Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's Time to Celebrate!!

Often when I hear the word "celebrate," the old school jingle "T-C-B-Y treats, this calls for a celebration! T-C-B-Y treats, it's time to celebrate!" pops into my head. I think that ad campaign lasted maybe 6 months tops, so a lot of you may have no idea what I'm talking about, but at least my family should get the reference! Anyway, today was a day of major celebrating, so that song was on repeat in my mind.... unfortunately. :)

To begin with, today was the halfway mark for the 2010-2011 school year!! We have officially completed 18 weeks of school and have 18 left to go! Sounds SUPER crazy when I put it that way because we still have a looooot to learn... including long division, fractions, Civil War, Meteorology, etc. (and they say it's easy being an elementary school teacher...!). Thankfully my kids are smart and I know they can master it all! :)

With the end of the quarter came more Benchmark Assessments. Although these tests can be a pain and take up a lot of instructional time, I find them to be a wonderful tool for giving the students practice at taking long, comprehensive tests and to give us feedback on how well they're doing. To give my kids a little motivation to study, I told them that anyone who got an 85% or higher on any of the tests would get to have a pizza party. As the scores came back, it was evident that pizza clearly motivates some and has no effect on the others! Overall, they did decently, but some students still have lots of room for improvement! 12 kids ended up earning the pizza party, so we had that celebration today during lunch. (For kids who got 85% on two tests, they also got lemonade, and for the few that got 85% on three tests, they got Doritos, too!)

Right before lunch, we spent some time in the gym for our 1st EVER Schoolwide Positive Discipline Celebration. Back at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, our Effective Schoolwide Discipline (ESD) Committee, announced that they would be holding this Time for Celebration on Jan. 26. In order to attend, a student had to earn 27 'good behavior' or 'green' days (out of a total of the 36 days left in the quarter). Any student who got suspended or sent to the office was disqualified. We had a sticker chart up in our classroom so students could track their progress. Since this was the 1st ever event like this, a lot of students were skeptical about what all it would entail. Most of them thought this day would never come! But, it finally did and it was AMAZING! At 11:00, all of the 4th graders who had earned enough stickers got a Green Ticket/VIP Pass hung on ribbons around their necks (in my class there were 15/23 students who got to attend!). We then marched down to the library and gym where every kids fantasies existed... ok, maybe not, but from the looks on their faces, that's what you would've thought! In the library was a Board Games/Musical Chairs station, as well as the cookie station. After students attended each station, they got a stamp on their ticket (we told them it was so they could show their parents/siblings everything they had done, but really it was so they didn't get more than 2 cookies each!!) So, the library was for the sweet tooths and calm kids, and the gym was for everyone else! In one corner of the gym was a dancing station. The music teacher had a Wii hooked up to a TV and had the kids join her in dancing along to "Just Dance: Michael Jackson." It was hilarious to watch, and no, I did not participate! :) In the middle of the gym, a volleyball net was set up and the kids were playing volleyball with a beach ball. Along the side of the gym, they had opened up the rock wall and were letting students climb across that. (During the planning of this event, the ESD Committee allowed for student input and the ONE thing that all the kids unanimously wanted was the rock wall!) Finally, in the back corner of the gym was my station... pie in the face! We figured, what better way to motivate kids to be good than to give them a chance to get revenge on their teachers?!

For the 4th grade celebration, Mrs. Bozung and I were the two teachers who volunteered to get pied. When we signed up, we assumed the pies would be made out of whipped cream... during the final planning meeting yesterday morning, we found out they would be shaving cream (for cost effectiveness)!! We were good sports about it, though, and just made sure to keep our mouths closed! Mrs. Bozung was already hard at work when I got there, so I let her stick with it for about 10 minutes and then took my turn. I made sure my shower cap and goggles were extra tight and the trash bag was all covering and then the kids started pie-ing! There was a masking tape line a short distance away that they were supposed to throw from, but Mrs. Bozung gave them permission to cross that and smash the "pie" straight into my face! It was clear that pie-ing teachers was not something they did often, because none of them really knew how to react.. They all just threw the pie, sort of smiled and walked away. Haha. (All except for one of my favorite kids who continued to taunt me about it the rest of the afternoon!!) Deep down, I know they loved it, though! :)

Mrs. Bozung after her pie in the face experience!
At 11:35, we each rounded up our kids and headed back to our classrooms to meet up with the rest of the kids. Any student who had been suspended, sent to the office, or didn't have enough stickers had to attend a "Booster Session" with the Guidance Counselor and one or two classroom teachers. (As if missing the event wasn't enough, they had to sit through that to rub salt in the wounds!!) On the way back to class, I told my VIPs to be sure to talk up the event, but not to brag about it! I told them we wanted to let the other kids know what they missed out on, so that they'd try extra hard to show respect next quarter!

So, besides a little math and some reading, our morning consisted of celebration and pizza party! Unfortunately, the day wasn't over yet! After the pizza party, we walked down and picked up the rest of the class from the cafeteria and headed back to the classroom for our 25 Panda Paw celebration! We actually earned the 25 Paws last week and I let them vote on what reward they wanted (the other few times, I have just decided on something quick or easy or that fit in our schedule... and it usually involved ice cream or popsicles!). We did it very democratically with nominations and secret ballots. They had some really cool ideas (drawing contest, gum-chewing day, chicken party, etc) and some typical 9-year-old ideas (extra recess, no homework, game day, etc). The winning reward ended up being Ice Cream Sundaes. Haha. Clearly I've trained them well. :) So, after I had them all in their seats and watching The Magic School Bus Stirs up a Storm, I started calling them over for their ice cream sundaes. It was plain vanilla ice cream, gummy bears, sprinkles, chocolate and caramel syrup and mini marshmallows, but you would have thought it was $100 bills with the way their eyes were lighting up! One girl came over to get hers and with begging eyes said "Ms. Wacek, can I please have the recipe? I want to make it for my sleepover!" I just laughed and went on scooping, but apparently she was serious because she came back 10 minutes later with a paper and pencil and wrote down all of the "ingredients"! When one of my boys was mid-bite he said, "This is the BEST day of my life!" Another boy said that he hadn't been able to sleep last night because he was too excited about today! Haha.
All of the evidence in this picture points to one busy, memorable day! Green ticket around her neck, pizza box on table, scrumptious sundae being prepared.

I think MY favorite part of the day came at 1:10 when I put them on the busses and sent them home for a 4-day weekend! Tomorrow is a teacher workday (it's going to be SO nice to work in the classrooms/write report cards without them running around!) and then Friday is a district-wide Professional Development day... Based on some of their sundaes, though, I'm pretty sure some of the sugar may still be in their systems on Monday when they come back!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How Many Are There?!

I spent my eight years of elementary and middle school life attending international schools in Indonesia. From there, I went to high school in Fairfax, VA (right outside of Washington, D.C.... huge military population). As a result, I have experienced much transiency in classmates and friends. People were always moving into my area/school and people were always leaving. Until I became a teacher at a Title 1 school, though, I had no idea what transiency really meant!
I started off my year with 23 students on my roster. Two and a half months later, I was down to 22 because one girl's family moved and her new apartment was in a different school's zone. Between my personal experience last year and talking to all my teacher friends, this is all too common with our population...
A few weeks after that girl moved, I went temporarily down to 21 students. One girl's parents had both lost their jobs and they were all living at her aunt's house 30 minutes away. I didn't find all of this out until she came back, though, so as far as I knew at the time, she was gone for good. She ended up coming back the day they were going to remove her from my roll (after the 15th consecutive day absent... aka 3 weeks, or a complete unit in every subject's worth, of school). I stayed after school a few nights catching her up on what she missed, and thankfully had lots of help and support from her parents doing so.
A few weeks after she came back was winter break and I left with 22 students. It was a manageable number (a little bigger than ideal, but no where near the 26 in the 5th grade class next to me!!), and I was happy with the way things were going.
Upon arriving back at school in January, I was taking my attendance and noticed a name on my roster with which I was unfamiliar. I quickly emailed the secretary to inquire about this. (The normal protocol for new students is either them being escorted to our classroom by the secretary (if they show up the same day they enroll), or we get a little (dreaded) yellow card in our mailbox telling us he or she will be starting on whichever day.) A few minutes later, she called down so we could figure it all out. Turns out, I was getting a student moved into my classroom from a 5th grade classroom across the hall, per parent request. Apparently someone was supposed to have relayed this information to me prior to the day she was being moved, but I guess everyone thought everyone else was going to take care of that. She was absent the day I got the news, so thankfully I was prepared for her the next day (or at least as much as I could be!... Everyone who heard this news thought it was the CRAZIEST idea ever and in no way beneficial to the child! As it's playing out, though, it seems the parents may have known best, because she's fitting in beautifully with my class and is right on grade level with everything we're doing!) Once again, I was at 23 students and had some more catching up to do!
Life was all well and good until Friday when one of my little sweethearts told me she was moving this weekend. Having been told this many times in the past, I was not quick to believe her, so I just nodded and said "ok" (and she's still on my roster 3 days later, so, as I tell my kids, she's still part of my class!). I should have known she was serious, since, as we were walking toward her bus, she asked "Can I have a hug before I leave?" But, again, she's a sweetie and hugs from her are not uncommon, so didn't think too much of it. We'll see how this one plays out, but all the kids are convinced that she's moved (and since they live in a pretty tight knit community downtown, I should probably take their word for it!).. If that's the case, I'm back down to 22, except..............
Today I got called into the Principal's office (still JUST as scary as an adult!! haha) to find out that I was getting ANOTHER "new" student... from a 4th grade classroom across the hall. Apparently my class is the place to be if you are a misfit in your current classroom!! She was also moved per parent request, and although the principal is not keen on a) succumbing to parents or b) moving students around, in this situation, she thought it best. Just before mom marched into school, though, the girl got into an incident with another student, resulting in a 1-day suspension, meaning she won't be starting in room 21 until Friday....
My grandma is turning 80 on Sunday, so I'll be heading to Wisconsin tomorrow evening and took the day off from school on Friday. How am I supposed to leave a roster/sub plans when I can hardly keep track of who my students are or how many I have?! Haha.
While it can be stressful to have 23 or 24 students, I came to find out quickly that it does have its perks... the main one being that the other classes with fewer students will get any new kids that transfer into our school (aka... less work for me catching them up on everything they've missed so far!!). So, hopefully, this "new" girl will adapt quickly to my class and we can go about the rest of the year with minimal movement in and out of the room!