From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fall 2014 - Final Thoughts

Haley, Hannah, Shelby, Rachelle, Rogelia, and Brianne
Imagine that an education major from your college is considering student teaching at Chicago Semester.  Consider what you would tell that person in order to encourage him/her to apply to Chicago Semester. 

Shelby Carmichael – University of Mount Union
Chicago Semester is a decision I will never regret. If I could, I would recommend it to every single student who is devoted and eager to evolve into an amazing teacher as well as grow personally. Chicago Semester gave me the opportunity to live in the heart of Chicago and get involved within the city. I enjoyed experiencing the variety of cultures that Chicago has to offer, whether it be just speaking to different people, going to festivals and of course, my favorite, the food experience.

Through student teaching in Chicago I learned accountability for myself, how to deal with situation involving students that I had never dealt with in Ohio.  I became much more independent as well as confident while doing my student teaching. I’ve learned to voice my opinion but also how to sit back and take in the concerns of others. Student teaching in Chicago made me grow as an individual in my faith as well as in the classroom as a teacher.

Rachelle Cole – Northwestern College
I understand why some people may be hesitant about choosing Chicago Semester for their student teaching.  You would be giving up (possibly) your last semester on a college campus with friends, moving to a huge city full of unknown, the “scary” stories of students in Chicago Public Schools.  For my mom, it was the fact that I was going to be living in such a dangerous city, where statistics say your chance of becoming a victim of crime is 1 in 99 (yes, my mom looked it up).  However, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else.

What I’ve enjoyed the most about this experience has been the times that I’ve spent in the classroom.  I remember coming into this experience telling myself, “I am in no way prepared for this.  I don’t know how I’m going to handle such an urban experience.  I can’t handle inner-city kids.  I’m not strong or tough enough.”  However, I’ve learned that I can teach.  I am strong enough.  Inner-city kids do not mean that they don’t care, that they aren’t loving, that they don’t want to try.  They want to be successful, love grasping new concepts, adore their teachers, and enjoy school.  I have fallen in love with my students and have loved getting to know them at a personal level; their interests, their strengths, their needs, their dreams.  From this experience, I’ve learned that I would love to teach students who may need the love, support, and stability they may not be receiving at home.  I believe that I’ve become a better and more confident teacher due to my experience here in Chicago working with students whose cultural backgrounds are different from my own.

I’ve felt that this experience has been a great transition into the “real” world.  I pay rent, maneuver around the city using public transportation (my biggest fear), buy my own groceries, created friendships with strangers, make my own meals, start conversations with strangers, and also learned how to be okay with saying “I don’t know” or “I need help.”  I’ve learned that living in a huge city isn’t so scary, there isn’t crime happening everywhere you turn, and there are friendly people with huge hearts wherever you go.  Chicago is a wonderful place to live because there are so many new things to experience, sights to see, and there is always something going on.  I encourage you to take a leap of faith and come to Chicago.   I guarantee that you will come out feeling stretched, challenged, and prepared for whatever the world throws at you!

Brianne Dekker – Calvin College
If you are interested in inner city public school teaching, Chicago is a great place to see if it’s the place for you. You will experience firsthand how teachers struggle within the bounds of a public school, how troubled students can thrive or flounder in the school setting, and how you as a teacher can make a difference. This experience comes along with all the expected challenges and joys, as well as some unexpected ones. Most of all, this semester offers a multitude of learning in a unique and diverse city. I learned so much about the ways I prefer to teach, what environments I thrive in and what environments are hard for me to work in, and how to create relationships with some wonderful kids. Although the challenges and difficult setting might be intimidating, the students you’ll meet and touch are what make it all worth it. They’re full of love and wonder and so much intelligence. Learning to bring that out of them even in the most challenging of settings is such a rewarding experience, and that’s something all Chicago Semester student teachers are challenged to do and, with the required amount of work, succeed in.

Haley Luurtsema – Calvin College
I would encourage all education majors to student teach in Chicago. What I liked the most about the Chicago Semester experience was the community and the professors. Lisa, my student teacher supervisor in particular, helped me so incredibility much during my experience in Chicago. During our seminars she taught us not only how to become a better teacher, but she was very helpful if we had any questions. Whenever she observed us, she had so much to say and could always find areas where we needed to improve. We learned about diversity in Chicago, social justice, culture, classroom management and more. We were able to create a literacy edTPA, perfect our resumes, and develop our online portfolios as well.

During my Chicago Semester experience I also enjoyed living with other student teachers. We often would bounce ideas off of each other and talk about the hilarious things that happened at school that day.

Throughout this experience I have learned that I can teach in a public school. I believe that I have the skills to manage a classroom full of 30 students. I learned that I constantly want feedback as to how I can improve my teaching and how I want to keep growing as the years go on. Chicago was such a great experience that I would never take back. Exploring the city and experiencing the diversity of the city was incredible. I was able to become more independent by riding the trains and subway by myself even though it was scary at first. Chicago opened my eyes to life outside of West Michigan and challenged me in my teaching profession and Christian faith as well. I would highly recommend this program to anyone.

Rogelia Pena – Judson University
Student teaching in Chicago has given me a broader worldview. Chicago Public Schools is the third largest district in the nation and, therefore, one of the most diverse ones. The struggles, experiences, opinions, and passions that students bring into the classroom cannot compare to the ones one would hear about in the suburbs. I would strongly recommend student teaching in Chicago because education becomes the door for social change in the hands of these students. Teaching becomes more meaningful, and the challenge is worth it. Plus, Chicago is a wonderful and culturally rich city to explore. 

Hanna TeWinkel – Dordt College
If you are considering coming here for a semester, it is definitely worth it! If you are like me, coming from a small town for most of your life, or even a smaller city, it was an amazing experience to come here and experience city life. I loved meeting new people from different schools and getting to know the city with them. I also have friends and family in the area who could come down and visit some weekends and it felt great to “show off” my city to them whenever they did come to visit. I really enjoyed seeing the beauty of God’s creation shown to me in a different way. I am not used to the big buildings, multitudes of people, or fast paced way of life, but that’s what made it so interesting. I could also see the brokenness of the city as well, which made me appreciate the things I do have and my overall experience. By student teaching in the city, I would say the same thing. It was so wonderful to work with students of different races, in communities that differ from my own. I loved the school that I worked at along with the families who send their children to it because there is so much diversity. I learned that I need to have more fun with the profession, smile a little bit more to my students, and enjoy learning with them instead of worrying about if I get to do everything that is on my lesson plan. I really look forward to creating my own community of learners wherever God calls me to go. I am so thankful he called me to Chicago, and can’t wait for where he leads me next!