From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Monday, March 26, 2012

Student Teaching - Week 9

by Rachel Miller - Bridge Elementary


Ballet Hispanico
What a busy week! This was my first week of full time student teaching and it was also the first time this semester that I had some kind of commitment or activity to attend after school.  On Monday, scenery crew for the play started. Tuesday was seminar day. Wednesday was the Chicago Semester hunger banquet. Thursday I had my weekly art event. This week was Ballet Hispanico at Columbia College. Then, finally, Friday I went to Curie Metro High School with Ginnie and Amber to see students perform the musical, Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Horrors Cast
But of all of my busy things this week, my favorite was definitely going to Ginnie’s school for the musical. First, it was a very neat experience to see a school that is not my own. It was even better that it was my roommate’s because we talk about school all of the time. I can finally imagine it now when she tells me stories about her day. I found it amazing how contrasting the atmospheres are at both of our schools and their surrounding neighborhoods. I am beginning to realize that this is one of the most amazing things about the city. The neighborhoods are so vastly different and unique, that it is hard to believe that they are on the same planet, let alone in the same metropolitan area. Second, the play was incredible. I had no idea what to expect since it was a high school performance, but I was shocked.  I mean the props, costumes, lighting, and acting were nothing to get too excited about, but the music was absolutely phenomenal! When they first started singing I didn’t believe that it was real. They were that good. After the show, Ginnie told me that Curie has one of the best music programs in Chicago, and (here is a fun fact) one of the musicians in The Black-eyed Peas went to Curie High School. I believe it, because, my goodness, those students are seriously talented.

Shamrock Shuffle 8K
This was an especially special and fun weekend (well Sunday) for me because it was the long awaited Shamrock Shuffle. I met up with my teacher, another teacher from Bridge, and another teacher elsewhere in the city to take on the streets of Chicago in my first road race in over two years! It was also the largest race I have ever run in, and it is also the largest 8k race in the country… 40,000 people. There were two separate start times to accommodate everyone. I was supposed to take off in the first group, but I wanted to run with my teacher so I went in the second. Just to give you an idea of how many people were running, we were the second group, right, meaning half of the participants were already running before we even went to the start. Then from the time my wave actually started to the time I actually crossed the start line was about 20 minutes. We weren’t even at the back of the pack either. We were solidly in the middle. It was kind of insane. The numbers also made for an interesting run. I was bumping people all the time and it was so hard trying to pass, but it was okay because it was so much fun! I only ran with my teacher for the first two miles because she needed to walk, so then I was on my own for the last three. I cannot get over how fast the race went by. I felt like I had run less than a 5k when I reached the finish (I guess that is a good sign). I feel like I got the running/road race bug back. I cannot wait to run my marathon in less than 51 weeks!!! Oh yeah, that was another crazy thing I did this week. Coming March 17th, 2013 I will be running 26.2 miles on the streets of Atlanta, GA… wish me luck!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Student Teaching - Week 8

by Rachel Miller - Bridge Elementary


Chicago River - St. Patrick's Day

This week at school was a lesson in patience and flexibility. Since there was still some testing going on at the junior high, for several classes we had to revert to the old “art on a cart” method. However, we did not have a cart so we carried all of the supplies from classroom to classroom. I don’t think that elaboration is needed on how incredibly inconvenient this was, especially since many of the classes were working on different projects. Things were not a whole lot better once we could use the art classroom either. We just got a smart board (which is AWESOME!), but nothing is hooked up, and we are not sure when it will be because our end of the building does not have Internet access. So right now, we have a bunch of great technology that is completely unusable. Also, with the addition of the smart board, we also do not have use of the document camera that I am accustomed to using and the students are accustomed to learning from. Finally, we also have had several storage tables removed from the classroom, and as a result, all of the art materials are sitting on the floor. The situation is far from ideal.

However, I have managed to make the best of it, by finding other ways to teach my students. I have been making use of the white board for demonstrations and have been working one-on-one with more students. I am discovering that the best teachers are ones that can be flexible and make the most of a bad situation. I definitely got a taste of that this week and it is a lot easier said than done.


Pizzeria Uno

This weekend was a pretty crazy weekend in Chicago, with the unusually nice weather coupled with all of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. I had some friends from home visit, and I was incredibly thankful for the beyond gorgeous weather. On Friday, I had deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno’s. I have now tried three different deep-dish places and I think Uno’s is the best so far.

On Saturday, I got to see the river dyed neon green, which was pretty neat. I didn’t know that they dyed it that bright. It was also amazing to see how many people were there. It was nuts; we barely found a spot to watch.

The Chicago Diner
After the river dying, we didn’t hang around to catch the parade. Instead we headed up north to get lunch at a place called the Chicago Diner. Do not let the name fool you because this is actually a completely vegetarian/vegan establishment, and I mean completely. There is not an item on the menu that cannot be made vegan and there is absolutely NO MEAT. For me, being a vegetarian for the past 7 years of my life, this was a dream come true. I have never been to a place where I could order anything on the menu. In the spirit of the holiday, I ordered a Ruben with setian “corned beef.” It was incredible. It actually tasted like corned beef. I do not understand how they did it. I also couldn’t help myself and ordered a vegan cookie dough peanut butter shake. It was to die for. If I had a million dollars I would probably eat at the Chicago Diner for every meal, every day of my life. I am trying not to think about when I leave the city and have to back to limited dining options. It will indeed be a sad day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Student Teaching - Week 7

by Rachel Miller - Bridge Elementary


Working with clay
 This week was the dreaded ISAT testing week at all of the elementary schools in Chicago. As a result, for me, this week was pretty relaxed because I did not have any art classes. Instead my cooperating teacher was assigned a group of students to proctor the test for. These students were part of a class that was composed of a majority of either bilingual or special education students. Since their classmates had special accommodations, they had to take their test separately from their peers. We got the students that were neither bilingual nor special education. We also had to keep the students entertained for the remainder of the day once the test was completed. We did a variety of different games and activities, but the best was playing with clay. One of the Pre-K teachers gave us a box of self-drying clay to use with the students. This was the first time that any of these kids have used clay in the art room since Bridge does not have a ceramics program. It was fun to watch everyone try to make pinch pots, coil pots and pinch animals, and to see their reactions to how the clay felt. It was a lot of fun.

Now it is back to the routine. This week I start taking over the fifth and sixth grade classes at the junior high. I am really excited to start working with the older students. They are a fun group to work with because you can joke around with them more than the younger kids. However, I am also a little nervous because I think they are a much more challenging group in terms of classroom management. Hopefully, all goes well.


Enjoying Kasia's Polish Deli

Outside of teaching this week, I have done several cool things in the city. Last Monday, my roommate and I made a trip to a Polish deli, Kasia’s, in honor of Casmir Pulaski’s birthday. That place might be my favorite place in Chicago so far. The food was excellent and it was super cheap. When I left, I felt like I had robbed the place. It was so awesome.

Chicago Symphony

I also had the opportunity to listen to the Chicago Symphony, as it was the art event this week. It was very impressive. I used to play the violin when I was in high school so seeing the orchestra touched a special place in my heart. It really made me miss playing. If I ever get a spare moment in my life, I think I would like to pick it up again.

On Friday I tried a brand new dining experience. My roommate and I went out with another student teacher friend, Amber, to a Tapas bar. Ginnie has been telling me all about tapas, since she studied abroad in Spain, and we were very excited when we found a place within walking distance to our apartment. Basically, tapas are Spanish appetizers. There are all sorts of kinds, both hot and cold. The custom is to order a bunch of tapas for the table and then everyone shares. So that was what we did, and it was delicious. I haven’t eaten that much food in awhile. We also shared a pitcher of sangria to add to the festive spirit. It was an excellent way to end the school week.

Seek Vintage - Thrift Shop

Finally, I have taken it upon myself to fully enjoy this beautiful weather that we have been having lately. I have been making full use of the lakeshore trail, going on several long runs this weekend. I have also been doing a lot of exploring on foot. Yesterday, I went to a really interesting shop, called Seek Vintage. I had coupon, so I was excited to finally check it out. Needless to say, I was not disappointed, and should probably start keeping a better tally on my budget. But, I have found that one of the greatest parts of the city is finding new places and I am only going to be here a few months so I should make the most of. Well, that is my justification anyway.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Student Teaching - Week 6

by Rachel Miller - Bridge Elementary

Mural Club

I was kept on my toes this school week, especially on Friday. My teacher was not there so I was with a substitute. However, ten minutes before my first class, my sub was moved to a different room and I was told that I would be given a different sub that the school felt should not be managing a classroom. As you can imagine, those were the exact wards I wanted to hear before attempting to teach my first class ever without my cooperating teacher present, not really. It was immediately evident why this sub was not wanted in a classroom by herself. She was not a very nice woman. Even though the day started off on edge, it did get much better. The students were wonderful and it was awesome being completely in charge of the classroom. I felt like I could really open up and let my true teaching style shine through. It was funny though because a lot of my students told me that I sounded like my cooperating teacher with my mannerisms and even the sound of my voice. I guess she must be rubbing off on me. But, I really thought that was an amazing compliment because I think my cooperating teacher is exceptional, and to have anyone think that I am even a tiny bit similar to her really makes me feel great about how I am doing.

Another great moment was mural club this week. We ordered sweatshirts a few weeks ago and they finally came in. We spent the whole meeting Wednesday adding our own personal touch to the sweatshirts by splatter-painting them with a variety of blues and whites for Bridge. They really turned out nice, and the kids absolutely loved it. I even got my own sweatshirt so I will be able to take a piece of Bridge home with me in May.


Outside of school this week, we went to the Shakespeare Theater to see “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” This was the first time that I have ever seen a Shakespeare play performed (besides the movies), and I was very impressed. It is incredible how much more interesting Shakespeare is when you are not reading it out of a British Literature textbook. The play was hysterical; I laughed my butt off. Other than that, this weekend has been pretty low key. I tried bubble tea for the first time and now I am hooked. Tomorrow, in honor of Casimir Pulaski Day, I am going to scout out an authentic Polish restaurant to get lunch at. I think some homemade perogies are just what I need to complete this long weekend. 

CasImir Pulaski - Revolutionary War Hero