From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Student Teaching - Week #6

by Amanda Mast - Curie Metro High School

February 19, 2015
Last week was a short week, but it was still just as exhausting.  While it’s nice to have a day off, I’m starting to realize that the students recharge over the off days as well! They were so chatty, and I’ve found out that my teacher voice is lacking.  I struggled to project my voice, and when everyone is speaking, I got lost in the crowd.  It was something I never realized until this excited week.

I’m definitely starting to feel the pressures of everything.  I’m on my fourth week of full time teaching, and my plans are starting to catch up with me.  It was a week where everything seemed spur-of-the moment and nothing just wanted to work out.  It’s not that any classes went poorly; I felt like everything was just happening off the top of my head.  At first it was very stressful, but then I realized that this is what all the teachers are doing.  All of them are just constantly thinking, planning, and working, and the fact that I made it through this week gave me confidence.  I can do this even when it’s stressful, and I don’t know what is going on.  I’m getting really good at faking it. 

This week we are pushing forward with the hero’s journey, and we are applying this to “The Odyssey.” I’m really excited because we are using a graphic novel which is something many of the students told me they were interested in. Since it is the first novel I’ve ever introduced, I’m sure I will have stories about it for next week! We are even bringing the iPads out so that’s always an adventure too!

This Sunday, we celebrated the Chinese New Year in Chinatown.  Honestly, I don’t know if I would have even thought about going, but my roommate’s uncle invited us to have lunch and watch the parade. I knew right when we walked into the restaurant that it was going to be exciting! A majority of the people eating were men in kilts with their bagpipes next to them.  Not something you would expect for the Chinese New Year, but the music was enjoyable while we ate! Plus we managed to make friends with a few of them! The parade was also very colorful and loud. It was just a taste of the Chinese culture but I’m so glad I went. It was the perfect weekend event.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Student Teaching - Week #5

by Amanda Mast - Curie Metro High School

Life at School

“Miss Mast, I’m glad you aren’t afraid of us anymore.  Your face looks more comfortable. I’m glad you can be a part of our family.”

Well, I wasn’t aware that in my first week I was not only scared but I looked scared. There was so much that this statement helped me realize.  When a student said this to me this week, I was reminded that I was really afraid when I first came to Curie. It was large and different, and I was clearly an outsider.  It didn’t take long for me to get over that.  It has been so long since I’ve had any fears other than teaching itself.  After this comment I also realized that the fear was all in my head.  The students didn’t change, but my perception of how they saw me did.  I also feel blessed that this student considers me part of the family now. It’s such a confidence booster.

This week has been full of planning and new technology! It was a bold move to bring iPads into the classroom, a new iPad cart was just purchased for each floor, and even though we didn’t get as much done as I wanted, we will be better prepared next time! The students also seemed to have a lot of fun setting up their Edmodo accounts and pretending our class had a Facebook (I’m very excited to tell them about the Facebook assignment we will be doing in a month!). I’m hoping to bring more technology into these classes, so be ready to hear more about it later!

City Living

Auditorium Theater/Joffrey Ballet

Through Chicago Semester’s arts program, we saw Unique Voices at the Joffrey Ballet Friday night. I’m not familiar with ballet or dancing in general, but after seeing the ballet, I definitely thought about changing my career path and becoming a ballerina.  The stage was beautiful and even from a distance, you could see the passion and emotion that each performer put into dancing.   

Shedd Aquarium

Saturday, some of the girls and I took advantage of our Chicago residency and went to the Shedd Aquarium.  It was free for residents, and we assumed if we got there early enough, we could walk right in and enjoy the fish. The long line outside of the tent outside of the building told us otherwise.  We decided to brave the cold and wait, but I think if we would have seen the forecast, we would have run away.  About twenty minutes in, we couldn’t feel our toes and it didn’t take long for the rest of our bodies to follow.  We waited outside in line for an hour and a half and then waited in a tent for another thirty minutes.  Some positives of the wait were (1) I was able to eat my first Chicago dog while in line, (2) Some parents let us hold their children to keep them warm, and (3) The wait made the aquarium so much better.  The building was beautiful and unique and I love fish. I even got to see my favorite animal, manta rays!

We didn’t have school on Monday because it was President’s Day, but some of the Chicago Semester students volunteered in Humboldt Park.  San Lucas United Church of Christ runs a mobile produce truck that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to families who can’t afford them.  Once a month, the church has about one hundred people line up to receive produce, but without volunteers, the crowd would not be manageable. While we were there we unpacked the truck and then bagged the vegetables and fruits for convenience.  Families went down the line and picked up what they needed. The church relies so heavily on volunteers, but it wasn’t hard to see why it works! The work went so fast because we were having fun and the process helped so many people.  Part of me wishes I could do it every month, but I would miss my students!

Volunteers for the day!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Student Teaching - Spring 2015

by Amanda Mast - Curie Metro High School

You would think that moving to Chicago would have been a difficult adjustment for me. I grew up in Cresco, Iowa, a small town where the closest mall was an hour away, and now I’m living in a city where there is noise, lights, and commotion at all hours of the day. In May, I will graduate from Central College in Pella, Iowa, another small town and small college. So far, though, living in the city has been different but fantastic. I choose to do my student teaching here because I never had any inner city experience, so how would I know if I liked it or not if I didn’t try?

LaCasa ladies at the Bean in Millennium Park
There is so much to say about my experience so far that I am struggling to verbalize everything that is happening. I am starting week five of my student teaching, and even though I haven’t been here for very long, I feel very comfortable here and my routine seems normal. While waking up and getting ready is generally not a super positive experience, these students are so funny that it makes it all worth it. They are also curious about my life back home and how different it is. One class even describes me as being “fresh off the farm” (not that I have lived on a farm, but they can’t seem to understand that). These students have so much character and personality that they make coming in enjoyable, no matter how early I have to wake up to get here on time. I have also really enjoyed getting to know the other student teachers in the English department. We mesh really well, and the other teachers call us the “cool kids” and say we have too much fun. I have made so many great relationships and connections, and they support me so much in this demanding, trying experience.    

Curie Metro High School
Curie Metropolitan High School is a magnet high school with an enrollment of over 3,000 students-about the same as my hometown’s population. The majority of the students are Hispanic, and 95% of the students come from a low-income home. It is a school that appreciates art and believes that this is the key to being successful.  So many of my students are talented artists, writers, musicians, dancers, etc. The school’s mission is to prepare students "to become leaders and engaged citizens in a global society, enabling them to contribute positively and responsibly to their community." The building is large, but I only have to worry about the English wing. I don’t venture too far away from it. I got lucky on my first day of school because I happened to run into another English department student teacher on the train, so he was able to take me everywhere I needed to go. Unlike other smaller schools I have taught at, Curie’s teachers all have a desk in a department office rather than having set classrooms. They push around a cart with all of their materials for the day, and that, surprisingly, has been my biggest struggle. Everything must stay organized and your cart must be well stocked. It’s your miniature, mobile desk.