From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

Monday, February 29, 2016

CSO and Doughnuts

Erin Walters - Irving Park Chicago International Charter School

Greetings CSers!

This week was so busy, both socially and academically. I’m finding it hard to do all of the work I need to right now, knowing that the city is out there with so much to offer. I’ve loved getting to balance my work with outings to go and experience and explore.

On Thursday I had the opportunity to go to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the rest of Chicago Semester. The programs holds art events weekly, usually on Thursdays and, if not then, on Wednesdays. Students get free admission to the events, so it’s a great way to experience Chicago without having to spend extra money. The Orchestra was especially fun because it meant an opportunity to dress up, which I always find exciting to do occasionally. The music was amazing too. I love getting to witness others’ talents in events like this, especially knowing that I could never do what they do. Music is such a beautiful and intricate thing, and it’s so breathtaking to watch all of the pieces of the orchestra come together to make one astounding sound. 

This weekend held lots of great opportunities for fun as well. The weather could not have been any better, and it was great to take advantage of it! Molly and I decided to try another doughnut place this weekend, this time a place called the Doughnut Vault. What’s fun about this place is that they are only open until they sell out of doughnuts, so people line up as soon as they open in order to get one. For some reason, this quirky sense of community—people uniting together for the love of doughnuts—allowed for a fun experience in addition to the out-of-this-world doughnuts. I would highly recommend visiting the Doughnut Vault if you find yourself in Chicago!

As for the school week, I am finding that it is much easier to adjust to being in school when the weather is better. Even the students seem happier, not having to walk in all bundled up in their coats, hats, mittens, and scarves. They got to go outside for recess for the first time in a while, and after they returned inside I could see the difference it made to have gotten some fresh air. My teacher and I even went for a walk during lunch with the other 3rd grade teacher, which was a great break from the classroom.

We also got to celebrate my teacher’s birthday on Friday! The kids were so excited and brought her lots of gifts; it was adorable. We celebrated with root beer floats and part of a movie at the end of the day, and my teacher’s brother came from Nebraska to surprise her! Her reaction was priceless, and the students were equally as excited to get to see Cooper, whom they had Skyped before in the past.

Overall, it was a great week! I hope it was for all you reading this as well!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Crazy cold, crazy busy, but crazy good too!

Erin Walters - Irving Park Chicago International Charter School

This week in one word: crazy. Crazy cold, crazy busy, but crazy good too! All of the student teachers started to more seriously work on Ed TPA assignments since we need to start recording our lessons soon, which is starting to seem a little scary. The work itself isn’t scary, but the thought that the seemingly ambiguous task is all of a sudden a reality already is scary. Time is going so fast!

However, there are a lot of things you can do in Chicago to help you through stressful work. One of those things is eating donuts. There are so many amazing donut places around downtown that it should be illegal to not try at least three of them while living here. My family came and visited me this weekend, so I decided this called for checking off one of those three shops. Bright and early on Saturday morning—you have to go early or they’ll sell out—Molly and I set out to try Do-Rite Donuts. Trust me, they are worth the morning trip to the Loop. There were so many different kinds that I ended up with a dozen different donuts. My favorite was probably the apple pie donut or the inside outside upside donut, which entailed a chocolate and peanut covered bottom and espresso cream in the center. So, so good.

I also got to check out the Shedd this weekend! It was insanely busy, so I think it is worth it to go early rather than later like my family and I ended up doing as we did not have much time to look around, but even the hour or so we spent there was so amazing. There are a plethora of crazy fish in this world and getting to see them all in one building was both breathtaking and fun. I would love to go back yet while I am here to see more, but from what I did see I would have to say that my favorite, and I think my nieces’ favorite too, were the Jellyfish. They’re so graceful, and the way they put different lights on them to reflect was beautiful.

Finally, and probably the best way to end any excursion with family in Chicago, we went to Lou Malnati’s Pizza for dinner. The wait was crazy long, I think thanks to Valentine’s Day, but the food was so worth it. I’ve tried a couple different pizza places so far, but Lou’s has been my favorite. It’s dangerously close to Canterbury, but I can’t say I find anything wrong with going once a month or so. The pizza is fresh, warm, and so worth it. Also, with the right amount of people, it only ends up being around $10 a person!

I did teach this week too, I swear! However, I had so many great adventures too that I thought it was worth sharing more about those this week.

Until next time,


Monday, February 15, 2016

Hello from Intelligentsia Coffee!

Erin Walters - Irving Park Chicago International Charter School

This coming Tuesday will mark the one-month anniversary of my move to Chicago for the semester, and time has flown by. I’ve been so busy from school and events and exploring that I feel as though I’ve been here for six months, but at the same time it feels like I arrived just this morning. 

One thing I’ve found is how easily I’ve adjusted to life here. It’s definitely overwhelming at first, but as soon as you get settled into a routine and start to become more confident in navigating, everything falls into place with ease. I’ve already met a lot of great people in this program too, which makes this experience that much more of a blessing.

Life at school has been so fulfilling too. This past week my class went on a field trip to The Museum of Science and Industry. Opportunities like this are part of what makes student teaching in Chicago so fun. The students loved getting out of school for the majority of the day and getting to explore the exhibits the museum has to offer. By the end of it, the four girls I was in charge of were lying on the floor, absolutely exhausted.

I’m finding that I, too, have been very tired from teaching. I’m starting to do better with this, but learning how to budget energy is turning out to be just as important as budgeting finances. I ended up losing my voice at the end of this week, which forced me to take it easy this weekend. It was difficult to stay put, but I am almost fully recovered now, so the resting was worth it!

After school, I’ve found that the best and most efficient way to explore the city when you’re tired from teaching is to find places to go along the route you take to get home. I am fortunate to commute with another student teacher that loves to adventure, so we’ll often find different shops or coffee places that are off of certain stops we pass on the way home. It’s so easy to just get off the train earlier, or ride it a bit further, and see what that stop has to offer. It’s fun to walk around and see new places in Chicago. So far we’ve gone to Irving Park, Belmont, and have gone places off of our normal stop as well. We’re hoping to check out Fullerton soon!

It’s been a lot of fun to experience Chicago with new people, and I hope to find more places to adventure soon!

Until next time,


Monday, February 8, 2016

Student Teaching Blog #1

Erin Walters - Irving Park Chicago International Charter School

Hello, fellow and future Chicago Semester students! My name is Erin Walters, and I will be blogging for CS on my experiences while I am student teaching this spring. I have already been in the city for about four weeks and have fallen in love with the views, the people, and the pace of Chicago already.

While I am here, I am living in Canterbury Court Apartments, which are conveniently placed in a nice area close to the heart of Chicago. There are so many amazing things happening just outside my door at every moment of the day, and I love that I can hop on the L and go just about anywhere easily. I am a runner, and I have already gone to the lakeshore trail a few times to run along the water, despite the 20-degree, and colder, weather.

My apartment is small, but my roommate and I did some rearranging and decorating as soon as we arrived, and it has made a world of difference. It’s comforting to look at pictures and paintings from home and know that even though I am enjoying myself here, I still have pieces of Holland to keep me company. Living in basically one room with another person sounds like a nightmare, but I’ve found that with school, events in the city to attend, and other friends to visit, it’s actually quite nice.

As for my placement, I am working in a 3rd-grade classroom at the Irving Park campus of Chicago International Charter Schools. I have 29 students in my homeroom, and they are all enjoyably energetic, happy to be learning, and overall a wonderful group to work with. My teacher has actually taught this group for two years now, and I can see how this has strengthened her relationship with her students immensely. I haven’t done a lot of teaching yet, but what I have done has been great and I have learned so much already on how to adjust my plans to tend to the needs of my students, even while I am teaching them.
For the most part, I have adjusted well to living here. The early mornings and commuting to school isn’t always fun or easy, but even that has simply become routine and hasn’t phased me too badly. I am lucky to have another student teacher from CS in my school, and we are able to commute together each morning and evening. I love having someone to share stories and experiences with as we’re taking buses and trains to and from Irving Park.

I look forward to posting more about my experiences while I am here, and hope that you will enjoy reading more about them! The Lord has blessed me with this amazing opportunity, and I am honored to be able to share it with you all and to also record all that I am able to do while living in Chicago.