From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

End of Semester Thoughts #2

by Carole's Group

Hannah, Carole, Colleen, Jennifer, Steven, and Laura
Steven Ansilio – Hope College
Student Taught at Byrne Elementary

Chicago Semester is a great opportunity to see real life beyond the area around your school.  I went to Hope and it was just a middle-sized city.  There are wonderful opportunities in the area, but it was just not for me.  It felt a lot like a little bubble.  Chicago provides countless opportunities to discover more about yourself and what you ultimately want.  I enjoyed traveling around the city, being in a more culturally diverse setting, and being able to do so many different activities.  I learned that I want to be in an urban setting and be a special education teacher.  Chicago Semester really helped me identify what I really want in my future career.  It helped me figure out exactly what I am looking for.
Laura Redebaugh - Hope College
Student Taught at Peterson Elementary

I would absolutely recommend student teaching at the Chicago Semester. What I loved most about the Chicago Semester experience was straying away from the norm of staying in the small town of Holland, MI. I was able to live in a beautiful, exciting city while teaching in an incredibly diverse classroom. This opportunity has made me grow both as an educator and as an individual in ways that I would not have if I had not come to Chicago. Facing the challenges of a Chicago Public School classroom has made me confident that I can handle any classroom. The joy of being with my students far outweighed any challenges that I faced. I am so incredibly thankful that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and challenged myself to take advantage of this opportunity.

Hannah Laps – University of Mount Union
Student Taught at Mitchell Elementary

If you want to be challenged as a teacher, as a person, and improve yourself on a whole another level you didn’t think existed, apply. I have cried, laughed, and I’ve learned the importance of my future and grew passionate for my career in teaching. Being in the city is incredible, all the possibilities and experiences you could imagine. The unforgettable people, amazing food, outstanding schools, and beautiful environment remain in my heart. This experience will be unforgettable and challenged me in more ways possible. I have learned that I can overcome anything that comes my way. I have learned to stay positive when things don’t go as planned and to grow from the experiences that were not easy. I have benefitted greatly from this experience and now cannot wait until I have my own classroom! This experience has made me a better person and teacher.
Jennifer Muisenga - Hope College
Student Taught at Whitney Young Magnet H.S. & Franklin Fine Arts Center

Teaching in Chicago Public Schools really prepared me to have my own classroom in the near future. I learned things that you don’t learn sitting in lectures at college or from short placements. You are immediately able to jump in and start doing what you love. What I loved most was having cooperating teachers who invited me to help them with whatever. I learned a lot about the “behind the scenes” of being a dance teacher and that just made me more prepared to direct my own dance program. Student teaching is a time to fill your file box up with as many strategies and ideas as possible and I definitely think my file box is pretty full now. My biggest advice is to not be shy or timid coming in. Take initiative right away and offer to help with things. You want to make the most of your semester and your teacher wants to see that you are motivated to be the best teacher possible. It may be stressful at times, but it will just better prepare you for your first year of teaching.

Colleen Getz – Hope College
Student Taught at Peirce Elementary

The thing I enjoyed most about student teaching in the city was the diversity. Each part of the city is different and unique. I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to explore and get to know each different area. There are so many different characters in the city as well. I always felt like I was in the middle of the action and there was never a dull moment! Also, it was wonderful to live with fellow student teachers because we had the same schedule and we were able to bounce teaching ideas off of one another. Chicago semester helped me to realize that I am interested in working in a fast-pace environment, similar to this one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

End of Semester Thoughts #1

by Lisa's Small Group

Lisa, Evan, Alex, Erik, and Kristin

Erik Grunder – Central College
Student Taught at Kelly High School

The thing that I enjoyed most about this semester was simply being in Chicago. Coming from a small town - what a shock. However, after a couple of weeks I was not only comfortable getting around the city, but I felt like I was part of it. I also enjoyed the people that I met while I was here. I was lucky enough to have great people at my school, which simply added to the great experience I was already having. I think student teaching here and having success only added to my level of confidence when I think about teaching anywhere else. If I can handle this situation and these students, I can handle just about anything. What a great resume builder and finish to my teaching education then to do it in a fun, challenging and new environment.  Talk about the epitome of teaching!  Continuing to learn, adapt, revise, and rethink the way that you teach to reach these students was so much more refreshing than teaching in small town Pleasantville where the students will do what you say when you ask. This is generalizing but you get the idea.

Kristin Trease – Northwestern College
Student Taught at Kelvyn Park High School

Being able to come from a small college campus to teach in a high school with  roughly the same size student population is an experience that truly is one of a kind. The semester I had teaching in Chicago has changed the way I look at education—when students in your classroom are more concerned about walking home after school safely than learning reading strategies, your teaching becomes so much more student centered. This kind of thinking, as well as a new look at classroom management, collaboration within a department, differentiation, and so much more, has made me grow into the kind of teaching I want to be. The kind of teacher that would have taken so much longer to become in a small, rural school system. It has shown me that an urban classroom is where I belong and that I have something to give to these students, even if it is something as simple as a smile and encouraging word.

Alex DiPietro – University of Mount Union
Student Taught at Kenwood Academy

Teaching out here in Chicago has been a life changing opportunity. I have never lived in community that had more than 20,000 people. Coming from that to a city of 3 million people, all from different cultures and backgrounds, was an amazing experience. I not only learned a lot about urban life and the many different cultures of Chicago, but I learned a lot about myself along the way and proved to myself that I could live in a big city pretty much on my own.

The most enjoyable thing that I got from my Chicago Semester experience was definitely the relationships I formed with so many different people. I grew to truly love and care for my students and I was so sad when my time teaching them was up. I really appreciated the help I got from not only my cooperating teachers, but the other teachers in my department at Kenwood who gave me great advice along the way. Dr. Hensey was a great supervisor who truly devoted so much time into helping all of us teachers out during this great,(but very stressful at times) experience. Lastly I greatly enjoyed the time I spent and the relationships I formed with my fellow student teachers at Chicago Semester. We all come from different schools and backgrounds, but it seems like we became one family in our three months here. I never thought that I could grow so emotionally attached all these people, but this experience proved me wrong.

I feel like this experience showed me that I can be a successful teacher. There are obviously going to be bumps in the road, and good days or bad days at the job, but this experience showed me that I can fight through the days that do not go so well. It has taught me to be reflective and always think about how I can be better, and I will take what I learned from this student teaching experience and apply it not only to my future teaching job, but life in general.

Overall I wouldn’t trade the experience I had in Chicago for anything. I got to teach some of the brightest young minds I have ever met. I formed bonds with some great teachers and future teachers that I will remember forever. I got to live in the greatest city in America for 3+ months. I got to see my Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team blowout Miami in Soldier Field and I got to see Bruce Springsteen rock Wrigley Field. How many student teachers can say they did all of this for their experience? I am truly blessed to have this opportunity and I want to thank everyone who made an impact on me this semester and made me a better teacher and person.
Evan James – Carroll University
Student Taught at Kelvyn Park High School
Student teaching at Chicago Semester is a great opportunity in your professional development because you work in a culturally diverse classroom, school, and community. You will not only learn about the variety of backgrounds your students come from, but also who you are as a person and who you want to be as a professional educator. Personally, I experienced students coming to learn and succeed in the learning environment they are a part of, and it is the job of their teacher to create an environment where they feel welcomed, confident and respected to succeed in the classroom, community, and in life.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Student Teaching - End of Semester

by Kristin Trease - Kelvyn Park High School
Life in the City
As the weather has gotten colder, my activities outside of school have lessened. I become a sort of shut in when it’s cold out and the sky is dark at five. It doesn’t help that I’ve been swamped by a recent attack of grading and homework to do. I’ve also come down with a little bit of a bug that makes me want to do nothing but watch movies and sleep when I get home from school every day. Does not help productivity.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, I am officially okay with Christmas music and decorations that have been sneaking into the city since before Halloween. Besides watching the Macy’s Day Parade all the way through for the first time in my life (this is what happens when I can’t afford to go home for Thanksgiving), I have found other small ways to get into the holiday spirit. Last week I got to go see Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” performed at the Goodman Theatre. It was so good. If I stay in Chicago, it is going to become my new holiday tradition. Or maybe it will be my holiday tradition anyway; the show is mounted everywhere during the Christmas season. However, I’m not sure many theatres can beat the Goodman.
Life in the Classroom
Goodbye Kelvyn Park
I have begun to step down from teaching. This coming week will be my last, and I will be teaching two classes Monday and none by Thursday. It’s been hard letting go so far, for both me and the students. They will see me in the hall and ask why I wasn’t in their class period. One girl ran and hug attacked me. Makes me feel very, very loved. I have a feeling Friday is going to be the hardest day of the semester.
This will officially be my last blog post for Chicago Semester. What an adventure the past few months have been. I have learned so much, not only about teaching, but about myself. I have made some really amazing friends, been touched by some really fantastic students, and laughed so much. There is no way I could capture this semester in one paragraph, so I’m going to stop trying. It has been life changing. It has been eye opening.  It has been blessed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #12

Life in the City
Festival of Lights Parade
The Festival of Lights seems like an important event to be in Chicago for. People described it as the Chicago equivalent of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I describe it as mass chaos with way too many people. So yeah, probably pretty close to Macy’s Parade.
In order to see anything well, you have to show up hours ahead of time and be committed to staking a spot and not moving. We weren’t there early. And we weren’t committed to sticking around. After about 30 minutes of barely seeing anything, we left. Or at least tried to. It took another thirty minutes to get out of the crowds. I’m not typically claustrophobic, but after that, I wanted nothing but to sit alone and be very introverted for a couple hours.
Chicago History Museum - Magic Exhibit
It has been a good week in terms of exploration. Over my long Veteran’s Day weekend, my friend Aleah came to visit. I had another reason to be touristy, which I don’t like doing very often. We visited slightly random spots, including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Candiality, Hersey’s, and Sprinkles Cupcakes (we apparently had quite the sweet tooth). We saw a workshop performance of an opera being produced next year called The Suitcase Opera Project, written around a suitcase of letters written right after WWII by a homosexual man who was dishonorably discharged from the Marines. It was very good, but would have been better had it been a play and not an opera. I finally made it to the Chicago History Museum as well. I love going to museums with my friend Aleah; we tend to explore museums at very similar paces. It was a really great weekend.
Life in the Classroom
It’s getting to the point of the semester when the kids realize that I won’t be there much longer. Almost every day a different student suggests I just take my cooperating teacher’s job. As much as I would love to keep working at Kelvyn Park, there are a few things in my way. One being the fact Ms. Holzmann loves her job and isn’t going anywhere. Another being that my Iowa teaching license doesn’t automatically transfer to Illinois without taking tests. Slightly frustrating, but I should have planned ahead better.
It’s been a hectic week. We didn’t have school for Veteran’s Day, which was nice. And then the Tuesday after Veteran’s day we had parent-teacher conferences. That was nerve wracking. We only had twelve parents show up, ten of which had A or B students, so it turned out fine. It was disappointing that we had so few parents, but I got a lot of planning and grading done.
After Thanksgiving, I begin dropping periods that I teach one by one. I’ll have two weeks left, finishing up by December 7. It’s crazy to think how quickly this semester has gone. It has been one of the most challenging, most stressful, yet encouraging and enjoyable semesters of my life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #11

By Kristin Trease – Kelvyn Park High School
Life in the City
Now that November has officially set in, the air is cooler, the leaves have fallen off the trees, and unfortunately, Christmas has started to sneak in. I am a very, very big advocate for holidays staying in order, so I want nothing to do with Christmas until after Thanksgiving. This blatant disregard for the calendar was clearest when my roommate and I were walking through Michael’s craft store. I love Michael’s but Halloween was barely over.
Comedy Sportz
One of my roommate’s dreams came true: her day was made into a musical. That’s what happens when she volunteers to tell an improv team how her day went during their show. It was very funny; I got to make a cameo, as did Neil Patrick Harris, an actor on our favorite TV show. We’ve been slightly addicted to “How I Met Your Mother” the past week. And by we, I mean I’m always asking if we can watch it on her Netflix account. Improv shows are definitely not my favorite form of entertainment, but it was a pretty fun Thursday evening.
My roommate and I have also discovered our shared love of listening to 90s Radio Hits. We listen when we do homework, when we clean, when we cook. It’s a mutual love for all that is pop and 90s fabulous. Because who wouldn’t want to write this blog post with “Blue” by Eiffel 65 playing? I’m blue, da ba dee da ba die.
2012 Presidential Debate
Life in the Classroom
I’ve also discovered some pretty cool stuff about my students the past couple weeks. For one, most of them love debates. They don’t want to prepare for them, but they love arguing. We had some very good discussions about war, immigration, same-sex marriage, and pro-choice issues. Our unit followed the presidential election, so it worked perfectly to have our debates on Tuesday, the day all of the other debating would finally end.
They were all so excited that Obama won. A couple of them tried to tease me about it, assuming that I had voted for Romney. The look on their faces when I told them I voted for Obama was priceless, like their whole work perception was shifting. Here was this white woman in front of them and she voted for Obama. I didn’t tell many of them that I voted McCain four years ago…
I was also told Thursday that I should get a job at T-Mobile. Apparently they’re hiring. I was talking to a couple of my students about how I had to vote absentee because I couldn’t go home to do it. They were shocked that I moved to Chicago without my family to teach. Then they asked what I was going to do when I was done; find a job, hopefully teaching related, eventually. And the conversation followed:
Omar: You should get a job at T-Mobile! They’re hiring, my aunt could hook you up!
Bianca: She moved all the way from Nebraska without her family just to teach us! Why would she want to work at T-Mobile?
Omar: Just part time, get a little cash, hook me up with some discounts.

And this is why I love my students.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #10

by Kristin Trease - Kelvyn Park High School

Life in the City
Halloween is quite interesting in this city. A far bigger event than I anticipated. People were dressed up and going out the weekend before and on Halloween night; I even saw a few costumes the weekend after. I was low-key the weekend before, deciding to avoid the busy streets and go to plays and concerts. On Halloween night, I put my costume back on (after wearing it all day at school, I needed a break for a couple hours) and headed to the parade in Boy’s Town. We didn’t realize that by parade, they meant people from the costume contests walking down the street in their costumes. It was pretty lame, but we saw some really interesting costumes.
On Thursday night, the arts event was the play “Metamorphoses” written and directed by Mary Zimmerman. This was the play that we theatre geeks were excitedly anticipating for the whole semester. “Metamorphoses” is an adaptation of the ancient Greek myths found in “The Odyssey.” The most well known fact about the play, and what keeps it from being performed more often, is that it takes place in a large pool of water. The whole audience got towels on their chairs.
It was one of the most beautiful plays I’ve ever seen. I’m a sucker for narrative plays told through stories and narrators; it’s the feminist aesthetic and writing style that strikes me most poignant if done well. And this play was done well. It’s one thing to find yourself connected to the characters, all good theatre should do that; it’s another thing to find yourself connected to the water, the role that it played in all of these stories. It became another character, morphing from role to role as quickly and seamlessly as the actors. One of my favorite Thursday nights of the semester, maybe ever.
Life in the Classroom
The honeymoon period is over. Long over. I’m no longer the fun, new teacher in the room. I’m the teacher that expects things from them, that tries to get them to be quiet, that interrupts their conversations, that expects them to keep their phones and iPods away. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m successful at keep them on task, they just get more annoyed with me now. It’s been a very difficult, very stressful past couple of weeks. There have been some wonderful moments, but sometimes they are overshadowed. Sad, but true.
The past couple weeks we’ve been looking at major platforms of the presidential debates in order to prepare for our class debates. There have been some very interesting and good conversations based around war, immigration, homosexual marriage, and abortion topics. I’ve learned a lot, like maybe it’s not the best idea to tell students where you stand on issues. After telling one student who recently joined our class my feelings towards homosexual marriage, he said to his tablemate, “I don’t like that teacher.” Respectful disagreement with people who think differently than us is something we’re working on. It’s been interesting, and some days more successful than others.
I have ten and a half days left of full time teaching, twenty and a half days left at Kelvyn Park. Now that I’ve counted them, I’m freaking out. It doesn’t feel like our time should be ending so soon. Granted, almost every night when I’m doing homework, I say something along the line of “I can’t wait to be done student teaching.” But in all reality, I’m going to be heartbroken when my students keep going to school and I don’t get to spend every day with them. It’s been the fastest, most stressful, most educational semester of my life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #9

by Kristin Trease - Kelvyn Park High School

Life in the City
This has been the weekend of performances. It’s been wonderful.
Chicago Symphonic Orchestra
Thursday: Chicago Symphonic Orchestra. I’m not the biggest fan of classical music, but I can appreciate its value and beauty.
Friday: Blue Man Group. If you volunteer to be ushers for the show, they let you watch for free. It was quite the experience. It is a theatrical concert, with lots of paint, music made on PVC pipes, and silent sketches. Very fun, but probably not anything I’ll ever need to see again.
Blue Man Group
Saturday: “Kinky Boots.” This is the new musical written by Cindy Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, based on the true story of a man in England who inherited his father’s failing shoe company. By a stroke of luck, he ran into a drag queen who turned out to be the savior of his company: he would make boots for drag queens. It was a very fun, very energetic show that we really enjoyed. And we only paid $25 for $60 seats.
I love weekends full of art. Granted, it was also full of homework, but we’ll try and forget about that.

Life in the Classroom
I planned my first failure of a lesson. Monday was pretty rough. There’s nothing quite like being reminded five different times that the lesson you planned was completely awful. The students knew it, I knew it. It was best to just move on and try to forget it.
Tomorrow will hopefully be the last schedule change for our freshmen. The school is hopefully getting all of that mess straightened out. I feel so bad for the students, but they are troopers.
I also got to join the after school drama club’s first meeting on Wednesday. It was so fun, playing theatre games and meeting some upper classmen. Sometimes I forget there are students other than the ones I see every day. The theatre director also talked to me about helping them out with their production of “Bye Bye Birdie” that is having auditions pretty soon. It waits to be seen how big of a role I can take and whether I’ll be able to see it all the way through, considering I have no idea where I’ll be in February. Hopefully in Chicago, but it’s hard telling at this point.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #8

by Kristin Trease - Kelvyn Park High School 

Life in the City

I am becoming a habitual coffee drinker. Understand something: until 6 months ago, I rarely drank anything with coffee in it, let alone just coffee. This is the kind of thing 9th graders drive you to. On Tuesday, after an awful Monday, I had some coffee before school, finishing it during first and second period. I was hyped up not only on coffee, but also because I really liked the activity I was leading. Yasmine, a girl with a tough exterior and an even tougher boxing stance, asked me what was wrong with me. Caffeine. She told me I shouldn’t do that again. Thursday night I bought a French Press coffee maker. Sorry, Yasmine, get used to crazy, caffeinated Ms. Trease.

The Book Thief at the Steppenwolf Theatre
Saturday, I experienced my first stand-by status for a theatre ticket. Steppenwolf Theatre, perhaps the top theatre in the city, is in the middle of running The Book Thief, adapting it from the young adult novel of the same title by Markus Zusak. I read the book last year in my Adolescent Literature class and absolutely fell in love with it.  Narrated by Death, the story recounts Liesel Miminger’s experience in World War II, living as a German girl, but figuring out her place in the war isn’t among the Nazi’s, but rather in the basement with the fugitive Jewish man her foster parents are harboring. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking book, and I highly recommend it. Here, have a taste of Death:
“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant. . .I am haunted by humans.”
Death as Narrator

I’m so glad I took a shot and showed up at the theatre to see if I could get a seat to the sold out show. It was Steppenwolf’s equivalent of a children’s show, so they had been performing in front of audiences of students for the last few weeks. This was the first public performance. Well worth twenty bucks, but that’s usually how I feel about theatre shows. A good way to spend a Saturday afternoon: I fed my inner introvert and artist. Not that I always want to go to shows on my own, but yesterday it was alright. 

Life in the Classroom

This week I start teaching all five periods of Content Area Literacy full time. I’ve been teaching quite a bit of all the classes, but this week I am officially full time. It’s so ridiculous that we’re in our eighth week. For the next four weeks, I’ll probably be busier than I’ve ever been. Luckily, my cooperating teacher is really great and supportive. She won’t let me drown. 

I really love it when things outside the classroom line up so beautifully with things inside the classroom. Yesterday at the show, there was a big wall painted with chalkboard paint that asked “Who is your upstander?” (For those readers who can’t figure it out from context clues, an upstander is one who doesn’t just stand by and watch something happening, but takes a stand for what’s right and does something about it.) A couple weeks ago, the freshmen learned all about bystanders, upstanders, victims, and perpetrators. We had some really good conversations about the roles we typically take, and why some are better than others. It was a conversation they had the day after the chaos that was the first substitute day, when the classes went crazy. I got some really great apology letters that day. It was cool having upstanders and bystanders come back into my focus yesterday. I really hope these kinds of connections happen for the students, too. 

I’m starting to feel like a real teacher. I can tell when the students are annoyed with me, but I don’t care. It’s obvious when they think I’m acting a fool, but I don’t care. I am starting to get student stories, slowly leaking out on their own. I’m starting to recognize handwriting. I feel so proud when I hear a voice usually quiet, and I feel a twinge of annoyance when I continue to hear the same voice over and over again. Now if only I could figure out how to keep classroom management under control, I’d be a real life teacher. I’ll get there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #7

by Kristin Trease - Kelvyn Park High School

Life in the City
I’m figuring out that the life of a student teacher is no walk in the park. Sure, I could always go walk in the park, but I hardly think that would solve the dilemmas I am faced with. Dilemmas like when I’ll get to sleep, how I’ll have a life outside of school and homework, how to decide between attending extracurricular activities as the high school and having time to do my own thing. My cooperating teacher tells me I’m lucky I’m single, I’m the only one I have to figure into my life plans. I suppose she’s right.
So I prioritize; I decide what can wait, and I make time for experiences. Like Thursday when I skipped going to the homecoming football game to go see a play, perhaps the best play I’ve seen in years. The Arts Event this week was “33 Variations” by Moises Kaufman. Centered around Beethoven and his 33 variations of Diabelli’s waltz, the play follows not only Beethoven’s journey to write the music, but also a woman 200 years later trying to figure out why he was so obsessed with such a small piece of music. It was a moving, heartbreaking play delving into issues like family bonds, love, and slow decay. Words cannot describe this play adequately, so I’m going to stop trying. Do I feel guilty for missing the football game? Kind of, but I think the kids forgive me.

The life of a student teacher: coffee shops and unit plans

The past couple of nights I have been exiling myself to coffee shops in order to get work done. It works, most of the time. Last night was Starbucks, tonight the Bourgeois Pig (great name for a coffee shop, isn’t it?). It’s such a pain to have to leave my apartment to get anything accomplished, but it tends to be how I do work best. Slightly problematic for the budget, but I’ve never been one to keep a real tight budget.
Life in the Classroom
It’s been homecoming this week. Strangest homecoming I’ve ever been a part of. Never a good thing when the weird student teacher is one of the few dressed up for spirit week. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t dress up like a fool if given the chance. Then again, I really don’t care what people think about me, so that probably is a huge contributing factor.
Homecoming Panther guarding our classroom door
Amongst all the chaos that is Chicago Public Schools this year, I find myself becoming more and more aware that the students are becoming my constant. I never know what is going on in the school or the district, but I always know that there will be a classroom full of freshmen that more times than not, are not so willing to learn. It is opposite of how I expected it to be; usually we think of the classroom being the constant factor in the student’s lives, not the other way around. It’s reassuring to see most of the same 140 faces every day.
And every day as I collect papers or answer the same question for the 10th time, I am reminded that this is not a job someone does on a whim. It takes true passion to be a teacher. Notice I didn’t say ‘to teach,’ I said ‘to be a teacher.’ Because being a teacher encompasses so much more than lesson plans and standing in front of a classroom. It means that I carry those faces and stories home with me every night, sometimes full of heartbreak, sometimes full of joy. It means that the “ah-ha”moment I witnessed means so much more than the kid trash talking me behind my back. It means the twelve hours I spent creating the unit plan overview is all worth it when I see how the students figure out how to use their voice. This is not a passion everyone has, and I’m just relieved that as of yet, I seem to have it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #6

by Kristin Trease - Kelvyn Park High School
Life in the City
I’m an artsy person. If you want to know about the latest Bears game, read a different blog. You won’t find any posts about that from me. Maybe I’m missing out on a huge part of Chicago culture, but I’m really, really okay with my play going, museum visiting, concert attending culture.
Last Wednesday night I went to see the Tony Award-winning play, “Spring Awakening” at DePaul University. Here is some helpful advice: make sure that when you come out of a subway stop, you are actually walking south on State (or whatever direction and street you need), because if you aren’t you may just keep walking, looking for Balbo, and you will never find it. Another helpful tip, ask for directions. Most people are willing to help. And then, walk really fast. If you’re lucky, you’ll make it to the theatre two minutes before the play starts, early enough to catch your breath and have your friend laugh at you a little bit.
Spring Awakening
Also a helpful tip when going to see shows, do a quick Wikipedia search of the show you’re going to see. It’s helpful to have some kind of idea what you’re walking into. “Spring Awakening” was a good show, but I was not expecting to see so much…skin. Let me share with you the moral of the play: give your daughter the talk, because if you don’t, she’ll have sex, not knowing that’s how one gets pregnant. Then you’ll be forced to ship off the boyfriend to a reformatory and get her an under the table abortion, during which she dies.  Before you’ll know it, you’ll be daughterless, all because you kept insisting the stork was responsible for babies. Oh, also Germany in the 1860’s was no walk in the park.

Life in the Classroom
I’m beginning to realize I have really, really high expectations. Not that high expectations are bad for students – it’s really important for them to know you are holding them up to high standards. However, when planning a lesson on free verse poetry, I expected all students to write their poems excitedly for fifteen minutes, then be dying to share them with the class. My expectations are way out of hand.
Not that my poetry lesson was a failure; on the contrary, it went really, really well. I was amazed at the kind of poems I read afterwards. I was also really irritated when I searched some fishy sounding ones and found songs on YouTube. Teenagers…
What it made me realize most was this: often times students don’t get the chance to say what they need to say. I really wish I could have shared with you some of the poems that were written. For a group of fifteen year olds, there is a lot of heart break and strength sitting in those desks every day. And I am so, so thankful to hear the stories. I am also aware of how ill-equipped I am to deal with any of it. My job is merely to listen and help in the ways I can, and getting more help for the things I can’t help with. I’m trying to be okay with that role.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Student Teaching - Week #5

by Kristin Trease - Kelvyn Park High School

Life in the City

The biggest complaint about the neighborhood we live in: lack of coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks. I had to travel on the bus for fifteen minutes to find a locally owned coffee shop this afternoon. Slightly annoying, but I can deal with it. Our neighborhood isn’t all bad; it is really central, so hopping on either a train or bus to get around the city is really easy. I also found out yesterday that we live three blocks from the original Playboy Mansion, not that it’s a huge selling factor for me personally, but still an interesting tid-bit.

The "Bean" at Millennium Park
What I love most about this city is the diversity that surrounds us. We live in the prominent, wealthy area of town. I work in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood. When I visit my friends in the Rogers Park neighborhood, I find myself in the most diverse community in Chicago. Yesterday we took a trip to Boy’s Town, the gay community. Friday night we were in the Loop going to an Opera being performed in a church. A few weekends ago we went to a giant craft fair in Wicker Park, the artsy, hipster part of town. Couple of stops south and you’re in Chinatown. Four stops on the Red line train and you’re in the sports hub of Chicago. Forty-five minutes south and you’re at the Museum of Science and Industry. Walk from our apartment to the Chicago Semester offices and you’ve passed some of Chicago’s best shopping. Within a ten or fifteen minute ride on the CTA, we can find ourselves in a completely different world. You can go on an adventure everyday if you let yourself.

Life in the Classroom

Almost every day I leave school with one thought: What in the world am I doing here?

Here I am, a young, white, country girl trying to survive in this huge, Hispanic, city school, pretending like I’m making a difference. And there is no real way at this point to know if I am actually doing anything for these kids that shuffle through our classes. My cooperating teacher tells me to stop worrying about it, that these things aren’t measurable and it may be years before I know the effect I have on these kids. I just can’t get over the need for just a little bit of instant gratification.

So every day on the bus, I try and think about the little wins of that day. Like on Wednesday when Maria told me I looked nice; previously I only got eye rolls and smart aleck remarks from her. Or on Monday when Adholl asked me to come to his soccer game, even though I couldn’t make it (the other team ended up not showing up, so I didn’t miss anything). And last Thursday when a table of four girls told me that I should be the real teacher after I told them I’d only be there until December. Then there was Nicolas who, on Wednesday, actually did all four parts of his assignment; granted, not with great quality, but when he doesn’t usually do anything, it was a big deal for me.
I need to keep in mind that I’m most likely going to learn far more from these kids than they will learn from me. And I need to be open to those lessons and okay with that reality. All those little moments, all the laughs as I stumble over chairs, all the jokes shared between students are silver lining. 

Eighth hour is my favorite class, mostly because they are overly-dramatic and funny. We aren’t supposed to give them hall passes during the last 15 minutes of class, and yet they always wait until then to decide they need to use the bathroom.