Bailey Combs ’15 – I would like to begin by thanking the generous Wabash alumni and the College for funding this trip into the often misperceived Chicago area and its educational system. Today was my first full day observing at Kenwood Academy. Far from being a failing school, Kenwood strives to get students to graduate and get into college but also take with them up to 12 college credits as well.
The first class I observed started promptly at 8 a.m. and was a senior psychology class working on a psychological disorder unit. It required every memory of Dr. Horton’s PSY 101 class as well as a cast of friends who exemplify some of the disorders. After that, it was several periods of 8th grade human geography class where I engaged students to fully develop their PowerPoint presentations and classroom activities for their group projects. Students were very interesting in talking to me and I had several fun conversations throughout the day about class, assignments, and of course Wabash College. Additionally, I was able to observe how to handle a stressful situation amongst co-workers as a white teacher and a African-American teacher soon discovered that the seemingly innocent nursery rhythm, “10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” had a more sinister rendition many years ago. There were apologizes all around and an acknowledgement that ignorance and not malice was truly at the middle of the situation.
After classes were over for the day, I met up with Patrick Rezek, who is also observing at Kenwood Academy, and we started our journey back across town to the hostel we are staying at in downtown Chicago. We had the opportunity to talk with one of the chefs at the school while we were waiting on the city bus. He was very happy to hear that we were enjoying our time at the school and that we recognized urban schools weren’t all gangs, drugs, and violence. Unfortunately, the crowded environment of the Chicago Transport Authority Bus No. 6 prevented us from discussing urban education, as well as sports, with this kind gentleman.
Following dinner, everyone on the trip signed up for an architectural tour of the city by boat. My favorite part was when the tour guide asked if we knew anything about the Art Deco style. It didn’t take long for the memories of soft, warm breezes, crying seagulls, and beautiful buildings of Miami and Havana that I saw on Dr. Hollander’s Cuba Immersion trip last fall to be recalled and my interest level to be peaked. The only downside to seeing all of the old super concrete building of the 1920s and 30s Chicago was hearing about how expensive it was to live downtown. $1.2 million dollars for a townhouse? Suddenly, room and board at Wabash doesn’t sound so bad.
As the week goes on, I plan to not only be more active in the classroom but I also want to see more of the historical sites and museums that Chicago has to offer in the evenings once classes are done for the day. I would like to thank the College and the wonderful Alumni for granting me this opportunity to extend my Wabash College experience beyond the campus but beyond the school calendar too.