is that really the worst?? These kids have very strange perspectives on things.)

Question: What is your favorite subject?
Books. (Ummmmm, last I checked, that was not a subject we actually covered in 4th grade... or ever.)

Question: Do you need to sit in the front, middle or back of the class? Why?
No! (Ironically enough, this was from the student who hates walking... you'd think she'd WANT a seat, but apparently not.)
Back cuz it is fun and I can see better. (Ok, you clearly just threw the "I can see better" in there to try and trick me into letting you sit back there and play around all day?)
Front because I like seeing your face (Still not sure if this is a major compliment or major suck up?)
Anyware caus I do not have eiy problames. (No eye problems, but clearly some spelling issues and no concern for distractions of any sort.... we'll work on that.)
Middle because I am in the back and front (I sure do have some bright kids!)

Question: Do you have any questions? If so, what are your questions?
WHAT IS THAT? (Is she asking what a question is or actually wanted me to tell her what something was the very moment she was writing this?)
What do you do when school lets out? What do you do when we are lunch? (Aww. If only she knew...)

Thankfully, the beauty of working with little people is that they open up and adjust much more easily than a lot of adults, so I've already been able to get to know them so much better than a 10 question survey could ever allow. Through doing so, though, I think it's only made the ridiculous comments they say all the funnier.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Best Teacher Award

I'm sure I could walk around school tomorrow and find that students in each classroom have drawn pictures or written notes to their teachers, often probably saying something like "I love you." (yes, apparently after 2 weeks of meeting a brand new teacher, students can already love them......) or "You're the best teacher ever." Since these notes are so common around school and every student thinks his or her teacher is THE best, I don't often let these notes go to my head (although I do get an awful lot of them.... hahaha). Actually, a lot of the time I just end up throwing the notes away as soon as the kids load the bus after school. Occasionally, though, I'll get a note that really warms my heart and reminds me of why I do what I do.
One such note was delivered to me on Friday. The kids were all taking a Science Test and they know that whenever they finish, I will collect it and they can sit at their seats and do something silently while they wait. After collecting this one boy's test, I wandered around the classroom for a bit and then ended up back near his desk. As soon as he saw me look over at him, he quickly covered what he was working on and told me I wasn't allowed to look. Since he has been known to write not-so-nice notes before (see post about sexy list!), I was a little suspicious. He gave me a huge smile and said "It's not bad. It's for you!" Figuring it was just another "cool teacher" drawing, I walked away and let him do his thing. About 5 minutes later, I was sitting at my desk and he walked over and asked if he could use the restroom. I said "sure" and he quickly threw the note down on my desk and said "read this while I'm gone" and darted out of the room. Naturally, I was super curious, so I picked it up and began reading.... "I'm glad your my teacher. Your the best teacher I ever had. Thank you for everything you done to make me smarter." Clearly we have some grammar still to learn, but, seriously?! How could my heart not melt after reading that?

So, while the majority of the class thinks I'm the "Best Teacher Ever," I do have the select few who would probably be ok if they were no longer in my class... In fact, today I had a student tell me he was going to have his mom request that he be placed in another class (to which I lovingly thought "please do!"). It came about at the end of the day as the students were packing up. This student had not been making good choices all day and so I was already on his bad side. Then, I handed out the agendas, inside of which were the students interims (mid-quarter report cards/progress reports). I specifically told my kids not to open them until they were home (or at least on the bus, since their curious little minds couldn't control themselves!!). As I handed out the last agenda, I look over to see this boy reading his interim in plain sight, with no concern for my directions at all. I explained that he must not have heard me, so he should please put it away, which he did. He then walked over to me and asked if he could be in another class. I halfheartedly said "sure" and he walked toward the door. Knowing better than to leave, he looked at me and said, "I'm going to tell my mom to put me in another class. Then, I'll have that teacher print me out a new interim with good grades on it!" And that pretty much sums up this child. Haha. Clearly, the fact that he has only turned in 1/2 of his classwork assignments and about 1/30 of his homework assignments so far this quarter has nothing to do with his bad grades. It's simply the fact that I'm a terrible teacher. It all makes sense now. :) I think the absolute best part about it all is the Catch-22 that he's now in.. if he truly does decide to ask mom to switch his classes (highly doubtful and unlikely), he has to explain the reason he wants to move (aka: showing her a not-so-hot interim report!). If he decides not to ask her and stays in my class, he can hide his interim... until tomorrow, when I call all the parents who did not sign the agenda signifying they saw the interim! Oh how I love being the teacher in these instances.

One last funny story... The other day, my students were making Social Studies Review cards to put on a metal ring to study for class tests and the SOL. After students write the questions and answers down from the board, I go around and hole punch the corner of their cards so they can put them on the ring. We were running out of time, so I was bouncing around to students all over the classroom. When I thought I was finished, and just wanted to double check, I loudly asked, "Is there anyone who I still need to punch?" Hahaha. Thankfully only a handful of kids heard and I was able to correct my statement before it got out of control. If only I were able to ask that question for real..

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Self Image

Back during the first "get to know you" days of school, I had my students do an activity where they had to draw a self-portrait and write some of the goals they had set for themselves for this 4th grade year. When they finished them, I set them aside without really looking at them, and figured I'd break 'em out again for Back to School Night or hold onto them until the end of the year, so they can see if they met their goals. With BTS Night approaching, I'm trying to get my room decorated for parents/guardians to see their students' work. I came across this pile of assignments and started to flip through... Maybe it's just the Psychology Degree in me, but what I found was quite interesting! I decided that the little ones in my room have some serious self-image issues! Haha. I also decided, through this activity, to NEVER assign a project in which they would have to draw a portrait of me...! Who knows what they would come up with!! Check out the pictures, and be prepared to be amazed.
This girl is smart, but she sure does talk a lot... hence the huge mouth?

I can't quite put my finger on what is so weird about this picture, but wow. Valiant effort, though.

Please notice the hands sticking out of his butt. Do you have arms? Would you care to draw them?
I guess I can't make fun of the last one for not having any arms when this one has NO BODY!! Is this really how you see yourself?!?

Apparently I have a class full of straight up thugs. Haha.  I'll admit, they do put up a pretty tough front, but just past that, they are the group of the sweetest boys ever.

Yes, even one of my 3 white boys decided that being a gangsta was the way to go or who he was...? And yes, I'm pretty sure that's a chain.. possibly a gun or gang symbol.. hanging out his back pocket.

 And, my ultimate favorite... Please remember that the students drawing these pictures are around the age of 9. And, while I make fun of the pictures now, they are actually great artists. But, seriously, look at this next picture and tell me there isn't some self-image subconsciousness or other major issues going on..

A picture is worth a 1000 words.... so I have none.

So, still trying to decide if I should hang these up for BTS Night or not.. thoughts? :)

**Note: I went back to the past few posts and added promised pictures, so make sure to check those out too, and enjoy!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Since I'm Sure You're Wondering...

My class got GREEN in the cafeteria today! It did require me forcing them to have silent lunch (which I HATE doing.. lunch should definitely be a social time), my troublemaker eating lunch with the guidance counselor, and me sitting at a table in the cafeteria watching them, but regardless, they didn't even get a warning today!! Hopefully with a few more days like today and gradually weaning them back into a normal lunchtime, they'll get the point and we'll have no further cafeteria issues. :) They were able to have indoor recess as a result (more stinkin' rain!!), so hopefully that's added motivation to do well. Speaking of rain, today was supposedly the last day and now it should be gone now for a while, although the cooler weather has moved in.. with a HIGH of 72 this week... ahh, sweater time!! And bring on the germs/school colds!

Overall, my class was extremely talkative again today (I'm beginning to wonder if it's a Monday thing?), but they got a freaking green at lunch, so I couldn't be too mad! Besides them being ridiculous all around, the only things that really stands out from today was one of my girls wearing a neon yellow shirt and suspenders (that's right, welcome back 80's fashion!) and a few of the kids calling her Steve Urkel (as if they know anything about him!! Haha.) and one of my boys coming in with his name shaved into the back of his head. I LOVE working with children. :) 

It says "Thomas." He said it took about an hour. Not sure if it's completely worth it, considering he'll probably come in next week with a totally new shape up! But, I guess if you have the opportunity, you might as well take it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

They make me smile... even when I'm not supposed to!!!

One thing you'd find out about me if you spent any amount of time in my classroom is that a lot of times, I start saying something and have no idea how to finish my sentence or where I was planning to go with it. Haha. This is particularly true if I am scolding my students. A lot of time I have weird pauses and stutters and repeat myself, just because either what they did was so ridiculous that I have no words for it or because I'm having to choose my words carefully and make sure I say things so that they sound serious to a fourth grader (I use the words "respect" and "that's what they do in Kindergarten" a lot!).
Unfortunately, I felt like I had to do a lot of disciplining this week (I blame the rain!), and so my kids probably think I'm a big meanie. For the most part (aside from Monday (see my last post) and Friday afternoon), they actually weren't that bad of a class. The biggest thing they struggled with was lunchtime. Our school started a discipline system in the cafeteria where each table has a paper with a stoplight on it and a clothespin with the teacher's name. Throughout their 30 minute lunchtime, if the students in a class aren't following the rules (staying seated, talking in quiet voices, voices off if the lights are out, no fighting, etc), the clip gets moved from green to yellow. If they continue to misbehave, it goes to red. Then, if they REALLY can't get it together, the clip gets placed on top of the stoplight. So, as I said, my class had some difficulty this week in the lunchroom. They got red on Monday and Tuesday, yellow on Wednesday, red on Thursday (my super ADHD child decided it would be a great idea to bite a hole in the bottom of his milk carton and then when the milk wasn't coming out, he squeezed it with all his might and it ended up exploding), and past-red on Friday. Needless to say, I was not a happy teacher after lunchtime. (Thankfully it was raining, so I didn't feel TOO bad about taking recess away from them!). Anyway, the reason for me saying all of this..
So, on Friday, after I picked them up from lunch and saw what color they were on, and you could tell by the looks on their faces that they knew they'd disappointed me/they were in trouble. They silently walked down the hallway and into the classroom and sat at their seats (as they'd done EVERY DAY THIS WEEK!!). Because I knew they were about to explode if they didn't get a chance to vent about why their clothespin got moved, I gave them my little schpiel and let them take turns telling me what happened. I was doing pretty good getting my point across until one of my kids started sharing. This student is not my brightest, but he is adorable and always says the funniest (unintentionally!) things. He said, "We were all just eating and talking, and then one student started play fighting with someone at another table, so we moved to yellow. Then we were being too loud, so the counselor moved us to red. Then, we talked when the lights were off, so the counselor moved us to ULTIMATE RED." I have NO idea where that term came from, but I had never heard it called that before, and the way he said it with extreme disappointment/hurt/like it was the worst tragedy in the world almost made me laugh out loud! If you've ever tried to discipline someone while hiding a smile at the same time, you know it's near impossible. So, we quickly moved on to math. (Earlier in the week, another student was giving me his version of what happened with the exploding milk incident and included all kinds of weird sound effects and actions that I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud!.... My kids probably think I'm a pushover. Hmm..)

Thankfully, it's not just when I'm disciplining that they make me laugh or smile. But, I guess it can be just as bad when I'm in the middle of teaching.. For example, we were doing our whole-group reading yesterday and the strategy we were practicing was "Making Inferences". The way we teach them to make an inference (although, by 4th grade, a lot of them do it automatically) is to take information provided by the author/what the story tells you, combined with what you already know/your experiences, to figure out what someone is feeling or what is happening. The story I was reading was called The Big Boasting Battle (it's one of my kids' favorites, if you teach, I definitely recommend it! Lots of prefixes and suffixes, too!). At one part of the story, the lion and the snake fall into a trap and realize they can't get out. The inference we were trying to make was how they were feeling about that. I said, "the story tells us they fell into a trap, the walls are too high and they don't think they'll be able to get out. We know from our own experiences that if we think we're trapped, how do we feel?"
Student 1: "Sad"
Student 2: "Scared"
Student 3: "Worried"
Student 4: "Constipated"
Student 5: "Disappointed"
Yup, you read that correctly. She did say "constipated" and I did keep right on moving! Haha. Apparently she had no idea what it meant, because when the boy in front of her gave her a funny look and said "ewwwww," she gave him a confused look right back and said "what?" This is a) why my job is so important and b) why I love going to school everyday!

 Other times when they make me laugh and I'm not supposed to are when I catch them passing notes or love letters and decide to read them and the spelling is ridiculous or the note is just completely from the mind of an 8 year old! If these don't make you feel the love, you're heartless.
First, notice the top: Not for You.... um, ok? Second, notice the poem: filet's are blue. True love.
Truly spicel.

So, while it's hard to control my laughter and smiles at times, there are enough other times where I don't have to and the whole class breaks out in laughter that it's totally worth it. Laughing children has to be one of the greatest sounds in the world.

All in all, despite the gloomy weather, it was a pretty good week in Room 21. We got a 2-hour delay on Thursday because of hazardous road conditions. Consequently, I had 5 students absent (2 of whom were my little trouble makers), so that was quite a laid-back, laughter-filled day! Next week is a pretty big one, as it marks the end of the 1st interim on Wednesday and we have Back to School Night on Thursday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

The seasons are a-changin' and summer weather is almost a thing of the past! I'm coming to find out that a lot of my friends consider Autumn their favorite season. While mine is definitely summer, the fall has been growing on me the past few years. I enjoy spending the cooler days outside, wearing sweatshirts/sweatpants, drinking hot apple cider, candy corn, changing leaves, football and getting ready for the holiday season. I do NOT enjoy hurricane season and the accompanying rain and shorter amounts of sunlight (it's way too dark outside when I wake up!). Since the first day of Autumn was only last week, mostly we still have summer weather out here (broke a record for high temperature on Friday!), but the rain has started setting in. Since we had a pretty bad drought this summer and I do enjoy cuddling up to a movie on a rainy day, I am not upset about the rain itself. However, when a teacher wakes up on a Monday morning and sees that the forecast for the week is rain EVERYDAY, it kind of puts a damper on things. Being stuck in a classroom with 23 hyperactive 9-year-olds for 5 days (with only one 30-minute block of PE as our very last activity on Friday) cannot be healthy for anyone! Needless to say, this week has started off interestingly.

Yesterday my kids were TERRIBLE! They could/would NOT stop talking in class, in the cafeteria, during music, in the hallway, in the bathroom, etc. One of them (if you ever came to my classroom you could probably identify him the moment you walked through the door!) spent no more than a total of 45 minutes in his seat the entire day (despite CONSTANT requests and consequences) because he was too busy doing everything he knows he is not supposed to do at school/in my classroom. A few of the kids were arguing about stupid name-calling issues the whole day. Ugh. It was so miserable. I ended the day with all of them putting their heads down and telling them that part of their homework was to think about how 4th graders are supposed to act and how we can make sure we never have a day like this again. Once they were gone, I headed promptly to the gym to release lots and lots of stress! And from there, headed to a friend's house to hang out and make sure I had lots of time and conversation with adults!

Believe it or not, today was incredible! Apparently they took to heart what I had told them to think about and they came in and were on-point all day! We were laughing and joking around (which hopefully they'll start to realize is what happens when Ms. Wacek doesn't have to yell at them all day!!) and got through a lot of learning. One particularly funny incident was when I was reading a (dumb, but required!) story to them for writing. It's called "The Mud Pony" and is about a poor Native American who really wants a horse, so he makes one of out mud and it comes to life and saves his life and makes him famous. Anyway, the purpose of reading was for the students to pay attention to the Organization of writing (good beginning, organized middle, conclusive ending). So, after I read the first few pages that said something along the lines of "there was a poor
Indian boy who would always go and watch the other boys take care of their horses and really wanted one for himself," I paused and asked students what they thought of the beginning/if it made them want to keep reading, etc. Then, just because predictions are a huge deal in 4th grade, I asked students what they thought would happen next. I got a few typical responses, and then one boy raised his hand and said "He's gonna man up." I laughed because the way he said it was very atypical of this student, but then stopped to think about it for a second and realized I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I decided instead of try and get to the bottom of his statement, I would just keep reading. Oh, if only it were possible to understand what was going through their pretty little heads. The rest of the day was awesome with only one little freak out period after I found out they had misbehaved in the cafeteria. I'm hoping that tomorrow (being an early-dismissal day) will be equally as great!