From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Student Teachers

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