From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Friday, May 25, 2012

End of Semester Thoughts #3

by Lisa's Small Group

Lindsey, Margaret, Ginnie, Amber, Lisa, Karley, Caroline, & Steve
Lindsey Springstroh – Hope College
Student Taught at Curie Metro High School

I would encourage anyone who wishes to become the best teacher possible to student teach in Chicago through Chicago Semester. Living and student teaching in Chicago expands your worldview, and helps you understand life outside of Michigan. It is unlikely that many of us will land a teaching job in Michigan, so it only makes sense to practice your teaching in another state. You will meet many challenges while student teaching in Chicago (ie. truancy, language barriers, lack of funding), but as your cooperating teacher helps you overcome these, you'll feel prepared to tackle anything that comes your way in your future teaching career. I truly feel that I would not be nearly as prepared for my first year of student teaching if I had stayed at Hope. My cooperating teacher was wonderful, and helped me understand how to teach in an urban setting. Regardless of whether I teach in a big city in the future, student teaching in Chicago will look great on my resume (and on yours), because it shows that you are capable of adapting to diversity, which is key for educators.      
Margaret Snyder – Central College
Student Taught at Cooper Elementary

The thing I liked most about the Chicago Semester experience was that it gave me a sense of being grown up and out in the real world, but I was still walked with and guided. I was scared to be out on my own, so I wanted a mixture of independence but also support; Chicago Semester gave that to me. One thing I learned about myself the most was probably how independent I really could be. Class was no longer a three-minute walk, my meals weren’t made for me, and there definitely wasn’t a cleaning lady coming every Thursday leaving me a sweet note on my mirror. I thought I would hate the transition, but I found I genuinely enjoyed the whole process. I now take ownership of the meals I cook, bathrooms I clean and the trust in myself to get where I need to go. I have truly enjoyed every second of being here and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world!  

Virginia Norrgard – Central College
Student Taught at Curie Metro High School

Chicago Semester was an excellent place to complete my student teaching. Having already gained experience in rural and small schools in Iowa, I wanted to be exposed to an urban classroom to better understand education through a different lens.  At my placement I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of students and faculty in a large school setting.  One of the greatest challenges, yet most rewarding experiences I had, was teaching in the bilingual program. Here I was guided in providing instruction in Spanish to my students who are English language learners in the bilingual Spanish program. By having this experience in Chicago, I learned many things about myself. Perhaps the greatest of these is my ability to be adaptable to any situation. I learned how to communicate with all my students and also to change my lessons to fit their needs for each given day.  This experience may seem intimidating to you right now, but you need to know that your cooperating teacher and the Chicago Semester supervisors will provide you with all the support you need. I highly recommend this opportunity to any prospective teacher who is curious about urban education. This student teaching placement will equip you with knowledge and experiences that you cannot find in Iowa.    

Steve Cabassa – University of Mount Union
Student Taught at Kelly High School

If you are thinking about student teaching in Chicago with Chicago Semester, you should definitely do it!  I feel so much more prepared after going through the rigors of this program.  I learned so much valuable information and was really able to grow as a potential teacher.  The best part by far though was being in the big city!  For a small town guy like myself, it was a truly eye opening experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Also, having taught in Chicago looks so much more impressive on a resume than the typical small schools in Ohio.  So, if you are looking for an experience that you will always remember and set you apart from all the other job applicants, look no further than Chicago Semester!   

Karley Jones – University of Mount Union
Student Taught at Ray Elementary

There were many endless things that I enjoyed about my experience in Chicago. The city alone was simply amazing and had so many things to offer. I was never bored between the fun city life and planning for lessons the next day. Living in the city was a huge adjustment for me but it’s easy to quickly get the hang of things and I felt like I belonged here in no time. The school where I student taught exceeded my expectations I had prior to arriving in Chicago. The diversity within the walls of the school was a wonderful, different experience for me and I learned so much from my students. I have learned over the course of these 14 weeks that I am much more open-minded than I thought I was. In order to enjoy this experience I had to accept many differences and uncomfortable situations. Fortunately, I found myself falling in love with the city and what it offered me. My students helped ease my stress of being away from home because I was so busy planning lessons and preparing things for class the next day. Overall, the experience in Chicago was so much more than I had ever planned for myself. It wasn’t long enough, in my opinion. I truly enjoyed student teaching in such a large classroom setting, thanks to the amazing staff and my cooperating teacher who I have become friends with. I have met wonderful people during my 14 week internship and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.        

Amber Moore – University of Mount Union
Student Taught at Ray Elementary

You may come from a small town or come from a medium sized city.  Either way, everyone has a comfort zone that they are fearful of stepping out of.  Coming to do my student teaching was the best decision I’ve ever made during my time in college.  I have heard so many classmates complain and confide to me how they wish that they would have done it; I didn’t want to be one of those people.  One of the things that I enjoyed the most about Chicago Semester was my placement for my student teaching.  Although I was gaining lots of knowledge at my school and through my various placements, I would have never had the experience as diverse as this one if I stayed in Ohio.  Doing my student teaching through Chicago Semester gave me so many opportunities professionally and personally.  There will be stressful times along with good times, but you take those in stride throughout your entire time here and remind yourself that it will all be worth in the end.  Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone, and don’t let anyone deter you from this experience.  If you can do it, then do it, or find a way to do it.

Caroline Bartko – Central College
Student Taught at Cooper Elementary

Chicago gave me a great experience teaching a diverse group of learners. I really enjoyed trying to get to know each student and learning about things that motivate them. This helps me to understand what I need to do as a teacher to keep them interested in my class. Most importantly, teaching at Cooper helped me to understand how to teach ELL students and how to modify my lessons to fit their needs. This will help me in my future because I want to work with ELL students and a diverse group of learners. I think that this placement helped me to prepare to continue pursuing my goals.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

End of Semester Thoughts #2

by Carole's Small Group

Hannah, Bailey, Samantha, Rachel, Carole & Rebekah

Kelly Robbins – Hope College
Student Taught at Coonley Elementary

Taking part in Chicago Semester was the best choice for me.  Moving to Chicago allowed me to grow in many ways that I believe were only possible by leaving my college bubble.  I have seen growth personally, professionally and, socially.  Coming to the city I was a college student unsure if I could make it in such a populated area.  Chicago is not the small town of Holland I was used to.   Living in a city gave me the chance to be part of the bigger picture.  Living and socializing with new students gave me a chance to find who I am outside of college.  There is no doubt my student teaching placement helped me grow in ways that would not have been possible teaching in the small towns of western Michigan.  I was challenged with a multi-grade class of nearly 40 students.  I quickly learned that many of the students would test me and push me.  However, in the end I have come out a stronger person.  Between taking on the “city life” and balancing it with the challenges brought on by my placement, I am confident I will succeed after college.  Chicago Semester provided me with the appropriate support to smoothly transition out of college.  I am confident that God placed here to strengthen me and prove that I can thrive in whatever is to come.

Hannah Anderson Totten – Central College
Student Taught at Mitchell Elementary

Throughout the Chicago Semester Program, I enjoyed working directly with my student teaching supervisor for support and ideas to implement in the classroom.  It was also great to meet with students from multiple states all studying education.  Our diverse educational backgrounds allowed us to collaborate with one another.  While in Chicago I discovered that my skills can easily be adapted for any classroom situation.  I loved working with my students, even though I had no similar experiences while studying at Central College.  I learned so much and was able to grow under the supervision of great cooperating teachers and powerful Chicago Semester supervisors.         

Rebekah Marras – Calvin College
Student Taught at Solomon Elementary

In the Chicago Semester experience, I really enjoyed getting to know people from different schools and seeing all of the blessings and challenges that face urban education. By students teaching in Chicago, I learned, in a new way that I love to love students! This semester, I was given the challenge of working with some particularly difficult students. However, in this experience, I learned that I love to find ways to show even the toughest of students the love of Christ!     

Samantha Green – Carroll University
Student Taught at Clinton Elementary

If anything, student teaching at Chicago Semester will open your eyes more than any other experience has. This is definitely what I enjoyed most about my experience; specifically in regards to learning more about myself. Faced with a completely different culture and atmosphere than I was used to, I quickly learned about myself in a way I never thought possible. I realized what things in life were most important to me and what things bring me joy and peace. I cannot say I'm a fan of city living, but I've seen the vibrancy of the Chicago residents and visitors. It truly is a place for the diverse to come together as one. Student teaching at Chicago Semester has caused me to reflect upon my own life and the education and opportunities I had in comparison to those available here. And personally, student teaching in Chicago has made me appreciate my home state of Wisconsin that much more.  

Bailey Schrock – Calvin College
Student Taught at Solomon Elementary

This was a unique opportunity to see what urban education is like. Through this semester program I was placed in classes of 30+ students and discovered that I can handle them. There are many challenges but by overcoming them I became stronger. Because this semester was such a challenge, I feel accomplished by completing it. I am a stronger teacher and know that I can reach all students in these large classes. By working in CPS I feel like I could work in any school.         

Rachel Miller – University of Mount Union
Student Taught at Bridge Elementary

This semester really inspired me as a teacher. I know that because of this experience I have truly realized my vocation to be an educator. I never considered teaching as work. It was the best part of living in Chicago. On the weekends, I missed being at school. I also realized that I have a strong passion for working with students that are disadvantaged compared to students in high-income communities. I loved working with students from an urban setting and I know that is something that I want to continue to do in my future.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

End of Semester Thoughts #1

by Cynthia's Small Group

Cynthia, Bree, Haley, Sherry, Wendy, Chelsea & Alisha

Bree Breuker – Calvin College
Student Taught at Jamieson Elementary

First off, let me just say how much I’ve loved student teaching in Chicago – the city is great, the kids are amazing, and I’ve learned so much about myself as a teacher.  I have always wanted to experience the big city, but I wasn’t really exactly sure how much I would enjoy it or whether or not it was for me in as long-term type of thing.  So doing my student teaching in Chicago seemed to be the perfect fit; it was something that could give me an idea of what the city was like while still only being a semester commitment.  I have fallen in love with this city though.  I love getting on public transportation or walking around and seeing so many different types of people; I love getting to school and seeing so many different colors of kids and knowing that they each have such unique stories, completely different from their neighbor.  My kids, while they can be tough at times and a bit scary at the beginning, are just kids who are misunderstood and want some attention.  

I became a teacher to help kids, and for me, being here in Chicago in the school that I’m at has been one of the most rewarding experiences so far because I can see how much I’ve helped these students.  They make me laugh, they make me almost cry because I’m laughing so hard, and they’ve shown me how much kids just like them everywhere need a teacher that cares.   I would recommend Chicago Semester to anyone that is interested or even thinks they are interested; come and experience the city, make a lot of new friends, become a better teacher, and enjoy every minute of it!

Alisha Compagner – Hope College
Student Taught at Boone Elementary

The Chicago Semester program is a program that desires to add to the experiences of individuals who are at the conclusion of their college career.  The best thing about Chicago Semester is the wide variety of individuals who participate.  It is an opportunity to meet many new people, from a variety of colleges, who have joined together to experience the urban life of Chicago.  Not only is it a program that gets you out into the field, but it is a program that is spiritually driven to connect your experiences with Christ.  I have learned how to collaborate with people from all around the world through my student teaching experience, and I have learned the importance of diversity and connecting with people of many different cultures.  This program opens your eyes to new styles of living, people you may never have been able to come in contact with, and the diversity that surrounds you each and every day. 

The student teaching experience is especially beneficial.  I was able to differentiate for students from many different countries, who spoke more than 40 different languages.  I learned how to collaborate with teachers, who also were from different cultural backgrounds, to develop lessons and curriculum that would meet each child’s physical and emotional needs.  The experience in Chicago was beneficial, and will whole life long memories. 
Chelsea Schuen – Trinity Christian College
Student Taught at Jamieson Elementary

What I enjoyed most about the Chicago Semester experience was getting to know new people from the different schools. I built friendships that I know will continue beyond the end of this semester. From my experience as a student teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, I have learned just how much emotion I invest into my job as an educator. I loved getting to know each one of my students and hearing their stories, as heartbreaking as some of them were. I found myself wanting to pack my kids up and take them with me after I finished the semester; I could not imagine waking up and not seeing their smiling energetic beings in the morning. This time I spent in Chicago Public Schools was the most rewarding experience that I have ever engaged in. I am so grateful that I chose to take part in the Chicago Semester program. 

Sherry Runia – Northwestern College
Student Taught at Boone Elementary

I am shocked that my time here in Chicago is almost done! I have truly enjoyed student teaching in Chicago - it has been a great learning experience!One thing that I have enjoyed most while student teaching in Chicago is getting to know the students in my classes. They are wonderful and I will never forget them. Currently, I am student teaching in 2nd grade and 2nd graders are so honest- they tell you everything! After student teaching in Chicago, I can see that I have been challenged in many ways, including learning how to have patience when my patience is running thin, along with learning how to go around, through, over, or under obstacles. God has challenged me in this way and encouraged me to be a better teacher by pushing me to work through my weaknesses. Chicago semester has been a great experience and is something that I will never forget!

Haley Brillhart – Central College
Student Taught at Peterson Elementary

I so very much enjoyed the students during my experience.  I could not begin to describe how much I have grown to love them for all of their differences.  I was able to teach in a very diverse classroom.  This meant I had a lot of challenges, but so many more rewards.  I got to see so much growth out of the children in all academic areas and even some in behavior.  I learned that I can be pushed past my limits.  I can be put outside of my comfort zone and thrive.  My experience at Chicago Semester was so enriched and helped me grow both professionally and personally.  I will forever be grateful to them for allowing me this experience to really see how far I could go and how much I could grow.   

Wendy Matamoros Gomez – Dordt College
Student Taught at Jamieson Elementary

Through Chicago Semester, I was challenged professionally, spiritually, and even physically (I know it wasn't as cold, but it was a lot of walking). I do not regret doing the Chicago semester because of that. I loved being exposed to the beauty that exists in the diversity of a city setting. I learned that I love learning about different cultures more than I thought, and how important it is to value each person. My classroom was very diverse, and I loved getting to know each of my students as individuals and the unique jewel they are to God.