From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary

Hello Folks,

The past few weeks of my semester have been jam packed with adventures and activities. I have been scrambling to complete assignments and the edTPA, visiting friends in Michigan, and exploring further what it means to be a student teacher in an urban setting. My weeks here in the city of Chicago are dwindling, however the busyness continues. As this semester progresses, I continue to reflect on my experiences here in Chicago. Below are a few of my reflections from the past two weeks.
First, and most importantly, student teaching. Student teaching is the reason I am in Chicago, and part of the reason for my exhaustion. Though student teaching is a wonderful experience, it is not an easy task. Each week for class with my wonderful, loving, and generous fourth graders, I prepare 25 lesson plans, and countless resources. Needless to say, this experience has stretched me more than my schooling leading up to this has prepared me for. It feels as though my mind is constantly running in 12 different directions, while I attempt to juggle multiple tasks. That being said, if you know me, you know I got a B in kinesiology in college for not being able to juggle. That should help you to visualize how the semester is going.

All joking aside, student teaching has just been a simply wonderful experience. This week in my classroom I was able to speak with the diverse population of students and  have the pleasure of teaching about the presidential election. The students, 98% of whom are considered minorities in this nation, feared the outcome of the election, unsure of what this could mean for their futures. After a time of discussion, lament, and reflection, my students were better able to process their many emotions. This opportunity, though avoided by some, presented a wonderful opportunity in the classroom to speak about respect, justice and love for all people in our nations, including those who don’t often show these values. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to speak openly with passionate fourth graders about topics that resonate so close to the hearts of many in our country. Someday, I know my students will teach my generation what it means to love and serve justly.
Moving away now from the student teaching aspect of Chicago semester, an amazing thing happened this week… I completed my edTPA! This multistep assessment has been a constant burden on most of the student teachers in Illinois.  Completing question after question on this assessment seems tedious, and takes time away from what we all want to be doing, bettering ourselves for our students. All this being said, having the edTPA completed alleviates much of the stress and exhaustion that has been weighing on me recently.

Have no fear, these last few weeks of student teaching haven’t been all deadlines and requirements. I managed to squeeze socialization and exploration into my schedule as well. Last weekend I had the opportunity to bring my roommate Jess on her first visit to Michigan, where I go to school. While visiting Michigan, we visited friends, explored apple orchards, and crunched fall leaves (a task I have greatly missed since being in Chicago.) This break from the city, and many of the requirements that needed to be completed, allowed an opportunity to recharge. This was much needed after the busiest two weeks of student teaching yet!

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Frights

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary 

As Halloween rolls around, costumes, scary things, and decorations have been occupying the minds of many of the students at Hayt. This Friday at school, the students and teachers were asked to dress up as their favorite story character. Many students came dressed as Harry Potter, Superheros, and other famous book characters. As someone who loves a good spirit day, I began thinking of what some of my favorite stories growing up were. After some brainstorming I decided, I was going to be The Giving Tree.
Paper Bag Princess and the Giving Tree

Friday morning I walked decorated all in leaves (made out of paper) into my classroom. My lovely fourth grade students quizzically asked, “What are you?” These questions lead me to, at the end of the day, share the story with my students, many of whom had never heard it before. The students listened attentively as the story was read, clinging on to every word. Their eyes teared as they heard the end of the story, they were amazed how willing the tree was to give to her friend.  Excited and eager that they could share, and better understand my costume, they all declared how wonderful it was or how they wanted to be the giving tree next year.

Scary things, however are not just filling the minds of the students in my fourth grade classroom. My mind is occupied by something recently that is even scarier then ghost, clowns or any other villain. EdTPA. The deadline for the edTPA, the teacher assessment required by Chicago Semester and the state of Illinois, is creeping ever closer. Within the next two weeks this assessment will be turned in. This test deadline, though tolerable, is frightening to me because it is a brand new concept. I am unfamiliar with this test, as I go to college in Michigan, where this is not required. However just as the spookiness of Halloween will pass, in two weeks, so will the fear and fright accompanying the edTPA.

Due to the impending doom (due date) of the edTPA, this week has been busier than normal, that being said I have not had many opportunities to go out and explore the city. However, each week Friday, Jess and I normally go out to eat after school as an end of the week celebration. This week we did that, stopping to grab some frozen yogurt at the shop right down the street. This small treat, plus the nap that followed, made for a wonderful start to the weekend.

Happy Halloween Weekend,


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Growing Everyday

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary

This week Wednesday, marks halfway through my adventure in Chicago. Though, barely halfway through this semester, I feel that the opportunity to Student Teach in Chicago, has been one of dramatic growth. As I spend time in reflection, I can identify many areas in which I have matured or changed in the last 7 weeks. These changes have taken place in my personal life, in the classroom (both as a teacher and as a student), and in my relationships with others. Below, I will highlight a few of these areas, what I have learned, and overall what I have seen in myself over the course of the semester (so far).
Jess and I after day one of student teaching 

One of the areas of growth that was easy to spot from the beginning of the semester, at least to me, was the writing of this blog. Normally, as an introverted person, opening up and sharing my thoughts with others in writing makes me shutter.  Even my dearest friends and relatives have not read my writing, or rather, have never been allowed to read my writing. My thoughts are normally something I prefer to keep to inside my head. That being said, writing my deepest thoughts, or even shallow thoughts on paper for all to see has always been horrifying to me. However, upon being asked by one of my Supervisors, Lisa, to write the blog, I began to think of what this could do for me. This semester as a whole, is an opportunity for me to push past my comfort zone. Through this blog, and in turn the vulnerability that comes with writing it, I am free to share more of myself with those around me.

Temptations Concert
When I look at the growth I have had thus far in my student teaching, I cannot help but laugh. Entering into student teaching I was a scared little education student, afraid of what the future would hold. I had worked in many classrooms before, however none as extensively as I would be Hayt Elementary. I had only aided in classrooms, spending roughly 15-20 hours a week at a school. This would soon become the amount of time I spent at Hayt for about two days of my week. Student teaching is unlike anything I have experienced thus far in my teacher preparation. It really is just that, teacher preparation. Each week in my student teaching, I create around 20-25 lesson plans, resources, and modifications for my students. This is by no means easy, and I am certainly not done growing in this area (and likely will never be), however I have come leaps and bounds from my first day of student teaching when I thought I wasn’t going to make it.

Finally, I have grown in the relationships I have with those around me at Chicago Semester and those far from me. Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with a few high school friends. The three of us went to a Temptations Concert (A Motown Group from the 1960’s). The concert was filled to the brim with people over the age of 60, along with four eager 21 year old girls sitting right in the middle of the room.  Spending time with these wonderful women, many of whom have known me since I was an awkward middle school girl, lead me to realize something. Relationships, THANK GOODNESS, are constantly changing. We did not sit, as we did in middle school just trying to figure out how this life works. Rather, our conversations were related to work, hardships we faced, and school. The relationship I have with these women, and the growth I have seen in them, makes me eager to see where my relationships with new friends from Chicago Semester will lead.

Until Next Time,

Sam Woldman