From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Week 4: Surprise!

Sarah Schmitt - Cooper Dual Language Academy

On Monday, after a long weekend of studying, my roommate Mallory came to me with some big news: Yogurtland was offering free frozen yogurt for national frozen yogurt day!  Naturally, we took the “L” downtown at rush hour to get our own cup of goodness. There, we ran into many other Chicago Semester friends and took a tour of their Canterbury Apartment. It was nice, but I really enjoy La Casa since it is so close to my school, has more of a neighborhood feel, and its more spacious.

The rest of the week went by in a blur and before I knew it Friday had arrived. I struggled to keep up with lesson planning, evaluations, grading, and everything else this week. It is a lot to manage and I didn’t even get to start creating lesson plans for edTPA until Friday. I did film my class just to introduce them to the video camera so they wouldn’t goof around too much when I start filming on Monday. They were pretty silly and cute as I walked around and they each took a moment to dab, pretend they were melting, or say “hello” in a funny voice. I will be saving that video to remember them by.   

I took over reading and writing this week, which meant that I introduced Frindle to my students. To my surprise, they loved the book and many of them wanted to read it the next day when they had time to read independently. I even had one boy come up to me and ask if he could read the next chapter at home. I told him he could, but that he had to stop there and he couldn’t tell his classmates what happened next. It was exciting to see their genuine interest in the story and characters. My guided reading group was also captivated by Cam Jansen and The Chocolate Fudge Mystery. They begged me to keep reading and to finish the book on Thursday with them. We kept stopping as we read to make predictions which they were eager to make and see if they were correct. On Friday, before they started reading with Compass Learning I had them answer a few questions about the story and they were all able to tell me the characters, what the chocolate fudge mystery was, and their favorite part.  Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were interested and eager to read.

The last surprise this week was on Saturday. My aunt and I had planned to go out for dinner near her house in Forest Park. When I got there I was greeted by my parents sitting in her living room. I was glad to see them after a long and stressful week. We ended up going to the Half Shell as a belated birthday present. My parents had always talked about taking me to this quirky, dimly lit, crab leg joint, but it had never worked out– finally that day came! We spent the night laughing, cracking crab legs, and sharing stories from our week. This week I will teach my edTPA lessons on summarizing and take over teaching science for 222. We’ll see what surprises this week has in store! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Sarah Schmitt - Cooper Dual Language Academy

This week, I was given more freedom to assert myself as a leader in our classroom when working with small groups. In science, students had the opportunity to create their own “telegraph” by using electromagnets and send secret messages to another group by using a code. My CT asked me to lead the groups working outside of the classroom. While I initially struggled to keep students on task, make sure that the “telegraph” was working, and explain how to transfer messages– by the end of the week I had mastered my “spiel” and the students and I were able to efficiently complete the activity and have fun with it.

I also started leading the Bananas, my guided reading group by introducing a novel called Cam Jansen and The Chocolate Fudge Mystery. My students immediately enjoyed the book and many of them were disappointed when the class period was over because they wanted to read more. The group I work with are considered to be in the strategic category for literacy which means that they need focused and clear support to continue improving their reading scores. They have been consistently improving the whole year, so I am hoping to keep that pattern up.

One pattern I am hoping to break is all of the gossip we have been dealing with in our classes. My teacher always reacts as soon as the problem arises by discussing the issue with the student in the hallway. While I believe that this is an effective method to deal with the behaviors, it often leaves me in charge of the rest of the class for 5-10 minutes at a time. Although my CT is only on the other side of the door, the students take this an opportunity to act out. While I try and nip these behaviors as soon as they arise, students often ignore my attention getters, warnings, and directions leaving me frustrated and disappointed in myself and my inability to change their behavior. I shared my frustrations with my CT and she was very supportive, reminding me that it takes time to build a relationship of respect and that I should stop them as soon as they act out to redirect them.

As far as my life in the city – this week I went to Troy LaRaviere’s Social Justice talk on Wednesday at the University of Chicago. He discussed his encounters with racial prejudice and his work in CPS. This weekend, I went to Los Comales with a friend who came to visit me. I decided to switch it up from my usual carne asada tacos for a torta – que rico! I also went to see Magic City at the Chicago Children’s Theater which I loved due to the use of shadow work and childlike storytelling. I have also been working on lesson plans for this coming week since I will be taking over reading for 222 and introducing Frindle. During the rest of the week I will begin completing self-evaluations, my first observation, and starting to plan for EdTPA which I will begin teaching/recording the following week! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Sarah Schmitt - Cooper Dual Language Academy
Hello! I am Sarah Schmitt and I have recently begun my student teaching adventure through Chicago Semester, a program affiliated with Monmouth College. I will be graduating this May with a degree in Elementary Education and a Spanish minor.

I have always had an interest in learning new languages and I actively pursued a minor in Spanish through traveling abroad to Spain and taking classes at college. Through a college sponsored trip, I was able to visit Pilsen my sophomore year. During our visit we toured the area to see the beautiful mosaics, visit the National Museum of Mexican Art, and eat authentic Mexican food. I distinctly remember crossing the street and being drawn to the school with beautiful mosaics spanning the front of it.

Flash forward to January 12th, 2017 and I am lucky enough to be placed at that school: Cooper Dual Language Academy in a bilingual 4th grade classroom. My 4th grade placement is a bit different for me coming from an elementary education background. My CT and I are the homeroom teachers for the bilingual class (222). In addition to this class, we also teach 224 and 226, which are two other 4th grade classes that do not require as much Spanish support. Students rotate classrooms to receive instruction for all subjects and ensure that their needs are met (13% of the students at Cooper require special education services and it is a magnet school for the hearing impaired.) In the classroom that my CT and I are in we only teach reading and science which will provide me with the opportunity to revise my lessons and not to make too many lesson plans! :) In addition to having a great placement I also have a cooperating teacher who is incredibly friendly and true to her title (cooperative), providing me advice about teaching as well as things to do in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood is a great location – La Casa is right off of the 18th stop on the “L” – not to mention that I live a block away from my school! I live with five other girls (four from Chicago Semester). Our apartment looks like an Ikea showroom since the walls are bright green and everything is very new. My favorite part is the kitchen with the island/counter where we all can cook while we talk about the days’ events. Two of my roommates are student teachers so we always have a lot to share from student stories, edTPA, or lessons we taught. I also happen to know both of them prior to attending Chicago Semester since one of them goes to Monmouth and the other was part of Golden Apple, a teacher preparation program I attended for the past two summers. Two of my other roommates are in the nursing program and the other one has an internship at a publishing company. While we all have different schedules, we get along well and seek out opportunities to spend time together. Last weekend, for my birthday they made a cake and we went out for Mexican food.    

So how did I land this incredible opportunity? When I started to consider my student teaching placement, I knew that I wanted to complete it in CPS. While Monmouth didn't initially have a program that would enable me to do it at the time, they eventually announced that they had partnered with Chicago Semester to allow students to have an urban student teaching experience (Side note: Monmouth College is in the located in central Illinois near Galesburg). With Chicago Semester, there is a lot of freedom that has allowed me to experience living in Chicago as a young, working professional. As student teachers, we meet with our supervisors for seminar/reflection once a week and the rest of the week we are shadowing our CTs and gradually gaining more control in the classroom. Chicago Semester also regularly schedules events that allow us to experience the culture and beauty of Chicago such as beginner salsa classes and trips to many of the museums. They also have a page that connects us to events happening in the city, after filtering through it I recently went to the “college night” performance of Gloria at the Goodman theatre, the Harold Washington Library, and tried out many of the local restaurants in the Pilsen area. Since Chicago Semester provided us with a UPass we also have free public transportation which allows us to get to our placements and explore as much of the city as possible!

While I enjoy exploring, my main focus this semester is teaching 4th graders at Cooper. As we begin Week 3 of my placement I am gradually gaining more control in the classroom. I will be leading a group of students during “Words Their Way” (a daily vocabulary and spelling practice for students at their level) as well as leading the “Banana” group of students during guided reading twice a week. Next week, I will also begin teaching reading to 222 by introducing Frindle. I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming weeks!