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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.