Catchy Tunes Might Help Kids Catch Enough Zzz’s

Friday, March 07, 2014, the students at Parkview Elementary got the chance to learn how to take better care of their minds and bodies with a playful skit from Esmerelda Education (The ISTEP Lady) and her supporting cast of characters. The performance included classic musical numbers that are embedded into our American psyches, such as "The Impossible Dream," the Beatles' "Good Night," and Canned Heat's "Let's Work Together." These three songs – with some tweaks here and there – hammered home some serious messages.

"It has a two-fold purpose. The first is to remind the kids of the important parts of eating a good breakfast, getting a good night's rest, being focused, staying on task. The second fold is a message of encouragement because there's a lot of stress. In third grade, there's the fear of 'If I don't pass, I'm not going to go to fourth grade.' The kids have been working really hard – they've been doing Jump Start, they've been doing after school programs, they've been doing a lot of rigorous activities in the classroom here and we want to just give them a day to say, 'It's going to be okay. You can do this. We're going to do well together,'" said Principal Anne Wodetzki, who is enjoying her fifth year at Parkview.

Did the kids get it? You bet! Although there aren't any specific statistics available, Principal Wodetzki and skit writer Mr. Greg Karas both said that there seems to be a positive correlation between these skits – which have been being done for about the last six years – and better ISTEP scores at Parkview. Karas writes the skits and is inspired by many different ideas and themes. This year's inspiration was superheroes, but still starred Paula Heuring as Esmerelda Education ("The ISTEP Lady"), and introduced a number of heroines such as Super Snoozer and her Great Dane sidekick, Nutra Girl, a confused Bat Girl in Chicago Cubs gear, Grammar Girl, Director Euthelgenia Buckeyrosebowl and her Parkview Elementary Effort Ensemble, Nurse Cratchit, and Detective Girl. The Valparaiso High School cheerleaders even showed up to get in on the fun!

"There's a lot of pressure surrounding the test and if we can do something to relieve the pressure, but still emphasize to the kids that it's important to do your best, sleep well, and have your breakfast. And the thing we really want to get across is that should be every day of your life. It shouldn't just be, 'Oh, we have a test this week, I'm going to live right.' You should be doing the right thing every day," Karas said about the purpose of his skits.

The cast of teachers seemed to really enjoy the work they were doing in preparing their students for standardized tests. Their wild antics and even wilder names hit on a number of points like the importance of being well-rested, eating healthily, to concentrate on their tasks, to write with purpose, and to still have time to proofread. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, the teachers just had to say these things to us over and over every day.

"I would tell their parents the simple five. Get a good night's sleep, eat breakfast, you need to proofread, always remember to 'fill the lines up' when you write, and focus," said Bri Cashmer, Title I and FROG teacher, who played the part of Detective Girl – her superpower is proofreading!

Although standardized tests are not the be all end all of education, they are important to our students, their teachers, and therefore, to our whole community. The goal of this skit and skits like it is to help our community move forward and be well-educated! With this in mind, let me share some words from Karas's re-worked "The Impossible Dream" into "The Most Possible Dream" with you to help you and your family have a better ISTEP experience.

To sleep ... the unsleepable sleep ...
To eat ... the most nourishing food ...
To work, with remarkable focus ...
These things, we all think they're so good.
To write ... with a voice that's so strong,
Please wait we'll continue this song.
To give tests your very best effort!
Then you proofread, when everything's done!
This is my quest, to do well on the test,
I'll have pride in my work so,
I will just do my best.

So, as you and your family prepare for ISTEP, remember to take a deep breath, bust some moves, get some quality rest, and eat a tasty and healthy breakfast! We're all rooting for you!

Click here to see more photos!