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Holmes ’14 Embraced Chicago Experience

Tyler Holmes ’14 – From the day students at Wabash step onto campus they are told that they will transform, grow, and evolve through experiences offered by the college that take their students to areas all over the world. It was my privilege this past week to be a part of one of these highly influential experiences the college offers. This experience was a week-long urban immersion teaching class in Chicago, Illinois.
During my week in Chicago I had the opportunity to experience numerous cultures, events, activities, and most importantly inner-city schools. All of these activities were significant but what I learned by being in my host school, known as Prosser Career Academy, was beyond humbling and what I learned there is beyond words. My time at Prosser included many wonderful moments, some demoralizing moments, but ultimately there were moments that left me with an undeniable sense that education is where I belong. To explain this previous statement and why I feel so strongly about this trip, I will give an example from the day I taught a lesson to a creative writing class.
One of my main objectives during this trip was to answer a question I posed too myself at the beginning of the week. This question was how teachers in urban settings gain respect from such a diverse group of students. I felt that this question was highly important and one that every future teacher should attempt to answer for themselves prior to teaching. Throughout the week I noticed how my host teacher treated and acted around her students and what I found might seem obvious but it is a goal that many put to the side and do not realize just how important it is. What I found was that honesty, sincerity, and genuine care for the students’ lives far outweighed the importance of the amount of knowledge the teacher has. This became irrefutably clear during my lesson I taught. At the beginning of the class when I was asking general questions to the students they seemed to not care I was there and did not want to hear what I was saying. However when I gave a personal story that led into the rest of the lesson, they became more open, participated, and even read some extremely personal narratives that they had written. This moment led to my realization on just how important respect, honesty, and sincerity are and it definitely influenced my future teaching.
Again, this trip was valuable just through all of the cultural experiences we had during the week but what I think is so important was the humbling experiences we all had in our urban schools that are quite different from those in Crawfordsville, Indiana. I am proud to say I was a part of this immersion trip and it is certainly one that I will remember for life.

Leonard ’13 Learned Classroom Skills

Ian Leonard ’13 – After spending six days in Chicago, it’s safe to say that there are a number of things I’ve learned that I can take home from the experience. Having spent the majority of my life in environments quite different from what Chicago has to offer — small, quiet cities and towns — there were certainly plenty of questions I set out to investigate. While the urban setting is quite unlike towns like Crawfordsville, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the culture, both in and out of the classroom. The majority of my time during the urban experience was spent at Prosser Career Academy, located roughly seventy minutes north (by train and bus) from our hostel where we resided.

he experience was very beneficial — particularly from an academic perspective — because my host teacher, Mrs. Nobleza, exposed me to the culture of the school. First and foremost, I was given the opportunity to lead a class by teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for her Freshman AP class. It was really enlightening because I gained valuable experience working with individual groups of students and in addressing the class as a whole. One of the primary questions I planned to investigate during our stay in Chicago was how English classes are structured regarding grammar at Prosser. In working with Mrs. Nobleza, I came to understand that she encourages students to write as much as possible and uses common student mistakes to shape her grammar lessons. She also showed me the value of using technology in the classroom, guiding students through in-class grammar lessons via computer and assigning homework online as well.

I think I also underestimated the importance of public transit in Chicago. The Prosser group, composed of myself and three others, awoke each morning and took both bus and train to arrive at the school. It was an interesting experience to take the same sources of transportation to school as the students. It really opened my eyes to the integral role public transportation played in the education system of Chicago and the workings of the city at large. Even though I’ll be student teaching in Crawfordsville during the fall, this urban experience taught me the importance of adapting to different academic environments, and I’ve come to appreciate what a school like Prosser has to offer as a result. Ultimately, I’ve gained a much better grasp of many aspects of urban education and am encouraged to use what I’ve learned in the educational setting down the road.

Armbruster ’14 Appreciates Classroom Experience

Kenton Armbruster ’14 – This week I am observing and teaching under my host teacher Ms. Tsitsopoulos at Prosser Career Academy.Her classes consist of freshmen World Studies and senior AP Psychology.Ms. Tsitsopoulos gave me the opportunity to teach her AP Psychology class any subject that I felt would be interesting, so the first things that came to mind was the unit on stress that Dr. Bost did back when I had Introduction to Psychology as a freshman and the unit on attraction that Dr. Horton did in Social Psychology back when I was sophomore.
So, special thanks to Dr. Bost and Dr. Horton for providing me with the foundation to be able to teach these topics.  The students in the AP Psych classes had just taken their AP test on Monday so the unit on stress definitely worked at this time in the year, and attraction is always an interesting topic to go over. 
For my teaching during this week I was able to give a lesson Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to three different classes throughout the day.  These classes were all very different from one another, and this gave me a great opportunity to gain some teaching experience.  I had the opportunity to make lesson plans for the days that I taught, and Ms. Tsitsopoulos was very helpful in guiding me through these. 
The urban experience was probably the most nerve racking for me.  Although I am from Indianapolis I do not have any experience with public transportation, and during this week public transportation was the way in which we traveled everywhere.The trip every morning from the hostel that we were staying at to the school was approximately an hour and fifteen minutes.For this trip the other guys who were also at Prosser and I had to catch a subway and then catch a bus and stay on that for almost forty-five minutes.  The idea of riding public transportation was new and very exciting to me.

Overall this experience was amazing for me.  I was able to teach a total of eight classes.For each of these classes I had to create a full lesson plan in the format of the host school.  I was also able to observe how Ms. Tsitsopoulos conducted her class and her relationships that she had with them.  And most of all I was able to take public transportation to any destination that I needed to go.  The Chicago Urban Education Experience was a very enriching experience for me, and I feel that I am definitely able to take this experience and apply it to my future teaching.

Sladek ’14 Writes About Inner-City Challenges

Nick Sladek ’14 – I am student teaching at Prosser Career Academy. I have primarily been co-teaching in the regular and honors U.S. History classes, but have also gotten to observe the A.P. U.S. History classes that my teacher also leads. Tomorrow I will have the opportunity to see some Psychology and World History classes as well.
Today, I taught the U.S. History classes about the political climate in the 1920s. I taught them about the Russian Revolution and the American reaction that lead to the Red Scare, as well as the Palmer Raids and some Labor Strikes. The students in the regular U.S. History class surprised me by being very responsive to the topics discussed and were very vocal about their opinions. The class discussion we had was very interesting, as I got a good look into the perspective that these students have developed as a result of their background that is so different from my own. One student consistently had very intelligent things to say and made many very good points. At the end of the class I discovered that he was in his third senior year. This amazed me.
I also gave the students an activity to interpret and write about some political cartoons from the era. I was struck by the disparity between the students verbal responses in the class period to the cartoons and their written ones that I graded later in the day. They said excellent things but found it difficult to write them down.
Many times throughout this week I have been frustrated by the school system here. There is a very large number of students that are not engaged and barely scraping by. This was a shock to me and very hard to understand. In my educational background, before college, the students that fit that description were a very small minority. Here, depending on the class, they could be perceived as a small majority. I just couldn’t imagine being a teacher in an environment like that, but I am learning how they cope and work with a student population like that. That has been my biggest question for the week, that I unfortunately only begun to answer. How does a teacher succeed in his role if such a large percentage of the students are opposed to learning?

Kallas ’14 Appreciating Program’s Diversity

Jimmy Kallas ’14 – Today was another great day for me taking part in the Chicago Urban Experience program. At Benito Juarez Community Academy today was a half day for the students, this meant that class periods were only 23 minutes long.  Because of this my host teacher Mr. Mich spent most of the class periods for housekeeping purposes, but also allowed for me to introduce myself to the students and answer any questions they had for me.  This was a fun part of the day especially when I filled the students in on the fact that I go to one of only three all-male institutions in the United States.

After the half day in school myself and the other Wabash students spent the other half of the day at a teacher workshop at the Field Museum.  This was another awesome experience as we learned how to apply object based learning in the classroom.  We also explored the task of planning an educational field trip, where the main takeaway was that to have a successful field trip it is more than just showing up and having a day off.  To plan a good educational field trip takes a lot of work and prior planning including cross-curriculum activities.  My favorite part of the day after we finished the workshop was that we got to explore the museum on our own. One of my favorite exhibits was Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is the largest and best preserved T-Rex specimen ever found. 

Today was another wonderful day that I was able to experience because of the Wabash Teacher Education program, not only have I learned endless teaching strategies but I have been able to experience multiple cultures that are rarely seen in Crawfordsville.  This has been a great experience and I am upset that it will be ending in two short days.

Exploring Different Class Schedules

JT Miller ’14 - So today marks the halfway point of our experience in downtown Chicago.  We have spent three days in our classrooms, and have been exposed to a number of new things, not only during the school day.  Today was a half day at Benito Juarez Community Academy.  Each class period was 23 minutes long, and they skipped home room.  The overall theme of the today was that it was a “Benchmark Recovery” day.  Now let me explain what that means.
Juarez utilizes a unique system that they call the Benchmark System.  In the math department they are supposed to cover a total of 40 benchmarks split up among the 4 quarters.   A benchmark is an academic skill that the students need to learn by the end of the year.  A few examples from geometry include being able to calculate area and perimeter, and being able to identify angles, circles, and lines. These are all basic standards that you would expect to find in every high school geometry class. 
This is where the system becomes unique.  Each student is assessed in every benchmark. These assessments are short, one page test containing 3-6 problems.  However, the students must show proficiency in each benchmark twice.  If they fail the assessment, then they have the ability to retake a different version of it at some point later in the year.  They have until the end of the year to show proficiency in each benchmark. 
The school used the shortened class periods today to provide students with the chance to make up the benchmarks that they had failed.  However, I don’t feel like all of the students took advantage of this opportunity.  In each of the 4 classes I was in, at most 5 of the 25 students made an attempt to improve a previous benchmark. 
This is a much different system than I have ever experienced in a high school, and I am looking forward to seeing it in action more later this week.

Sheridan ’14 Watches Robinson ’04 Teach

Jacob Sheridan ’14 – Today was our second full day in Chicago and my second day at Rauner College Prep. Coming from the small town of Culver, IN, whose population of approximately 1,400, adapting to the life in Chicago has been a great learning experience. I am starting to get a hang of the public transit system. To get to school I walk from our hostel at 24 E. Congress to the LaSalle stop of the Blue Line subway. I take the train to the Chicago/Milwaukee stop and from there walk the few remaining blocks to Rauner.
Rauner is a charter school that prides itself on their high college acceptance rate. Although the school is relatively small, it still is a large change from my own high school experience. Rauner is predominantly composed of Hispanic and African American students, which is a vast change from my high school experience, which was predominantly white. Another difference was that the physical classrooms were smaller than I am used to, but this made sense once learned that Rauner’s building had once been an elementary school. The final major difference was that of the block schedule. In my experience as a student in high school, I had seven, 55-minute periods, but in Rauner’s block schedule, the students have three to four 90-minute classes, as well as, an advisory period before and after the regular school day.
My host teacher, Ms. Richling, and her junior level U.S. History class have been very welcoming to me. Today, because Ms. Richling only met with her AP students, who were going to be doing their final preparation for the AP test, I spent most of the day in other classrooms at Rauner. The Rauner school overall is very welcoming to guests, in fact, the students know to greet and welcome in guests who present themselves at the door. Today, I was able to observe three classrooms in addition to Ms. Richling’s. First I observed Jeremy Robinson’s Junior Literature class who spent class time reading John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
Mr. Robinson is a Wabash alumnus who did not do the education track at Wabash, but went into Teach for America and is now in his seventh year at Rauner. I found Mr. Robinson’s technique of classroom management and his ability to motivate students absolutely phenomenal and he was more than willing to mentor to his fellow Wallies.
I also was able to observe in a freshman and sophomore literature classes, where I observed other great teaching ability. Rauner has a very impressive teaching staff.  Because I have been able to observe a variety of classes in a single day, I was able to see a rudimentary development from the freshman students who clearly acted like freshman to the junior students who had clearly developed and matured since their freshman days. It makes me wonder how I acted as a high school freshman.
Overall, the EDU 330 has offered me a brief experience of the life in Chicago and specifically into the high school experience within an urban setting. I expect the week will continue to provide many lessons to be learned both for the students I am observing and for myself. Tonight, a group of us will be going to the Cubs vs. Cardinals game and that should also be a fun experience.

Overly ’16 Learning Teaching Mechanics

Mitch Overly ’16 – Once again I was enthralled and amazed by Rauner. Today was my second day at Rauner and I’m constantly surprised by the quality of teaching that takes place here. They truly do care for the students and under the tight spaces and limited resources the faculty has to work with, they certainly do an exceptional job.

Today I observed and interacted with my co-teacher, Mrs. Yohpe, who is a wonderful teacher. There were three quality aspects of teaching that specifically caught my eye today at Rauner. The first quality that I observed from Mrs. Yohpe as well as from another English teacher was the use of student’s own work as examples. I find this to be an extremely useful tool for teachers to use because it’s extremely relevant to the students. The students will immediately be more interested in the examples because it’s their own work being discussed. It’s extremely applicable because they can immediately take the criticism and feedback from the teacher and students and use it to correct their work.

The second aspect of teaching that I observed at Rauner today was the use of schedule. Here at Rauner they run on a block schedule and the two English classes I am co-teaching run 90 minutes long. 90 minutes can be exceptionally long for anyone let alone a bunch of rowdy high schoolers. The technique that Mrs. Yohpe and I discussed prior to class and which I have seen the last two days is to make activities that last between 15 and 20 minutes. You don’t necessarily have to change subject content but Mrs. Yohpe and I discussed the advantages of changing activities because the kids won’t become complacent and the transition periods remove any complacency that may take place in the students.

The last aspect of teaching that I really liked about Mrs. Yohpe’s class schedule was the emphasis on time for students to do their work in class. Often times, teachers can assign mountains of work to strictly do at home. However, the problems arise when the students don’t understand the material they are working on and then they are stuck at home with no resources to aid them. However, if you structure time to at least start assignments in class the students can raise questions while the teacher is right there in the room with them. Questions can be answered and ambiguity can be defined.

Goodman ’12 Experiencing Diversity

Andrew Goodman ’12 – Having grown up in Aurora, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, I felt fairly comfortable with this trip and knowing we would be fully immersed in the windy city culture.  I was, however, unfamiliar with the prospect of teaching at a predominately black school.  I woke up at 6:30 this morning nonetheless ready to teach.
We had a dry run of how to get to our school yesterday and got extremely lost along the bus route.  But today we were prepared.  The school is well organized with security and faculty strategically placed throughout the halls to ensure student safety. The metal detectors caught me a bit off guard too when I had to scan my backpack through the machine. 
I was placed in a freshman biology class today in which they were learning about natural selection.  My duties today consisted of primarily observing and helping distribute papers.  Later this week I will be working with Mr. Roberts (class of ’05) on designing worksheets appropriate for lower-achieving cohorts of students.
I am very fortunate to have been extended the opportunity to participate in this amazing week-long trip.  We have seen some incredible things including a day trip to the outdoor market.  The culture was primarily Hispanic and we were fully immersed in it. 
 Sunday night we went to dinner at Trufalo’s Italian restaurant and met some alumni from the Chicago.  It was a great time talking about education and learning about what all this week will be. 
Tomorrow after school, some of us will be attending the Cubs game in Wrigley Field and maybe a bar or two.  This week is looking bright and I believe I will remember it for a long time.

Current ’11: Joining Chicago Experience

Adam Current ’11 – Waking up today was unlike any other day of my life. Coming from a small town of 6,000–that’s one stoplight per 6,000–I’m not used to hearing the frequent roll of the above ground train.  hank goodness for ear plugs! Where was I?
As I stepped out into the crisp air, dressed and ready to teach, the first thing I noticed was the sounds — not the buildings. In the cornfields, sound dissipates as it travels, unimpeded. Here, however, the skyscrapers themselves create a soundscape of metal and glass, as the sounds of traffic and people bounce like an echo chamber. As a sidenote, they trap smells as well, but that would constitute another post.  
School, school, I was supposed to blog about my school, right? Kenwood Academy is a 7-12 school located here in the humble realm of Chicago. Demographically, it is a complete reversal of the Fountain or Montgomery County areas. At those schools, the African American population is typically measured as numbers on your hand and not percentages. Today, I was fortunate enough to feel what it is like to be a minority. That may sound weird, but it is weird in a good way.  
The students were very friendly. In many ways, teenagers are teenagers, and the only major difference was the culture itself. Okay, that is a major difference. I’m still not used to watching students go through a metal detector when walking in. As a native of a cornfield, that was a major shock. Otherwise, they are so friendly that I wonder why a metal detector is necessary.  
I have to be honest that my mind is foggy.  I am writing this at 10:07 local time, or 11:07 Indiana time, which means bed.  (After student teaching, bed was typically 10:30 if I could help it.)  Tonight we ate at a Polish Buffet, and I fell asleep on the bus ride back.