From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

End of Semester Thoughts #2

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A POTENTIAL APPLICANT TO ENCOURAGE HIM/HER TO STUDENT TEACH WITH CHICAGO SEMESTER?

Anelise Schrammen – Bethel University
This is a decision you will NOT regret. I have learned more about myself as a person this semester than all four years of college. This is an amazing opportunity that not only helps your career but it helps you grow as an individual. Being immersed in the city allows me to realize there is so much more to life than the bubble I was living in. This city is full of life and there are always exciting things to do and places to explore!

Alyssa Huizinga – Trinity Christian College
I would tell a potential applicant that doing student teaching in Chicago is difficult. Not only with large class sizes, difficult students and a lot of work outside the classroom, you have the temptation of the city to keep you from focusing on your student teaching. However, it will be the best decision you make as a prospective teacher. You will learn so much in this semester of teaching and you will have so much fun while doing it. Coming out of the semester, you will feel as though you can teach anywhere, and anything. You will meet new people along the way, have new experiences, and have a great time in the city. Chicago Semester is a rewarding program and I encourage those who are thinking about it to student teach with them.

Brittany Vollmer – Northwestern College
I would greatly encourage him/her to teach in Chicago. The positives and skills I am taking with me after this semester definitely out-weighed any concerns or personal challenges I encountered. I also found that I had a great support system with the other student teachers, my roommates, and my advisor. I am extremely thankful for my semester here in Chicago.

Kelsie Wojcik – Hope College
Student teaching in Chicago will provide an opportunity that will allow you to step out of your comfort zone as you gain a comprehensive teaching experience. This experience will equip you with the skills you need to teach in nearly any student population.

Erin Czaia – Bethel University
Student teaching in a CPS school gives you an urban teaching experience it’s almost impossible to find anywhere else in the Midwest. This is the third largest city in the whole country, and no other city in the region can even compare to Chicago’s population. When you’re student teaching, you don’t necessarily have a lot of free time – although this will depend on your grade and subject area – but even if you only have a small amount of free time, it’s a great experience to explore Chicago.

Amanda Mast – Central College
Student teaching in general is one of the most rewarding but challenging experiences you will go through - at least in college.  Teaching in Chicago has really opened up my eyes to the impact teachers have.  So many of these kids need a role model or for someone to show them that they care.  Assigning myself that task has given me a whole new purpose for teaching, and I don’t think I would have realized that without Curie.  I would highly encourage education majors to consider Chicago Semester because it is an experience that is unique, and you will not regret it.

Betsy Wallin – Northwestern College
I would tell them to do it. There are always opportunities in life you regret not taking, and not going to Chicago would be one of those regrets. It is an amazing experience and worth much more than just a semester at college. It has also helps to ease the transition from college into adult life in the real world. Ultimately the Chicago semester has been one of the greatest experiences of my college career.

Hannah Lee – Calvin College
I would tell a potential applicant that teaching in Chicago is not an easy task, but the experience is worth it.  There are going to be sacrifices that you will have to make here and there, it's a true taste of what it will be like when you actually hold a job.  Student teaching in Chicago is a challenge that I doubted at first, but do not have even an ounce of regret for now. Through this experience, I have stretched my limits and learned more about myself.

Emily Benson – Central College
I would tell them that this is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would also make sure they were ready for the course work. The edTPA and the Tuesday class expectations. These are things I was not told and it was not a good surprise.  Overall, it flies by and I would 100% recommend it to any potential applicant.  Create experience to grow as a person and as an educator. 

Kathryn Woodside – Trinity Christian College
Chicago Semester has given me a unique experience to engage with the beauty and brokenness of Chicago. My school was in an affluent neighborhood where I got to see some of the best of what CPS has to offer. The district may be known for its issues and challenges related to poverty and politics, there are positive things happening in the schools throughout the city. It was a blessing to be able to do both my SPED and elementary education placements in the same school.

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.