From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Monday, December 19, 2016


Samantha Woldman - Hayt Elementary
As my time in Chicago comes to an end, I just want to highlight some of the wonderful experiences I have been blessed enough to partake in while in Chicago. My time this semester has been consumed mainly with student teaching. That being said, I would like to give you a brief recap of my time in Chicago! Truly, this time has been the most challenging season of my life. However, this semester also served as a time of intense personal and professional growth.

Chicago Semester for me, has meant pushing myself when I was unsure of what comes next. This semester has been a formative time in my life. I was pressed to pursue work, friends, and life in the city all within a few months’ time.  This challenged me because I am a naturally introverted individual. This information, is invaluable when entering the program. Going in, I imagined a semester that would promote growth and understanding, however I could never have imagined the outcome of this semester. I feel that in the last 4 months I have learned more about myself, the relationships I'm involved in, and being a professional, than I have in any other chapter of college. So please, consider Chicago, consider yourself, and be ready for the opportunity to discern your experiences.  

Additionally, when entering student teaching, I was ready to engage with a fourth grade group of students. Little did I know that over the course of the semester, this class would soon become my “babies!”  For me, fourth grade seemed too old, however as I look at them now, I would never change my experience. These wonderful students bring me to tears on a weekly basis. I have truly found and served such a loving student body while working at Hayt. My students built me up each day and they press me to be better and grow. I would not trade my placement or time in Chicago with these wonderful, glorious, wise, and empowering students.

Due to the constant motion of my time in Chicago, I have really learned the importance of community. In Chicago my community was a small group of people that I could turn to at all points to guide me through difficult situations. These people include, my family, my boyfriend, and my wonderful roommate Jess. Without this constant group pouring into me, this semester would not be possible. Each person in my community played a vital role in keeping me sane this semester. From yelling with me at midnight when we found out we would not be striking, to numerous late night texts and phone calls. To these people, and many more in my community, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without my community in Chicago I would not have made it. That being said, if you are considering Chicago do it! Do it, but find your community. That may not be a large group, it may only be a few, but find those with similar views as you, and really support and build one another up. Do it!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary

Hello Folks,

The past few weeks of my semester have been jam packed with adventures and activities. I have been scrambling to complete assignments and the edTPA, visiting friends in Michigan, and exploring further what it means to be a student teacher in an urban setting. My weeks here in the city of Chicago are dwindling, however the busyness continues. As this semester progresses, I continue to reflect on my experiences here in Chicago. Below are a few of my reflections from the past two weeks.
First, and most importantly, student teaching. Student teaching is the reason I am in Chicago, and part of the reason for my exhaustion. Though student teaching is a wonderful experience, it is not an easy task. Each week for class with my wonderful, loving, and generous fourth graders, I prepare 25 lesson plans, and countless resources. Needless to say, this experience has stretched me more than my schooling leading up to this has prepared me for. It feels as though my mind is constantly running in 12 different directions, while I attempt to juggle multiple tasks. That being said, if you know me, you know I got a B in kinesiology in college for not being able to juggle. That should help you to visualize how the semester is going.

All joking aside, student teaching has just been a simply wonderful experience. This week in my classroom I was able to speak with the diverse population of students and  have the pleasure of teaching about the presidential election. The students, 98% of whom are considered minorities in this nation, feared the outcome of the election, unsure of what this could mean for their futures. After a time of discussion, lament, and reflection, my students were better able to process their many emotions. This opportunity, though avoided by some, presented a wonderful opportunity in the classroom to speak about respect, justice and love for all people in our nations, including those who don’t often show these values. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to speak openly with passionate fourth graders about topics that resonate so close to the hearts of many in our country. Someday, I know my students will teach my generation what it means to love and serve justly.
Moving away now from the student teaching aspect of Chicago semester, an amazing thing happened this week… I completed my edTPA! This multistep assessment has been a constant burden on most of the student teachers in Illinois.  Completing question after question on this assessment seems tedious, and takes time away from what we all want to be doing, bettering ourselves for our students. All this being said, having the edTPA completed alleviates much of the stress and exhaustion that has been weighing on me recently.

Have no fear, these last few weeks of student teaching haven’t been all deadlines and requirements. I managed to squeeze socialization and exploration into my schedule as well. Last weekend I had the opportunity to bring my roommate Jess on her first visit to Michigan, where I go to school. While visiting Michigan, we visited friends, explored apple orchards, and crunched fall leaves (a task I have greatly missed since being in Chicago.) This break from the city, and many of the requirements that needed to be completed, allowed an opportunity to recharge. This was much needed after the busiest two weeks of student teaching yet!

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Frights

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary 

As Halloween rolls around, costumes, scary things, and decorations have been occupying the minds of many of the students at Hayt. This Friday at school, the students and teachers were asked to dress up as their favorite story character. Many students came dressed as Harry Potter, Superheros, and other famous book characters. As someone who loves a good spirit day, I began thinking of what some of my favorite stories growing up were. After some brainstorming I decided, I was going to be The Giving Tree.
Paper Bag Princess and the Giving Tree

Friday morning I walked decorated all in leaves (made out of paper) into my classroom. My lovely fourth grade students quizzically asked, “What are you?” These questions lead me to, at the end of the day, share the story with my students, many of whom had never heard it before. The students listened attentively as the story was read, clinging on to every word. Their eyes teared as they heard the end of the story, they were amazed how willing the tree was to give to her friend.  Excited and eager that they could share, and better understand my costume, they all declared how wonderful it was or how they wanted to be the giving tree next year.

Scary things, however are not just filling the minds of the students in my fourth grade classroom. My mind is occupied by something recently that is even scarier then ghost, clowns or any other villain. EdTPA. The deadline for the edTPA, the teacher assessment required by Chicago Semester and the state of Illinois, is creeping ever closer. Within the next two weeks this assessment will be turned in. This test deadline, though tolerable, is frightening to me because it is a brand new concept. I am unfamiliar with this test, as I go to college in Michigan, where this is not required. However just as the spookiness of Halloween will pass, in two weeks, so will the fear and fright accompanying the edTPA.

Due to the impending doom (due date) of the edTPA, this week has been busier than normal, that being said I have not had many opportunities to go out and explore the city. However, each week Friday, Jess and I normally go out to eat after school as an end of the week celebration. This week we did that, stopping to grab some frozen yogurt at the shop right down the street. This small treat, plus the nap that followed, made for a wonderful start to the weekend.

Happy Halloween Weekend,


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Growing Everyday

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary

This week Wednesday, marks halfway through my adventure in Chicago. Though, barely halfway through this semester, I feel that the opportunity to Student Teach in Chicago, has been one of dramatic growth. As I spend time in reflection, I can identify many areas in which I have matured or changed in the last 7 weeks. These changes have taken place in my personal life, in the classroom (both as a teacher and as a student), and in my relationships with others. Below, I will highlight a few of these areas, what I have learned, and overall what I have seen in myself over the course of the semester (so far).
Jess and I after day one of student teaching 

One of the areas of growth that was easy to spot from the beginning of the semester, at least to me, was the writing of this blog. Normally, as an introverted person, opening up and sharing my thoughts with others in writing makes me shutter.  Even my dearest friends and relatives have not read my writing, or rather, have never been allowed to read my writing. My thoughts are normally something I prefer to keep to inside my head. That being said, writing my deepest thoughts, or even shallow thoughts on paper for all to see has always been horrifying to me. However, upon being asked by one of my Supervisors, Lisa, to write the blog, I began to think of what this could do for me. This semester as a whole, is an opportunity for me to push past my comfort zone. Through this blog, and in turn the vulnerability that comes with writing it, I am free to share more of myself with those around me.

Temptations Concert
When I look at the growth I have had thus far in my student teaching, I cannot help but laugh. Entering into student teaching I was a scared little education student, afraid of what the future would hold. I had worked in many classrooms before, however none as extensively as I would be Hayt Elementary. I had only aided in classrooms, spending roughly 15-20 hours a week at a school. This would soon become the amount of time I spent at Hayt for about two days of my week. Student teaching is unlike anything I have experienced thus far in my teacher preparation. It really is just that, teacher preparation. Each week in my student teaching, I create around 20-25 lesson plans, resources, and modifications for my students. This is by no means easy, and I am certainly not done growing in this area (and likely will never be), however I have come leaps and bounds from my first day of student teaching when I thought I wasn’t going to make it.

Finally, I have grown in the relationships I have with those around me at Chicago Semester and those far from me. Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with a few high school friends. The three of us went to a Temptations Concert (A Motown Group from the 1960’s). The concert was filled to the brim with people over the age of 60, along with four eager 21 year old girls sitting right in the middle of the room.  Spending time with these wonderful women, many of whom have known me since I was an awkward middle school girl, lead me to realize something. Relationships, THANK GOODNESS, are constantly changing. We did not sit, as we did in middle school just trying to figure out how this life works. Rather, our conversations were related to work, hardships we faced, and school. The relationship I have with these women, and the growth I have seen in them, makes me eager to see where my relationships with new friends from Chicago Semester will lead.

Until Next Time,

Sam Woldman

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Treat Yourself!

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary

I have learned many valuable lessons this week in Chicago, as I do every week. One of these lessons was the importance of taking care for yourself. This week has been filled with surprises, events and activities. As an introverted person, these surprises, paired with the constant hustle and bustle of student teaching in a large urban city, can sometimes seem overwhelming. I realize that by allowing myself time to recharge after a busy week, I set myself up for a better start the following week.

Sam (right) with roommate Jess
After a three day weekend, I was expecting to be gone from my students for a long period of time. As I wrote about last week, it seemed that the student teachers would not be working in Chicago Public Schools this week due to the Strike. However, Columbus Day rolled around and the strike date had not yet been solidified. When I went to bed, there was still no decision about whether the teachers were going to strike. I began, at this point, to realize that the strike may not be the reality for this week. That was confirmed at 5:50 am when my alarm rang loud, signaling the start of a new day. Upon checking the news, I saw that the Chicago Teachers Union and the City of Chicago had a tentative agreement on  a contract, there would be no strike. This unexpected, and last minute, turn of events began my week with a rocky start.

Though rocky, I would not trade it for anything. Spending time learning about and loving my fourth grade students is the highlight of my student teaching thus far. Each day I cherish the moments I spend with my students. From welcoming them into our classroom at 8:15 am with a smiling face, to laughing with them as they leave at 3:15 pm, and everything in between, my students provide me with comfort.  Without the care-free love of my students, this semester would be impossible!

With that being said, most of my time on the weekends is spent writing lessons, completing edTPA work, and compiling unit outlines so I can be the best for my students. However, each weekend I chose at least one activity to do around the city.  These activities provide a much needed break from the constant work necessary for student teaching.

This week, with Monday off for Columbus Day, my roommate Jess and I decided to cross an item off our Bucket List:  the Signature Room at The Hancock Center. The Signature Room is an elite restaurant nestled in the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower. Jess and I entered the restaurant hoping to eat just dessert, however unbeknownst to us this is not allowed. Long story short, we left this restaurant spending 80 dollars for 2 entrees and a shared desert. Though shocked, the view of the Chicago skyline was wonderful and all in all the experience was something I will never forget (and likely never repeat).

So, don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself. It may help everyone around you.

Until Next time,


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Funk, Funk Funky Week-New

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary

As I sit in my apartment creating this post, it seems that in a blink of an eye week five is complete. Each day was filled to the brim with events, lesson plans, and edTPA work. These things, paired with the impending talk of strike have made me focus on the truth presented throughout my college career. Teaching, or student teaching, requires great flexibility. This week as I was student teaching at Hayt Elementary School there was a few areas that required my flexibility.
Hayt Elementary

The first, perhaps largest area, was the talk of a strike within the Chicago Public Schools Teacher Union. The talk of striking began due to struggle to find common ground between the City of Chicago and the Teachers Union. The Union contract has not been revised for years, leading to many dissatisfied teachers. The teachers union, ready to make a statement, set a strike date for October 11, 2016.  Due to this potential strike, another area of my student teaching was affected, the completion of my EdTPA.

EdTPA, a new concept to me, is a Teacher Performance Assessment. The assessment is a student centered, subject specific, and multiple measure assessment of teaching. In order to become certified in the state of Illinois it is required. All this being stated, this assessment of teacher candidates has many components. The requirement this week was the filming of up 20 minutes of literacy instruction. These clips were supposed to highlight student’s engagement in topics, as well as teaching tactics present in a certain focus area. These videos were originally arranged to be completed by Friday October, 14. However with the strike set for next week, filming needed to be moved up. The filming provided some stress throughout the week and again reminded me of the importance of being flexible in teaching.

Even though student teaching is picking up, I am starting to realize the need for personal time. This week I have done this in small areas. Whether it is exploring new places to create lessons, attending the weekly art events, or adventuring around the city, I believe these activities are imperative to experiencing the full value of the city.

This week, outside of the classroom, I was lucky enough have time with those I love. As student teaching continues and the load gets heavier, there is less time to socialize. This weekend however, I was blessed to spend time with my parents and boyfriend. I spent a much needed weekend with my mom, dad and Jon (my boyfriend). We explored the city and cherished the times we had together. After a month without seeing them, this time was a much needed breath of fresh air.
With Jon

In addition to exploring the city together, on Sunday Jon and I made our way to Soldier Field for a Bears Football Game. Being from Illinois, and a big fan of football, obviously I was excited for this new opportunity. To make this game even more interesting the Bears were playing the Lions. The Lions are Detroit, Michigan’s Football team, a team Jon is an avid fan of. The was the first Bears win in the regular season, which made one of us very excited! Being in Soldier Field and seeing my 3rd Chicago sports team play in a little over a month, was such an amazing opportunity. I only have one team left to see, the Bulls.

Until next time,


Monday, October 3, 2016

City Life

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary

It has officially been a month since I entered into this new season of my life, student teaching in Chicago. This semester is filled with great personal growth and numerous eye opening moments.  Since being in Chicago I have gained information daily about myself, the stereotypes I held, and what it means to live life in the city of Chicago. Each day, I am faced with countless events that allow my narrow world-view to widen. This week as I write this post, I would like to share a few moments that have given me a new perspective of what it means to be a student teacher living in a big city.
Students goals for this school year

When heading to or from Hayt Elementary School, I spend 45 minutes on a red line train, and 15 minutes walking.  During this time, it seems I am invited into the lives of the individuals whose paths cross mine. Coming to Chicago, I initially believed the city to be an area of solitude or rare engagement with strangers. This week I have found this assumption to be incredibly incorrect.

One morning I saw that trains, despite my initial thoughts, do not isolate individuals. On the way to school I shared sorrow with a young woman, no more than 16 years old. This young girl was heading out to what she believed would be a normal school day, until she answered a phone call that changed her life. Though I only heard one side of this conversation, I knew this girl had just tragically lost a loved one. I have no knowledge of what, or how he passed, but as she wept bitterly the community of people on the train came around her. We knew at this time she needed support and love. Friends provided love and comfort through hugs, strangers provided tissues, while others lifted the hurt and pain of this girl up in prayer. The idea of isolation and brokenness is often solely present in people’s thoughts of Chicago. We overlook the good. However, as I sat praying for comfort for this young girl, the love of the people of Chicago, the very real people on my train, busted a stereotype present in my mind.
Blackhawks Game

Finally, the lesson that I have learned about living life in the big city, is that it is imperative to find good in every experience. This week, between teaching three subjects at Hayt, being observed, class at Chicago Semester, and extracurricular events, I still found time to enjoy the moments these activities provided. The most prominent example I can think of from this is the Blackhawks game I attended this week. Some of you are probably thinking, “Wow, this girl really is sporty. Last week the Cubs now the Blackhawks Game.” To you people I would say that is not entirely true. Spending the fall semester in Chicago means many sports teams (Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears and Bulls) will be in season while I am here. That being said, I have challenged myself to attend a sporting event from each one of these teams throughout the course of the semester. During my time leading up to the Blackhawks game I was dreading taking the time away from planning and preparing my lessons. However, by going to the game I was able to forget just briefly about all that had burdened and stressed me this week. The game provided me an escape from my routine, which I am learning is okay from time to time.This week while student teaching I also came to another realization about life. I CANNOT WAIT TO HAVE MY OWN CLASSROOM!! Don’t get me wrong, I have treasured my time thus far exploring fourth grade.  Being able to spend time teaching reading, social studies, and science to these wonderful, young children this week has been nothing but a blessing. I love watching as a student who has struggled with a concept for so long finally gets it, the way his eyes light up with understanding, or when a shy student slowly begins to open up and draws you the most beautiful picture. Leaving all of this after watching the relationships form and the students grow sounds heart wrenching.  These children have provided me with so much love in the past month, saying goodbye is what I dread most about student teaching.

I hope you enjoyed a brief look into the growth I have felt this week.

Until we meet again,

Sam Woldman

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cubs, Ice Cream and CPS

Sam Woldman - Hayt Elementary


My name is Sam Woldman, and I am currently in my senior year at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids Michigan. At Calvin I am double majoring in special and elementary education, with a minor in urban education. This means the entirety of my senior year will be spent in various classrooms student teaching. This semester I have the incredible opportunity to come together in community with students from various colleges to live, work and learn in a Christian community in the city of Chicago. Throughout the fall 2016 semester I will be blogging to share my experiences from student teaching, adventuring, and navigating life (and the public transit) in Chicago.

Four weeks ago I was prepping to move into Canterbury court apartments, a wonderful apartment complex, that comes fully furnished, but was rumored to be very small. After reading countless internet reviews, and scaling the internet for pictures of the apartments, I imagined them no larger than a closet. Thankfully, my initial thoughts were incorrect. The studio apartments, which house two people, are comprised of one main room, a small kitchen area including stove and refrigerator, a HUGE closet (I mean huge, you could fit a bed inside) and a bathroom.  As someone who has never had their own room, and who lived in a dorm room for two years, this apartment seems like more than enough space. Plus with all the new opportunities to utilize around the city, who would want to be trapped inside an apartment anyway?

Prior to student teaching, and during the first few weeks of the semester, I have been seeking every opportunity for adventure the city has to offer. I have spent endless hours exploring food, taking public transit to all ends of the city, going to sporting events, and of course stopping at the beach to catch the final warm days before winter sneaks up on us. I won’t share all of these memories, as this post would never end, but I will share a few of my favorite adventures.

Sam (left) with roommate Jess
One of my favorite outings thus far happened within my first three days in the city. Some of my friends from Chicago Semester and I, on the spur of the moment, decided to see a Cubs game. Within half an hour of thinking of the idea we were heading to Wrigley Field with $13 nosebleed tickets in hand, happy as could be. For those of you who are not sports fans, the Cubs, are one of Chicago’s baseball teams. For decades the cubs have usually performed poorly, however this year they are doing splendid. Being able to get up and go, last minute to a 13 inning (usually games are only 9) baseball game, that the Cubs won, was sure a wonderful experience for my first week in Chicago.

My second adventure has to do with ice cream. For those of you who do not know me, ice cream is my absolute favorite food in the entire world. Whenever I am stressed or just went to treat myself, I will go immediately to my comfort food of ice cream. This week I was feeling the need for some quality ice cream. Upon the referral of one of the teachers where I student teach, my roommate and I hopped on the bus for 15 minutes. After ordering we watched as heavy cream and Oreos became ice cream right in front of our eyes. If you have never heard of this, I would highly suggest watching a video of rolling ice cream. If eating ice cream does not calm you, watching people make rolling ice cream sure can! This experience, plus the taste of the Nutella Oreo ice cream, just needed to be shared.
Rolling Ice Crea
Finally, the reason I came to Chicago! To student teach of course. I am student teaching on the north side of Chicago, in a Chicago Public School called Stephan K. Hayt Elementary, or Hayt for short. Over my past three weeks in Chicago I have been blessed by my cooperating teacher as well as the 26 fourth grade students I have the pleasure of teaching. My classroom is considered an English Language Learners classroom, as well a bilingual classroom. Of the twenty-six students in the classroom, there are around sixteen different languages and dialects spoken. Though challenging at times, seeing and being a part of such a wonderfully diverse community fills me with joy daily. Whether it is seeing students break language barriers by using nonverbal communication, or observing a quiet student taking a new student who moved from Mexico less than a week ago under her wing, I cannot help but feel blessed by all the opportunities Hayt has offered me so far. Though I am only teaching two subjects currently, Science and Social Studies, I feel like the students in this fourth grade classroom are my own. I am delighted and honored to get the opportunity to learn with each one of these students.

That is all for now.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Final Blog

Erin Walters - Irving Park Chicago International Charter School
Hello friends and fellow CSer’s!

I am so sad to say that this semester is now coming to a close, and this will be my last post. Time has flown by so quickly, and I have loved getting to write and share my experiences with you through this blog!

One thing about me that I haven’t gotten to share too much about this semester is that I love to be outside. It’s hard to do this when it’s cold and snowy out, but now that the weather is changing I am able to find great places outdoors to spend my time. 

One of the places I loved to be over break was the beach. Coming from Holland, going to the beach is second nature to me, so getting to do this in Chicago was the best thing I could have asked for. The water was still way too cold for swimming, but I still managed to get sunburned, read a book in the sand, and play some Frisbee with friends. I really can’t complain!
This past week was spring break for the majority of the student teachers, including me, which meant I spent lots of quality time doing nothing but relaxing and adventuring. It was so great to have some time to do some of the things I had wanted to do, and luckily the weather was great for the majority of the time so the week went really well!

I also finally got to explore Lincoln Park more. I found that it’s actually walking distance from Canterbury and has lots of amazing places to go during the day. There is, of course, the zoo (which is free!), but there is also a beautiful conservatory with colorful flowers and amazing landscaping designs (this is also free!), and a ton of green space with baseball fields, soccer fields, and basketball courts as well as just some good ol’ trees and grass to chill on (and it’s free!). I had been waiting for a good time to find a place for hammocking, and Lincoln Park South Fields did not disappoint on a beautiful sunny Saturday.

Yesterday (April 25th) was my birthday, but since I knew I would be back in school and also have class then, I celebrated on Sunday by grabbing dinner with some of the amazing people I have met in the program. We went to a burger place called The Butcher and the Burger, off of Armitage. It’s a build-your-own-burger place that is similar to Five Guys, except that you literally pick everything from the meat and seasonings you want to the toppings and the kind of bun to put it all between. Everyone had something different, and all the burgers looked amazing. For dessert we went to Sweet Mandy B’s, which is near Fullerton area, and has literally every sweet possible. It made for a great celebration in the city!

Now, I am in my final week at CICS Irving Park. My students are already talking about how sad they are to see me go, and I’m already preparing for a rough last day, as I have to say goodbye to my 29 favorite third graders, as well as my amazing Cooperative Teacher Ms. Nolan. I have learned so much in this placement and enjoyed each experience I got to have here. Coming to Chicago to student teach was one of the best decisions I have made, as I know I would not have grown as I have in any other place than here. I’ve decided not to stay in Chicago to teach, but I know that I will take what I have done here and apply it to wherever I do end up teaching.

Overall, it was a great last weekend and week spent with some great people in some amazing places. Chicago has been absolutely fabulous this semester, and I am so sad to be leaving in less than a week. I am thankful for all of the experiences I have had here and the people I have met, and will forever be glad that I got to call this city home for a few short months. While I am excited to return to Holland and see my friends and family, I will never forget this experience and know that the friends I have made here will always have value to me, even as we go separate ways.

Thanks to all of you who have followed this semester, and have a blessed life!