Tuesday, May 31, 2011


During my own school years, I was always a Math and Science girl. As I'm finishing up my second year, it's amazing to me how much that affects my teaching. Now, I've come to really appreciate Social Studies and find the history of Virginia fascinating, but when it's all said and done, it still seems kind of pointless. :) My passions are pretty evident in my teaching, I think and the majority of my students are obsessed with Math and Science...!

Since we put our Science curriculum on hold for a little while in order to get ready for the VA Studies SOL test, now that we're done with that test, we're ALL about Science in Room 21! We are smack-dab in the middle of our study on plants and it's been so much fun! Science is such a blast because it's SO hands-on and exciting! Now, you're all probably wondering how learning about pollination can be hands-on, so let me tell you... :) Last week, we learned about the parts of a plant and the parts of a flower (as soon as I introduced the Pistil as the female reproductive organ, I instantly had the undivided attention of 20 little 10-year-olds!.. along with one boy asking me if he was supposed to get parent permission to participate in this "Family Life Lesson"). As part of that instruction, the kids got a chance to build their own flower out of a plastic cup and a flower template (pictures forth-coming!) and got an opportunity to dissect a flower. They were each given a petunia and step-by-step we broke it apart and found the Stamen, Pistil, Sepal, and Petals. The activity was met with mixed reviews as some students couldn't wait to tear their flowers apart, while others were being extra stubborn and claiming I couldn't make them ruin a perfectly good flower. (After reassuring them the flower was dead the moment I plucked it from the stem, they all conceded and we were able to move on!)

After reviewing the parts of the flower (which they remembered surprisingly well after a long weekend!), we read a short article about Pollination and then got to the "experiment." We had to discuss ways flowers attracted pollinators (bright petals and nectar), the role of the pollinators, and the process of fertilization. To make sure the information would never be forgotten, I pulled out some cheese-puffs and Starbursts. Again, 20 sets of eyes were locked on me! I poured some of the Cheetos into a bowl and poured some Starbursts in on top. I shook it up a little and then asked a student to act like a pollinator and come get some nectar. At first, she was extremely confused, but after some guidance from her classmates, she was able to figure out that the Starbursts represented the nectar. After she retrieved a Starburst, I asked her to notice if she'd picked anything else up from the bowl. She looked at her hand and pointed out the orange cheese-crumbs that had rubbed off while she was digging around. Through some coaxing, she was quickly able to make the connection to pollen and then rattled off the steps of fertilization to me. I repeated the process with a few more students until I was sure they all got it! I knew the information had sunk in when all of a sudden, one of my girls shouted out, "Ms. Wacek, the nectar is good, but can I please eat a Stamen (the pollen producer... aka a Cheese-Puff!)?" Haha. I LOVE the stuff they come up with!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When I grow up....

Career Day isn't happening until June 9th, but a few of my kids have already begun the discussion of what they want to be when they grow up. Two of their career options I find hilarious, so will share them with you. :)

One of my students tells me every day that he has 3 basketball courts by his house.. one in his backyard, one in his neighbor's yard and one at the park across the street. One of the last times he told me this, I told him he must be pretty good and that he should make sure and remember his 4th grade teacher when he gets to the NBA and becomes the next Michael Jordan. He looked at me with a goofy grin and said, "Well, yeah, I would, but I'm not going to the NBA... I'm going to be a comedian." Now, until you meet this child, that statement probably won't even make you think twice. But the minute you saw him or talked to him, you'd realize just how incredible it truly was. He's the one that I continuously mention as having not said a word the whole first half of the year and then basically overnight becoming Mr. Outgoing! He's still very soft-spoken though and his jokes usually occur for only a few lucky few to hear. To discover some more about his future plans, I asked him some questions like "Who's your favorite comedian?" (Bernie Mac, I believe was his answer), "Do you watch a lot of comedy shows?" (Yeah, sometimes.) and then my favorite answer ever happened.... "Can you tell me a joke? Do you have some funny ones?"
Student: "Ms. Wacek! I don't have or know any funny jokes.... I AM the joke!"

Hahahaha. :) Enough said?

Another student, the most popular in my room, has told me on multiple occasions that he is going to be President some day. I guaranteed him that he had the ability (he's smart, good-looking, knows how to get people to do stuff for him, etc..!) and I would definitely vote for him. He didn't seem impressed and continued with, "Want to know why I want to be President?"
Me: "To change the government?"
Student: "Nope! Because I'm going to be the first president to sag my skinny jeans!"

Ok, I take back my promise to vote for you...... :)

What I wouldn't give to spend a day inside their little heads, it seems so much more exciting!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


We're down to less than a month less before summer and I have to admit, the year has flown. It seems like just about every day now, I look out at my students and think to myself, "wow, it honestly feels like I just met these little ones!" It's really amazing to me how a class can grow and develop and bond throughout a school year. I mean, I guess if you look at it logistically, we are a group of 20-25 people spending a large majority of our waking hours together, but still.. :)
At this point in the year, everyone is so ready for summer vacation and I find myself getting easily annoyed with my kids and them getting easily annoyed with me. But, then one of them will do something and I just can't help but smile and think of all the fun times we've had this year and how special each of them is. I've become especially fond of some of their unique little quirks, hopefully you can get a small taste... you'd have to come meet them to get the full dose.
One of my students is a big ham and loves living it up in front of the class. He also has a catchphrase that he uses whenever he gets an answer wrong or hears news he doesn't like. This particular student will definitely stick with me for a long time, along with his everyday proclamation of "Aww, Pickles!" :)
Another student who I will remember for years to come can ALWAYS make me smile by sticking his fist in the air and bobbing his head while shouting "Fist Pump!" No matter what is happening, just remember, a fist pump will make everything better.
The student who started out the first half of the year without saying a word has become quite the class clown and everyone is enamored by him. He is constantly making witty comments and piping in at just the right moment. He has also started doing this thing where anytime the class hears good news and are cheering, he does a super awkward, extra long and drawn out, off-pitch yell. Since he finishes after everyone else is done, everyone stares at him with perplexed faces and then bursts into laughter.

I'm sure I'll take lots of memories of each student away with me, but those are just a few that come to mind every time I think of those students.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Class Pets

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I am not an animal person. I don't hate them, but I can definitely see a lot better ways to spend my time, money, clean clothes, fresh air, etc than owning one... :) It's something I've inherited, so if you have a problem with it, blame my mom.
At the beginning of the year, I thought about sucking up my selfishness and getting a class pet for the kids. I weighed the pros and cons and when it was all said and done decided that my students would love me either way. Haha! Well, Danielle loves animals, so getting a class pet for her room was no question. She really wanted a bunny, but when that didn't work out, she settled on two guinea pigs. She let the kids name them and they chose "Bella" and "Angelina" (note the Twilight and Jersey Shore references from our 10-year-olds!!).
Well, ever since we got back from Winter Break, Danielle had been saying that Angelina was getting skinnier and not being as responsive and what not. I gave her my sympathy and advice (which was something quite brilliant, I'm sure!), but then didn't give it much thought... because, as I've said, I have better things to do with my time! :)
Turns out, that in February, one of the major reasons of me not wanting a class pet happened... Angelina died. Now, I'll admit, it was sad. But, with all the stress that I experienced because of it, it only reconfirmed my decision to not get a class pet ever... or at least for a long time. During February, Danielle was experiencing some medical issues and had to take off a few days of work. It just so happened that Angelina chose to die on a day that Danielle was out!
First thing in the morning on that dreadful day, I walked in to make sure the sub was doing okay and everything was in order and there was a scare that the guinea pig might be dead because they were having a hard time getting her to move or eat. She wasn't, but it was obvious her time was coming. I texted Danielle and she said she was going to take her to the vet the next day. Well, Angelina didn't make it and as soon as we brought the kids in from recess I had 4 kids running into my room to tell me the pet was dead. Unfortunately, since we all know how 4th graders like to talk, the news spread around the school like wildfire! Before I could even devise a plan for how to handle the situation, I had at least 4 teachers from all across the school come to tell me that the animal was dead.... um, hello. a) I work across the hall from her, b) her students practically see me as their second teacher (and mine, her!), and c) why don't YOU take care of the dead animal since clearly you have so much interest and time on your hands?!
Anyway, while all of those teachers were dropping by, another teacher also heard the news and snatched up the whole guinea pig cage from her room and toted it down to the teacher's lounge! Now, quick thinking in getting the cage out of the room, but not the best choice of placement since there were teachers in there still eating lunch! Haha. Ew! After some discussion, she moved the cage out of the teacher's lounge, into the janitors' office until she was able to find a moment to wrap Angelina up and clean out the cage for Bella.
Thankfully, with the animals out of sight, I was able to regain some semblance of control over both classes and we resumed with our regularly scheduled programming. After the kids were loaded on the buses, the teacher who had prepared Angelina for burial (also known around our school as the pet/bug whisperer, among other names) pulled me outside and demanded that we give the animal a proper burial (remember when I said I had better uses for my time?)! We gave a quick eulogy and dug up a little grave so that Angelina can forever be a part of Palmer Elementary. :)
Needless to say, I was more than pleased when Danielle came back to school the next day! 
She surveyed the whole playground until she found the perfect spot!

The perfect little coffin.. and yes, we made sure not to bury the plastic bag!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pep Rally!

So, along with Super Hero day, May 13th also happened to be the day of our annual SOL pep rally. Now, I was on the student programming board while I was at CNU, so I know a thing or two about planning big events, but holy cow this pep rally took a lot out of me!
Since Danielle and I found out about the pep rally and were asked to plan the pep rally in the same meeting, only 2 weeks before it was to happen, we were a little stressed! We both brought our ideas to the table of what we wanted to see and how we could make it even better than last year's. We immediately sent out some emails and got to work, but it seemed like everything still came down to the last minute!

The definite highlight of the day was the CNU basketball team sending 5 players out to put on a show! They were the first people we asked to be there, but since school had already let out for the semester, we weren't sure if anyone would be around. Thankfully it all worked out and they were awesome! In one of my many e-mails to Coach K, I told him to let his players know that they should prepare to be idolized... well, I don't know if they were prepared, but they were definitely idolized! It was honestly like the students were watching the top players from the NBA participating in the most prestigious and intense dunking contest ever! (....I haven't watched the NBA in 15 years so can't be more specific with names and titles!...)

Anyway, their show involved them running in through the side door and doing a few lay-ups and dunks and getting the kids totally pumped! Then, the coach introduced each of the players... Two of the players were current high school seniors who had signed to play at CNU next year, two were CNU underclassmen and one was a CNU senior. One of the HS seniors had actually attended Palmer back in 4th grade, so that was even more awesome! After introductions were over, the coach took some volunteers from the audience to play a game of Knock-Out against the players. He chose one teacher from 3rd, 4th and 5th and two 5th grade boys. I was running down to my room to grab something while he was choosing his players, but was told later that half of the fourth graders chanted my name when he asked for a 4th grade teacher. (Clearly they've seen my moves during my pick-up recess games!) I was so ticked, I LOVE Knock-Out!! :) Anyway, before the game started, the coach promised tickets to a CNU basketball game to the whole grade level based on whichever teacher won. Well, since neither the 3rd nor 4th grade teacher knew how to play, the game was pretty much handed to the 5th grade teacher... except for his little student who almost ended up beating him! Amid the loud cheers from the 5th graders, Coach K came back and announced that actually he had enough tickets for every student and teacher for a game next year... pretty amazing, if you ask me! After the game was over, the players held a mini dunking contest and had the kids cheer for the winner. It turned out to be the former Palmer student, so he got the privilege of giving a little pep talk and making sure to emphasize the importance of education and doing your best! When he was done, they went around giving high-5s and creating a full-on riot, which we quickly ended and sent them on their way!
I made sure to tell the Coach that the more personality the players had, the better! They definitely took that and ran with it!
The 4th grade teacher that ended up getting chosen, was also one that had been selected to be a Kung Fu Panda for the day (although she looked/acted more like a Leprechaun Panda!) Maybe I shouldn't feel so honored that the kids wanted me to represent them.... :)
The Slam Dunk Champ!
After the b-ball players left, to get the kids to calm back down, we played a slide show that I had put together to motivate them! Another reason I love my job.... I get to listen to High School Musical and Miley Cyrus as part of my daily research and homework. :) If you're interested in watching, let me know and I'll send you the link. I'm not allowed to post it on here for privacy reasons.. Mom, beware, you'll probably end up crying!

When the slideshow was done, we proceeded with a skit by the Guidance Counselor and her 5th grade drama club, a step/cheer by a couple of 5th grade girls, a pep talk from our Assistant Principal, one of our interventionists leading the kids in the song "I've Got a Feeling -- SOL Version" and lots of people handing out SOL Survival Kits on their way out the door. 

It was an incredible event and the excitement and joy felt around the building was amazing and totally worth all the hours put into it! Lots of people have already started asking what we have planned for next year... only time will tell!! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Super Teachers!

To save the best for last, Danielle and I decided to end our Spirit Days with Super Hero day. "Show us your super brain powers and pass the tests!" was the motto. I LOVE Super Hero movies and couldn't wait to go all out for this day. We started brainstorming immediately about how we could be super superheroes and I was very pleased with the results! I love being artsy, so I volunteered to make super hero shirts for Danielle, Peter and myself and also to make capes for all of us. Once they both told me which super heroes they wanted to be, I got to work! Peter insisted on being the Green Lantern, even though NOBODY had a clue who that was or what his power is (I'm still a little unclear.. but the movie comes out this summer, so hopefully that'll clear it all up!). Danielle was SuperBozung (spin off of Superman) and I was Wonder Wacek (known to others as WonderWoman).
None of my kids asked me what my super powers were, but I wish they would have because I was ready. While I was out walking with one of my friends last weekend, he asked me what my super powers were and I said, "Making students learn, it truly does take some magic!"... he said that was good, but not good enough. Then, he suggested that maybe my super powers could be super-hearing or super-eyesight. As soon as he said it, I realized that I didn't need a cape to make me a super-teacher, it just naturally happened. I'm pretty sure all teachers have the superpower of being able to see and hear their students misbehaving from just about anywhere in the school. :) I can't even count the number of times my students have asked me, "How did you know I was coloring/passing notes/not paying attention/playing/etc)?" Before, my answer was always, "I know everything!" (which they always seemed surprisingly okay with!), but from here on out, it will definitely be, "Because I have supersonic eyesight and hearing." :)

While I was fully decked out in Superhero, my students did not impress me with their dressing up. I had some that were super cute (a tinkerbell superhero with a homemade cape!, a girl with leggings and a fleece blanket tied around her neck, a boy with Superman pajamas with built in six-pack (he wore it underneath jeans and a button up shirt with a few buttons unbuttoned.. I was pretty sure there was a phone booth nearby that he was going to pop into at any second!), and a couple kids with superhero t-shirts) but in general, they didn't know what to do for the occasion. Since I had some leftover face paint from painting Peter's Green Lantern mask, I was offering face painting to them throughout the day for the kids that I caught on best behavior.

We tried to get a picture before all the students came, but the one student we asked clearly had never taken a picture before! Then, for the rest of the day, every time we tried to take a group shot, something came up!

My 1-minute Super Man face painting symbol!

After school we could finally breathe long enough to take a picture... but Danielle had already changed out of her costume and left for an appointment! Oh well, she promised to wear it again at some point!

Super Teacher - "Changing the world, one student at a time!"

Wonder Wacek, The Green Lantern, and The SOL Fairy Godmother!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Backwards Day!

In continuing the Spirit Days, we came up with Backwards Day! The slogan for this day was, "You need to know your information forward and backwards!" It turned out to be a lot harder than one might think to dress for Backwards Day. Sure, I could have just thrown on a t-shirt backwards, but where's the fun in that? :)
It took me about 20 minutes the morning of Backwards Day (May 11) to finally decide upon a white shirt backwards with a big backwards belt (after trying a skirt, a dress, 2 different shirts and backwards jeans). I did have my capris on backwards at one point, but it was not obvious enough to make it worth the discomfort!! Backwards Day turned out to be very successful because it did not take a lot of planning ahead from the kids' perspective.... in other words, of the 18 students who showed up to school and had completely forgotten about Backwards Day, 17 of them just flipped their shirts around in the bathroom before coming down to the classroom! :)

It was awkward when someone walked into the school and saw us getting pictures taken of us from the backside. :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Twin Day!

We are officially in SOL mode now! For those of you from Virginia or who have lived here for a while, you know that SOL has two meanings. As far as the elementary school kids are concerned, it stands for Standards of Learning and are the basis for our end-of-year tests. As far as middle/high school students and everyone else is concerned, it stands for S*** Out of Luck. With only 5 days until our first test, I'm pretty sure that perfectly describes how all of the teachers are feeling right now. We've taught our hearts out for 150+ days and now it's up to the kids to make us proud. Since we're pretty much out of teaching and reviewing time, a lot of our focus now is going toward motivating the kids. Last year, we held an entire Spirit Week with a different dress up day each day and culminating in a Pep Rally. This year, as we started planning, there were a few complaints from teachers that the spirit week got the kids TOO hyped and they lost all focus and chance for last-minute instruction. SO, to compromise, we were given 3 days to do themed-dress up days and a pep rally, as long as we spread them out. (I say "we" because, as our principal got into planning mode, she realized Danielle and I were more qualified for the job... since she'd seen us go ALL OUT for all of the other spirit days!... so she delegated the planning responsibility to us!)
So, the planning started and was a lot harder than we expected! Since the dress up days had to somehow related to testing or good scores, it took a while to get the ideas rolling. After some lengthy, late night text conversations between Danielle and I, we finally narrowed it down to our top 3 choices (with 2 extra top choices that we'll save for next year!!). Our first spirit day was Wednesday, May 4. It was Twin Day. The catch phrase was "Good test scores make us see DOUBLE." (Don't judge. We were in a time crunch!)
It was amazing how stoked and concerned the kids were about this day. I announced it Monday morning (poor choice!) and for the REST of the day, all I heard and saw were kids planning, scheming, exchanging phone numbers, etc. It continued the next day so I was stoked about what I would see Wednesday when they arrived.
I, obviously, planned to match Danielle and we brainstormed an outfit that was different enough from our everyday, yet consisted of items which we both owned... or so we thought. Then, during recess, one of my students came up to me and said she couldn't find anyone to be her twin, so I told her she could match us if she had the same clothing items. Well, turns out, Danielle had done some spring cleaning and gotten rid of all of her jean skirts, so couldn't match me. Since I had already planned to match my student, I couldn't very well change outfits and leave her hanging, so unfortunately, Danielle and I were not twins... which, threw EVERYONE for a major loop and I think some of our kids may have actually hyperventilated when they first saw us and their predictions were totally wrong. :) Thankfully, my student came decked out in exactly what I had told her to wear, so I did have a twin!
Despite all the planning and phone calls, I only had about 4 sets of students who were 'twins,' but those 8 kids who did participate were adorable, so it was totally fine. :)

These boys got it right! One of them was upset because the other didn't dress PERFECTLY.. he forgot to wear the right shoes! The other boy claims mom wouldn't let him! :)

The extent of Danielle and my twin-ness!

Lots of people were severely disappointed. We definitely made up for it on the other Spirit Days, though!

My twin and me!