From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Friday, March 22, 2013

Student Teaching - Week #9

by Victoria Johnston - Mitchell Elementary
Alvin Ailey American Dance
Living in Chicago has been full of more adventure than I ever thought possible. There are endless events, museums, stores, and activities to attend here, some great and some simply interesting. This weekend was a particularly adventurous one. Thursday’s arts event was attending the Alvin Ailey American Dance theater performance. Just like the Joffrey Ballet, the dancers were incredibly talented and I experienced forms of dance I am not as familiar with. They performed one of the most famous Alvin Ailey pieces called “Revelations”, and it was amazing to see how dancers convey a story without even speaking. I appreciate that every performance for the arts events has been diverse within itself as well as from each other. I feel as though I am a cultured individual now. 

Fun with friends
Another adventure is friends from Arizona are here so I’ve been showing them around and enjoying new places as well. St. Patrick’s Day is quite the festive holiday here in Chicago. We saw the river being dyed green on Saturday and also the parade. Our hats were fuzzy, large, and green therefore everyone noticed but it was worth it especially since they were warm. Almost every person walking down the street was sporting green in some fashion. Sunday we toured the Cultural Center, a nine story Macy’s, and the Harold Washington Library. I was rather excited to find the library has practice rooms where I can play piano. All this adventure is almost exhausting, but it has been worth it.
Chicago River
My week in the classroom was a great week. While the students probably have spring fever, they are finally getting to spend more recesses outside. I am much more comfortable in the classroom and am enjoying teaching. Every lesson has its challenges, but I learn something every day whether it is about a strategy that worked or simply failed. Implementing hands on lessons is one of my favorite parts of teaching. This week I began a unit on Westward Expansion and the Oregon Trail. On Friday I created a “wagon” for my students from the desks to show them how small it was and how little the Americans were actually able to take on their 2,000 mile, six month long trip. It was my best lesson yet. I had a blast teaching it, my students were excited and I was completely comfortable at the front of the room.

Another fun moment was Thursday. The date was 3/14 so we celebrated Pi day by talking about Pi and eating pie as a class. The students had fun just sitting and talking as well as eating pie in class. We were also able to implement a mini fraction lesson with the pies. Not every day is a good day, but overall I love teaching and having a relationship with my students. It is exciting finding what the future has in store.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Student Teaching - Week #8

by Victoria Johnston - Mitchell Elementary

Julius Caesar at the
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
It continually amazes me how fast each week seems to pass. Staying busy makes my days fly. Part of the adventure this week was the art event we attended. The Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier is performing Julius Caesar and we joined Thursday’s audience. It was a well done play that was a modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Caesar was portrayed as a political figure that wore a suit as well as Brutus and all the other men involved in his murder plot. Cell phones were also part of the props. Since I am not too experienced with Shakespeare, understanding the plot took much concentration; it was well worth it though. The view of Chicago’s skyline from the theater was amazing as well since it was out towards the end of the pier.
View from the top of the
John Hancock building
My weekend has included many more adventures. Friday night I went to the restaurant and bar near the top of the John Hancock tower and saw an incredible view of Chicago. The lights stretched as far as the eye could see and twinkled in every direction. I became a tour guide Saturday showing school friends who visited the city I have lived in for the past couple months.
Street Performers

On our way to Millennium Park we saw a group of street performers who knew how to capture a crowd. Their scripted advertising was amusing and kept the onlookers wanting to see what they were going to do. These men danced and did amazing stunts such as flipping over five people lined in a row. My favorite dining experience of the week was Saturday night Sushi. I went to a place called Japonais with my brother and the appetizer recommended to us was The Rock. This food choice was thin slices of beef served with a hot rock and it was our job to cook our meat on the rock. It was interesting, but a delicious choice.
Jigsaw Strategy
Life in the classroom is also its own adventure. This week was ISAT testing and my students had a test every day for an hour. We still have one more this coming week. Testing took up enough time that planning for my week was rather easy, but it was difficult to get enough instruction time. One of the most exciting moments this semester happened during a science lesson this week. I had my students read a science article, one of three articles, and teach other students in the class about the article they read. The groups drew pictures on their posters and answered the reading focuses well. Seeing their learning was exciting and a highlight of the week.
Friday my cooperating teacher was gone so I took charge of the class completely. There was a substitute because I am not a licensed teacher yet, but her day was much easier than she probably expected. Having full charge of the classroom was a great experience and gave me a chance to truly be the teacher. The next couple weeks will be busy, but I am looking forward to the field trip I have planned to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It seems the students will enjoy it and have a chance to explore their learning first hand.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Student Teaching - Week #7

by Victoria Johnston - Mitchell Elementary

March has come and the weather is finally “warming” up here in Chicago. Four years ago 35 degrees sounded dreadful and now hearing it will be sunny and 35 or 40 is exciting. I have acclimated slightly to winter climates, but I will still take 110 degrees and a sun burn over possibilities of frost bite and wind chill.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO)
That said, one of the most exciting nights of the semester for me happened this past week. Thursday’s art event was attending the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Yo-Yo Ma was their guest soloist and having the opportunity to see one of the most well known and talented musicians in the world made me feel like a kid in a candy store. We sat behind the orchestra and, in my opinion, had some of the best seats in the house. Their selection of music with Yo-Yo Ma was a modern piece and dissonant at times, but it was melodic in its own way.  
Yo-Yo Ma with CSO
I never thought I would see a day when a twenty-three minute song seemed short. Also, the ease and unity with which the symphony played was astonishing.  The entirety of the performance sounded like one unified instrument. It was the best surround sound anyone could experience.  My inner classical music nerd came out during the performance leaving me wishing to come back weekly to their performances. This memory will remain in my mind as a highlight of the Chicago Semester experience.
Pizzeria Uno
I am becoming a deep dish expert the longer I live here. I tried Pizzeria Uno this weekend which is the home of the first Chicago deep dish pizza. I am torn between there and Giordano’s as my favorite, but since I could eat pizza on a regular basis I simply enjoyed sampling another deep dish pizza. To any visitor in Chicago I would recommend Pizzeria Uno or Giordano’s for a delicious pie.

The classroom was all over the map this week. I had some joyful days and a particularly difficult day. Wednesday was a half day and after the students left I had the opportunity to acquaint myself with other teachers and the school more at professional development. My students continue to bring me joy daily. Earlier in the week I played line-up trivia with the class where their table group can line up first if one person in their group gets the trivia question correct. I asked if any student knew where Kazakhstan is and one boy raised his hand (he often raises his hand only to guess) and said Asia. This is the correct answer, but he was shocked he was right since it was only a guess and the look of surprise on his face when I said, “You’re correct!” was priceless. 
Harlem Renaissance
Another great moment was while grading papers. I assigned students to write a letter to a friend about the Harlem Renaissance to practice their writing skill for the week and solidify their history lesson. One student wrote his letter to Paul Bunyan and it gave me a chuckle when I came across the letter. Friday, though, was a difficult day. The students did not listen well and many drama cases plagued the group throughout the day. I also had the heartbreaking moment of catching a student cheating during the math test. While the situation necessitated action, I wish that such things did not happen in the classroom. Mitchell has low tolerance for actions such as cheating and disrespect in the classroom, but some students still attempt to test the system.

Despite the rough day Friday, I am looking forward to continuing full time teaching and being in the classroom. Teaching is a joy I am glad to experience and while my time at Mitchell Elementary is short, I am greatly enjoying my set of 36 fifth graders and their unique personalities as people and as learners.