From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Friday, May 22, 2015

End of Semester Thoughts #1

What value did student teaching in Chicago have for you, particularly as it impacts your future goals?

Betsy Wallin – Northwestern College
I have realized my passion for inner city teaching. I loved my experience in Chicago, and grew both as a teacher and a person in this city. I love the cultures and differences that those cultures bring to your classroom. I have decided to become a teacher in an inner city school, and plan on doing so next year. I have received job offers to teach in inner city schools in Minnesota, Arizona, and Cambodia. My experience here in Chicago has prepared me for all of these possible job opportunities.

Hannah Lee – Calvin College
Student teaching in Chicago has confirmed my passion for working in public schools and urban areas. This is the setting that I want to continue to teach in the future. Through this experience I have been able to observe how students' home lives affect their school life and I hope to continue to strive to be someone they can look up to.

Anelise Schrammen – Bethel University
I have a heart for children in the city. Teaching in this setting has made my heart grow so much more and my passion for the students in the city has turned into a reality. Pushing myself outside of the comfort of my familiar setting, people, and places I have learned that I am capable of anything.

Kelsie Wojcik – Hope College
Through student teaching in Chicago I was able to value the importance of sacrificial love. Whether it was my students or a staff member, I have gained insight on the importance of building rapport and respect people who are different from me. I have learned how to serve others with an unconditional heart. In the future, my goal is to serve others through this value and create a classroom that fosters safety, security and love.

Alyssa Huizinga – Trinity Christian College
Doing my student teaching in Chicago gave me the value of teaching a set of diverse students. Going to a Christian school my whole life, I have not been accustomed to students/classmates from low socioeconomic statuses, or simply from coming from all over the world. I have learned so much from the students in my classroom this semester. I have learned the importance of coming to school being a loving and open teacher. A lot of the students in my classroom don’t feel the love they deserve at home, and it’s important as their teacher, the one who sees them 8 hours a day, to give them that love and respect they deserve. I have learned, that a competent teacher is a creative teacher, a teacher who can use whatever is in the classroom to make learning fun, excited and educational for her students. This experience has inspired me to be the best teacher I can be wherever God leads me, and I look forward to seeing where I am going to go. 

Amanda Mast – Central College
I had never had any urban experience teaching, so the main reason I did this was to push myself and see if I enjoyed the larger setting.  Again, I did not think I liked it very much in the beginning, but it grew on me.  For the future, I am looking into schools in both Iowa and Illinois which has opened up my options a lot. I also am pretty positive that I want to be a teacher, something I was unsure of before student teaching.  I am not sure I would have reached this conclusion if I student taught in a normal setting because the students here have pushed me to be a better teacher, even if that wasn’t their intent.  Because of this semester, I have decided that urban teaching is a better fit for me.  

Brittany Vollmer – Northwestern College
I believe teaching in Chicago has better prepared me for “real life” teaching because it pushed me outside my comfort zone and into a very diverse area. Because of teaching in a big city, I believe I have become a more well-rounded teacher. I had to learn how to work with my resources and be a patient, supportive teacher for students who do not necessarily have a great home life.

Kathryn Woodside – Trinity Christian College
Student teaching in Chicago allowed me to explore the possibility of living and teaching downtown without a long term commitment. Previous to coming to the city, I considered applying for a teaching job in CPS. Student teaching in the city gave me a greater chance of getting a job in the district in my first year out of college. In the last few months I had also wondered if the city lifestyle would fit me, especially compared to a more rural area. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed the activities and adventures that await each day in Chicago, I was able to determine that I might enjoy being in a place that has less traffic and challenges surrounding transportation.

Emily Benson – Central College
This experience had so much value for me as a person and as an educator. The diversity I was able to work with was phenomenal and I never would have had this in Iowa.  I learned a lot about how to incorporate all students’ backgrounds and their cultures in the classroom.  I was able to work with special education students and see how their minds work. I was able to see the IEP referral process and learn from that. I figured out so much from this academic and culture diversity. Personally, I learned that teaching is definitely the path I want to take.  I found that moving to the city made me grab on to my faith a lot tighter.  Being alone here with no family was a difficult thing for me.  I was able to learn that I need to be close to those people who love me.  I also learned that I would love to have a teaching job at a faith-based school. It would be awesome to be able to talk about God and help my students grow in their faith. 

Erin Czaia – Bethel University
This was a hugely valuable experience for me, especially as I am strongly considering teaching in Chicago. When applying for jobs in the area, I now have relevant experience to add to my application. This will also be true when applying for teaching jobs in any urban center, such as Minneapolis or St. Paul.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Student Teaching - Final Blog

by Amanda Mast - Curie Metro High School

For the past few summers I worked at a summer camp in upstate New York. We would always start the summer with two weeks of intense training where we were surrounded by our co-workers. At the end of the training, we were given that Sunday as a “solo day” to reflect and rejuvenate, a day where we were encouraged to climb a mountain or go for a kayak trip on our own and just listen to the quiet world around us.

Pictures from my solo day

This last Sunday, I took a “solo day” in Chicago. I started at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and got lost many times. At the same time, can you get lost when you have no real destination? Moving on I walked to the beach, making sure to walk through the sand rather than the sidewalk; it was nice to have a change of surface. I walked along Lake Michigan for a while until I hit Navy Pier. I took a walking break and sat in the Crystal Gardens, a botanical within the attraction. After observing everything there, I moved on to Grant Park to see the Buckingham Fountain, but I stumbled upon the NFL draft spot, an obviously exciting place. 

While it is great that I was able to see or re-see all of these places, I also did a great deal of reflecting and thinking about my Chicago experience. I have grown as a person in such a small period of time.  I have become more independent while still depending on people around me. I have learned to balance work and play. I realized how much I love my job. I love students, teachers, classrooms, books, teaching students how to love learning, and much more. In New York, I learned how to find the beauty in nature, but here I learned how to find the beauty in exploring. The view of the skyline will never stop being impressive. Making students laugh will never stop being fulfilling. Turtle races is always a must, and if Stubhub has cheap tickets, you get on a train and go. I have always heard that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, but here I actually applied that. I have been pushed so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t even know where my “safe place” even is. I came to the conclusion that this has been the best four months of my life, and I am not sure how it will be topped. During my six mile walk, I laughed and (almost) cried, and realized that I loved this city way too much. I’m going home knowing so much more about myself and with an open mind. I feel prepared to graduate; I have no regrets. 

Lupe, a UIC student teacher, and I
cutting our farewell cake at Curie Metro High School

Before my roommates left me, we made one more special outing, one we had planned on doing for a long time. We all went to a Cubs game. Though they lost, we had fun eating peanuts and pretending to be big fans of the team. This last adventure perfectly frames all of the fun we have had as a group. My roommates have provided me with distractions, support, adventures, and so much more. Their friendship means so much to me, and living with them made Chicago that much better. It is crazy to me that I was randomly placed with these ladies, all of which have completely different personalities, and we did not just get along but needed each other. Thank you, ladies, and I hope your Chicago Semester was as fulfilling as mine was. 

A few final pictures of my roommates and me!
The last one is from the Cubs game.

I did not go to Curie on Monday because I was observing at a different CPS school, and when I came back, I was bombarded with sad, worried children. It’s hard for them to focus on school when they are reminded that I am leaving at the end of the week. Students who I have had problems with are apologizing and telling me they were “getting used to me.”  How can I leave them? I feel cruel. They have threatened to kidnap me so that I can’t leave- a nice thought, I guess. I could not have asked for better students to work with, and I will miss every one of them. Also shout out to my cooperating teachers, Melissa Ayala and Preston Woo, for taking on the challenge of teaching this Iowa girl how to teach in an urban school. You gave me the freedom to take risks and fail sometimes, but what is even better is that they let me talk it out afterwards, rather than just telling me what I did wrong. There is nothing I can say or give you guys that will express how grateful I am that I was placed with you two.

I’m finding it difficult to stop writing because doing that further signifies how close I am to the end. Final thoughts on student teaching in Chicago: I am leaving feeling like I can do anything. If you are considering the program, do it. You may not think that urban education is not your specialty, but how will you know unless you try it? This is the perfect taste of city living and teaching, the perfect stepping stone to living alone and being completely independent. I am leaving with a new confidence and a new home. 

Thank you all for keeping up with my blogs and for your prayers and support.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Student Teaching - Week #13

by Amanda Mast - Curie Metro High School

The sun starting to rise during my commute!
After a week of Spring Break, it was surprisingly nice to be back in the classroom again. Everyone was refreshed, excited, and caught up if they had fallen behind. Things are a bit different, though, because I am starting to phase out of full time teaching. I am supposed to be allowing my cooperating teacher to take back over, but I’m finding it a bit hard to let her do so. I started the week assuming it would be easier and that I would just sit back and work on some of my portfolio work, but I like being involved, and I am finding myself offering to take over the class. Because of break, I don’t have a whole lot to say about my school experience, but in the next few weeks I am planning on going to a volleyball game and a baseball game to support some of my freshman. You can look forward to seeing that in future blogs!

I am struggling to believe that I am nearing the end of student teaching! I don’t even want it to be done. Sure, sleeping again will be nice, but I think I might miss the school more. I’m already having separation issues, so the rest of this experience should be interesting. By interesting, I mean that I am going to be pretty sad. Students are already questioning why I am not doing all of the teaching, and I accidentally told one class that this was my last month. It took a bit to calm them back down again after that, and even though it was a hassle, it was pretty sweet. It’s one of those rewarding perks of teaching.

City Life: Last Friday night, a few of my roommates and I went to Improvised Shakespeare. This was a suggested from a friend of a friend as a “Chicago must-see” and I assumed that since I have a special appreciation for Shakespeare, I would love it. It didn’t disappoint, but it was not what I expected either! The crowd shouted out made up “Shakespearean” play names, one was picked, and the cast created a plot, including soliloquies and rhymes. It was so impressive to see them act on the spot in Elizabethan style! Not everyone in my party appreciated it as much as I did, but the acting and lines were so realistic! I had the best time, and I’m glad my friends are great enough to go with me as I “nerd-out” on literature humor.

My roommate, Emily, and I at U.S. Cellular Field!
Another great perk of living in the city is that you can make last second plans to go to sporting events. I am a Minnesota Twins fan, and I had been watching the ticket prices once I found out they were playing the White Sox. Emily, my roommate here and from back home, and I purchased tickets a few hours before the game at a very reasonable price. The weather was great, and it was so much fun to do something spontaneously, even though the Twins lost pretty badly.