Meeting Alum In Germany a Highlight

George Go ’18 – Over the past few days, we’ve continued our excursions in Germany. This included visiting the Bebenhausen Monastery and the Schloss Museum, as well as having the privilege of learning about Germany’s political system from Wabash alumnus Dr. Jared Sonnicksen ’01, who is currently a post-doc at the University of Darmstadt.

Students in the interior garden of the Bebenhausen Monastery

Students in the interior garden of the Bebenhausen Monastery

On Wednesday morning, the group took a hike to visit the Bebenhausen Monastery. Although the trek up there a decent ways away, I think that I can speak for the majority of our group about how jaw-dropping the scenery of Bebenhausen was once we first arrived. Once we made our way down, we stopped and explored the monastery. An interesting fact about the monastery was that it was originally Roman Catholic and then reformed into Protestantism. The monastery showed this to us when we took a closer look at the building’s unique architecture.

The next morning we were greeted by Sonnicksen. After Wabash, he received a Fulbright to continue his studies at the University of Bonn with the help of a scholarship. He then taught English for 3 years, and struggled a little bit with the culture shift between Germany and America. Sonnicksen discussed how different the political system in Germany is compared to the United States. He talked, for example, about the Gewaltenteilung, or separation of powers. This included their parliamentary system being broken up into the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.

Dr. Jared Sonnicksen '01 explains the German political system.

Dr. Jared Sonnicksen ’01 explains the German political system.

Later that evening, we took an excursion to the Schloss Museum of “Alte Kulturen,” or old cultures. In this museum, they have ancient artifacts dating back to around 40,000 years ago. These cover the time of the ice age and the cognitive revolution in human development, and they represent some of the earliest art objects every discovered. We were able to see first-hand ancient figurines of various animals carved out of Mammoth ivory and then discovered tens of thousands of years later in caves outside of Tübingen. The museum also included pieces of ancient culture from areas such as Greece, Italy, and Egypt. We saw things such as ancient ceramic art, swords and armor, and sarcophaguses throughout the museum. Towards the end of the museum, we got to see sculptures of Roman and Greek figures including the goddess Athena to famous war heroes such as Alexander the Great. Although it has only been the first few days of our trip, it is easy to say that we have seen a lot of interesting things thus far.

Teaching Experience Enriches Career

Tyler Yoder ’15 – So with our last night in Chicago winding down, it is time to look back on our experiences today and throughout the week. Teaching this week in Chicago has been life changing in multiple ways, and I feel like all of us have taken home some valuable lessons.

Even though I have already completed the student teaching portion of my licensure, I was still excited to get this new experience teaching in a large urban school. What I found is that there are tons of ways teachers can effectively instruct their students around the restrictions that teaching in an underfunded school district can bring. I’ve found that the passion that these teachers have for their students is beyond amazing, and it’s something that future teachers should absolutely look to for inspiration.

Being in a school like this in practice is very different from simply discussing urban school in a seminar at Wabash. When you’re in the school, your words and your actions could have real world consequences, so the way that you try to bond with your students is incredibly important, and it could influence how students view you for years to come.

Getting to eat dinner with some alumni in the area who are involved with schools nearby was an eye-opening experience. Hearing some of their stories about their practices, their schools, and themselves can paint a picture of what a successful teacher for an urban school looks like, and they have great advice for anyone willing to listen.

Classroom Not Really That Surprising

Matt Scott ’17 – One of the biggest things that I believe happens to students upon arriving at their (Chicago) schools is the culture shock.  However, that isn’t the case for me.  I went to a school that was similar with a large amount of black students who enrolled.  It wasn’t as large of a number as Kenwood, but it was very similar.  Going into the first day, I knew pretty much what I was getting into and knew that there wasn’t going to be many surprises.  However, one thing I noticed is that there isn’t a lot of disrespect to the teachers as I thought there would be.  My high school had students who didn’t care who was the authority figure and disrespected almost everyone in the building.

I think another thing that I was expecting based off my own personal experiences was that there would not be many students who really care for their education.  While that may be true, there are also many students who truly care about being in class and working hard to get a good grade and hopefully obtain entry into a college. It is hard to see because there are indeed many students who are there just to get by, but hidden amongst those students are students who truly hang on every word of their teacher and strive for success.

If I could offer some advice for the students who are coming next year, I would make sure that you are fully invested in being in a place and school so much different from your own.  Even though you may think you have an idea about what school will be like, it is likely that it will be so much more different.  Enjoy the city and life that most are probably not accustomed to because it may change the way you view the city and city life.  Finally, enjoy teaching with the kids and host teacher.  You may not know it yet, but there could be a possibility you end up back in the CPS system, or working in a school you never would think you’d want to work in.

Chicago Classroom Might be Good Fit

Kyle Morgan ’17 – Teaching at Kenwood Academy High School has been incredible because it has been unlike any other teaching experience I have ever done. I have had the opportunity to teach classrooms that have more diversity than any other classes. My host teacher teaches African American History, which is something I have limited experience in.

Another new experience for most of the guys was public transportation.

Another new experience for most of the guys was public transportation.

I will openly admit I was nervous about teaching in a school that is more than 90 percent black because all of my teaching experiences come from rural areas in Indiana and Illinois. Yet, I can honestly say that my Wabash education fully prepared me for the challenges. On my very first day I led discussions on stereotypes facing urban students and specifically African American males. This led further into discussions about what students here in Chicago know about rural Illinois and the stereotypes that exist about where I come from. From there, we as a class explored solutions that could possibly help solve those problems. My students had the opportunity to learn about my background as well. I told them that I have little experience with diversity but was very excited to learn from them as well as teach them things that I know. They were very receptive and open to my experiences and what I bring to the classroom. I know my host teacher was very excited to have a young teacher in her classroom, and I brought a new way to connect with students, who I am not that much older than.

This has been an incredibly rewarding experience because not only have I experienced a new classroom setting with a fresh set of challenges, but I have enjoyed  doing it. I have received so many wonderful compliments from students and teachers at Kenwood, which has made my experience worth it. This experience has reassured me that I want to teach children someday and maybe even here in Chicago.

Classroom Experience Was Welcoming

Patrick Myers ’17 – When getting into to Chicago I had no idea what to expect. I had doubts about the hostel and also the school that I was placed in. The teachers and students in the CPS schools are similar yet different from the ones that are in my hometown. Curie Metropolitan High School has roughly 3,000 students, and Hispanic students make up 90 percent of the student body. There are also 22 history teachers in the department, and for the most part they get along with one another and collaborate well together.

Another part of the cultural experience is trying new cuisine.

Another part of the cultural experience is trying new cuisine.

The classroom setting and students were much different from what I expected. I expected the class to be a mess and not safe, and for the students to be very loud and not well behaved. Well, I could not have been more wrong about my expectations. The students were very well behaved, and responded well to me being in the classroom and were willing to ask me questions about my education and where I was from. Most of the teachers that I have observed created a good classroom atmosphere and the students responded well to the teachers’ actions and how they handled the classroom.

The urban education experience, so far, is something that everyone at Wabash should have the opportunity to do.  So far, this trip, has given me a new perspective on how education can reach different ethnicities in the classroom. Also, being a white teacher in a predominately Hispanic and Black classroom is something new that I had to face. I thought that I would have a very difficult time connecting with the students, but I actually had no problem with the students and they respond well to my questions. The advice that I would give future students is just take everything in and have a fun time, and do not go into the trip thinking that it is a waste of time. This trip has been amazing, and the school experiences have been even better.

Settling in to Germany Immersion

Harrison Schafer ‘17 – Though we have been in Tübingen for just two days, I’ve noticed significant differences not only from Wabash, but also other German cities.

Professor of German Brian Tucker, at left, with students.

Professor of German Brian Tucker, at left, with students.

Elena Mezger, a former Wabash language TA, and her brother Pablo welcomed us to their town with open arms, as well as with gifts of chocolate & pretzels. Our group immediately embraced the city.  These first few days have involved quite a few hours of exploring the city. Our first stop was fittingly the building in which we would be learning on weekday mornings: the Neue Aula. This lovely building houses classrooms for science and law, but it will be hosting our intensive German class for a few weeks.

Unfortunately for the students studying here, they do not have the luxury of rolling out of bed and strolling right into Econ 101, all within five minutes; their university is strung throughout the town. Not too terribly long after our first stop, we ventured over to the Neckar, the major river, which cuts through the German city. While passing over the river, the group stopped to enjoy the quintessential picture of Tübingen and its slice of the Neckar. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves strolling through the Neckar Island, enjoying the calm waters surrounding lovely scenes of Tübingen’s greenery.

We were soon greeted by a daunting figure. Before us sat a large monument to Friedrich Silcher, a renowned nineteenth-century composer of “Volksmusik.” However, the artist did not sit alone. The group saw an odd juxtaposition of this German composer, fused with images of German soldiers. We learned that the Nazis in Tübingen erected this memorial in 1940. Utilizing Silcher’s music for the people, they sought to rally its citizens around passion for the war effort. As we wondered why such a statue would still stand today, Dr. Tucker and Dr. Thomas proceeded to explain; perhaps the German people chose to keep a reminder of the Second World War, creating a dual memorial: the statue itself, along with an informative sign to explain and contextualize the statue’s memorial function during the Third Reich.

Neue Aula, at the  University of Tübingen, where students are taking German classes. Photos by Mark Elrod '99.

Neue Aula, at the University of Tübingen, where students are taking German classes. Photos by Mark Elrod ’99.

We then broke into discussion; the group could not fully sympathize with the idea of keeping a memorial with such negative associations standing. Americans pride themselves on their patriotism, top to bottom. Surely, Americans would never keep a similar statue up, especially with the recent controversies surrounding Confederate flags. Fortunately for us, Pablo and Elena provided shared anecdotes about their German upbringing and about how Germany today still works to come to terms with its dark past: the frequent attention to the War throughout their education, the lack of German nationalism, etc. They talked about the new generation of Germans who are trying to balance the guilt of German history with a sense of pride for the role Germany plays in Europe today.

As mentioned earlier, Tübingen is a college town. Students breathe life into this city; with some 30,000 students, the students of the university compose a third of Tübingen’s population. Whether you eat at an Ethiopian restaurant or a cozy cafe, you cannot avoid the German students. As I walked through the university’s Mensa (their Sparks, or student cafeteria), faces both young and old soon were enjoying the day’s meal. That typical lunch hour looked ludicrously similar to our Midnight Munch with a sea of students coming together at common tables and breaking bread. Fortunately, we get to play pretend for a few weeks and “attend” this prestigious university.

With Elena as our hometown guide, we look to hone our German skills and perhaps fool a student or two into thinking we actually do study in Tübingen. Though we may be a tad more eager than our German counterparts in the Neue Aula, we have already tallied an effective three hours in the classroom, and I definitely look forward to more as I observe my progression over my two year stint studying in the German program.

Classroom Experience Very Exciting

Cole Seward ’17 – The experience in urban education is second to none. After day one of teaching, I can say that all expectations have been met. It may have been cheating, but I made all my expectations after researching the school I was placed at. I assumed I would have primarily Hispanic students and a bilingual teacher. Something that did catch me off guard was the ease to interact with these students of a different culture. With each student, I tried to be as welcoming as possible and also answer any questions they may have had. Something I found funny was the students’ shocked expression when they realized I was a Spanish minor. I believe the last thing they expected was a student teacher from some small town in Indiana to know some Spanish and have a general sense of what the students or the teacher may be saying.

Teaching in an urban setting is fun. I feel very comfortable because I came from a public high school where the culture was somewhat diverse. The biggest thing about teaching in Chicago is that my class is primarily Hispanic, which is something I have not experienced. It is a learning experience and is actually a great opportunity for me to work a little on my Spanish. There are a few students in each of my classes that do not speak Spanish, but they willingly spend their own time learning the language or at least some key words.

My classroom was very open with a lot of discussion and focus on real world applications. I think my host teacher does a very good job of setting up a lesson plan for the day while keeping an open mind and tending to the needs of the students. That is where discussion can really be useful because the students can express their understanding of the topic and apply their own thinking to try and solve problems in different ways.

Even though the experience in the classroom is great, the overall experience of the city of Chicago is very awesome as well. Living in a hostel is not bad at all and I would just classify it as a really big dorm building. Living with seven guys to one room is neat because it gives you a chance to connect with people from Wabash that you do not normally get to see. Also, experiencing the different cultures of Chicago is really cool, especially the food. It is a great opportunity to try new stuff and really put yourself out there.

If you ever get the chance to take this class, take it in a heartbeat. It offers cultural diversity and experience that not many other courses at Wabash can offer. It also gives you a chance to get an expense paid trip to see the “not-so-touristy” spots of Chicago.

New Teachers Must Go With The Flow

Tom Garrity ’16 – My first day at Wendell Phillips Academy High School was extremely hectic, especially relating to confusion about my placement in the early morning. My counselor, Ms. Kashual was giving an AP biology exam and was running around trying to find me a teacher willing to let me sit in on their class. After meeting my first teacher, Mrs. McMurray the atmosphere in the classroom was extremely different than my personal experience of attending a high school in a rural farm community. The energy in the classroom was at levels I had never experienced before. Mrs. McMurray, handled it in a very professional manner, and demonstrated her unique relationships with each of the students. Always maintaining respect from her students while keeping friendly conversations. Which was a big topic in multiple articles we read for EDU 330. Shortly after, I moved to Ms. Beans history class but not before I was in the hallway during passing period.

We read multiple articles in class about the security and other areas that were different than what we had experienced, but being in the hallway during passing period was something that had to be experienced in person. Almost the exact moment that I turned while I was walking out of the door of Mrs. McMurray’s classroom, I looked to my left and thought a fight was happening. Five seconds later, the two students who I thought were throwing down, began laughing and joking. After that surprising incident, it was almost impossible to walk in a straight line to my next destination. Students were running after each other, and bumping into everyone, that was the first real sense of cultural shock that occurred, with that kind of behavior being the norm of the school.

My advice to future students getting ready to experience an inner-city school setting for the first time is to be ready to go with the flow. The pace at the high school I was in was extremely fast, and you cant get caught up in making sure everything will go as planned, cause it won’t. However, getting ready to go into the second day of being in the school, I have a new level of confidence and also a new level of excitement.

School Experience Impress Mucha ’17

Jeff Mucha ’17 – I have been to Chicago many times throughout my life. Most of which have been day trips, or mini-vacations with my family, to the stereotypical tourist areas. However, after being here for a short time I have experiences Chicago in a completely different way.

I was exposed to Chinatown and ate traditional Chinese cuisine for the first time and have been staying in a hostel, which is a completely new thing for me as well. Despite the incredible experiences outside of the classroom, I would say the most interesting aspect about this trip is actually being in a school, and experiencing a different culture by being immersed in it.

As I walked into the school, I was greeted by the principal at the door. As soon as I stepped into the building, a huge number of security guards hit me with a barrage of questions, but as soon as they realized why I was in the building, they were incredibly nice to me, and wished me a wonderful day in Wendell Phillips Academy. That really struck me as a unique component of this school, but I was even more shocked at how receptive the students were of me.

This was the first time that I have been a complete outsider in a room, but many students greeted me with hellos, handshakes, or fist-bumps. The most shocking aspect so far has come from a few brief conversations with my host teacher about her students. Many come from broken homes, and have experienced tremendous loss. These are things I cannot completely relate to, but it is something that has already made this trip so meaningful. I have been given the chance to interact with some of these students, and can hopefully make an impact on them, despite my short time here. Simply being there with a smile on my face, and a willingness to work with them, has made this trip unique, and I look forward to the rest of my time in Chicago, and especially the time spent with these students.

Students Explore Italy’s Siena

James Fritz ’16 – The bus ride out through the suburbs of Florence was interesting, as the large bus zipped through tiny roads with precision skill of clear experience. Leaving the city behind, we twisted our way up into the Italian hillside.  Our destination was San Andrea, a tiny town with only Machiavelli’s villa and a restaurant. Seeing the house where he stayed in his exile from Florence – seeing the same far off view of Florence that Machiavelli would have seen in anger – was fun, but paled next to the beauty of the countryside itself.

Siena-CathedralAfter a tour we had an incredible full course Italian meal. Trays of meats and cheese and crustini were sampled first, then the pasta course, them the meat course featuring bistecca fiorentina, which is an amazing and beautiful thick Porterhouse seared for hardly any time at all. The dessert course rounded off our meal with an Italian take on Apple pie, and we were stuffed for the rest of the day. Italian dining hospitality coupled with excellent food makes for a wonderful time.

Adam Alexander ’16 – Wow. What a week! We’ve seen so many things and learned so much that it feels like we’ve been here for a month. I only wish we could be so lucky! Today we went to Siena and got to see many incredible things. But rather than the sort of academic report I gave on Wednesday, I’m going to share my more general thoughts on our trip.

I feel very blessed to call myself a sort of amateur traveler. Thanks to Wabash, I’ve been able to go to Cuba, New York, study abroad in England, and now Italy. I’ve also been fortunate to go on a couple of vacations with my family to the Caribbean. In all of these places, I’ve either been fluent (English) or had intermediate skills (Spanish) in the native language. Not so in Italy. It really makes me empathize with immigrants around the world. It’s a very powerful, humanizing thing to go into someone’s hometown and have no idea how to speak his or her language, and it’s something I’d never experienced before. Today in Siena, I went into a small neighborhood grocery store for some wine and olive oil. Unlike in the tourist-centric areas of Florence, the store owner did not understand a word of English, so we had to engage in a bit of charades and pointing at things in order to communicate. Even still, this man was completely polite the whole time, and never made me feel unwanted or disrespected for not knowing his language.

It’s impossible to express how lucky I feel to have had this experience in Italy, as well as all of the others Wabash has afforded me. You can spend hours in the Lilly Library studying everything there is written about a city, but until you actually see it for yourself, you cannot possibly reach full understanding. This is something that seems to fall on deaf ears to too many in the academic world. Not so for us. Wabash gets it. It’s one of the things that makes Wabash so great, and why I’m so proud to call myself a Little Giant.

When I was a prospective student, I attended an immersion trip panel discussion at Wabash, and I read through all of the blogs of the students who had the opportunity for immersion learning. I knew after reading them that Wabash was the place for me. To the prospective students who will read this post, I hope you will find that Wabash is the place for you, too. Our College will open so many doors for you, and take you places of which you’d only dreamed – maybe even to Florence’s Duomo.

Sean Best ’16 – Siena. A city with a conscience, and visible monuments to their failures and successes. A city with great history and great violence. Neighborhoods allied against other neighborhoods and a rivalry with Florence that is still visible in the graffiti all over the buses between the two. All this makes it the most obvious example of a republican city. Obviously I do not mean the American political party, but the classical ideals of civic responsibility and citizen sacrifices for the city. Their frescoes of martial skill in war and their sunken failure of a church to rival Florence were built by public funds. In success and failure, the people were together.

Siena is an example of why Alexis De Tocqueville believed American democracy was more successful in the nineteenth century than France’s: the power of association. As people joined smaller communities; fraternities, Kiwanis Club, etc, they cared more about their communities and made a conscious effort to improve it. In Siena, this took the form of the Contrada, neighborhoods where the people associated deeply with that neighborhood and would fight rival Contrada for influence. To this day, rival Contradas rarely allow marriages between them. This seemingly unhealthy relationship, similar to fraternity life at Wabash, made their republic stronger and more wholesome. It is a beautiful monument to what mankind can do when we care enough.

Dylan Miller ’16 – Today, PSC 335 ventured through the Tuscan hills via bus to the city of Siena. As soon as we arrived, we walked through the city’s small, winding, and hilly roads to a restaurant right off of Piazza del Campo, the city’s historic and current center. Like any good Italian meal, we ate for hours as course after course of bread, pasta, meat, dessert, café, and of course, wine were served.

Prof. Jill Lamberton talks with students about Siena's famed public plaza, the Campo.

Prof. Jill Lamberton talks with students about Siena’s famed public plaza, the Campo.

After lunch, we embarked on a much-needed tour of the city to walk off our meal. We began in the Piazza del Campo where the focal point is the large Palazzo Pubblico, which was the city’s main governmental building. The piazza is also known as being the center of Siena’s famous horserace known as the Palio. The 90 second, bareback horserace pits the city’s seventeen contrade, or neighborhoods, against one another. Continuing our walking tour, we explored the contrada onda neighborhood right off the Piazza del Campo. Here we discovered the amazing civic identity and pride the contrade of Siena represent.

Next, we explored the Siena Cathedral. The cathedral is adorned with an intricate façade, elaborate mosaic floors, and a beautiful dome. Despite the cathedral being obviously religious, the idea of civil identity and pride continued to be a theme throughout the cathedral similar to the themes we’ve seen repeated in Florence.

We finished our visit to Siena with a winding climb to the top of the unfinished extension of the Siena Cathedral for a spectacular view of the city. We crowded onto a bus back to Florence and enjoyed pizza and gelato on the steps of the Basilica of Santo Spirito as our final dinner in Florence. Arrivederci, Florence!