Rivers Has Full Day in Classroom

Mitch Rivers ’11 -  I departed the hostel Monday with no small amount of trepidation before my commute to Von Steuben. Our illustrious tour guides, Dr.’s Pittard and Iazetto (sp) had strongly encouraged us to take a “dry run” of our hour-long commute the day before…I decided to take a nap instead.

Fortunately I navigated Chicago public transportation quite well and arrived only ten minutes late. I spent a fair bit of time wrapped up somewhere in the Twilight Zone of bureaucracy at the school before I decided to just leave my paperwork in capable hands and head for the classroom. I had remained in contact with the math department chair, James Edstrom, and he was excited to see me arrive.
 
We made a tentative schedule of what I would be teaching and whom I would be observing. I then started doing just that — observing students, teachers, staff and the culture of Von Steuben. Most classes seemed to range in size from 20-25 students, and there was a lot of diversity between those students. Racially, there seemed to be about 50% Hispanic, 20% Black, 20% White, and a variety of other races.
 
The students were hard to describe as a whole, because each one of them embodied different ideals and attitudes, but I can say that there was a fairly high level of participation in the classroom. Students at Von Steuben want to be recognized for their knowledge and achievements, and they have no qualms about asking questions and making sure that they are “getting it right.” I was impressed by many of the students in higher level classes, and I see a lot of potential for the numerous college-bound kids in the senior class.
 
I was keenly aware of the teachers’ sentiments towards the students — I felt that they cared greatly about the quality of their students’ education. The other teachers that I had talked to were aware of issues relevant to Chicago and their students — worried about the opportunities their students would have after graduation and worried about preparing their students for statewide testing.
 
Speaking of testing, a great number of students were taking AP exams today and will continue testing throughout much of the week. Von Steuben has a strong commitment towards preparing students for higher education. However, it seems to me that an exorbitant amount of instructional time throughout the year is consumed by preparation for statewide and district-wide testing. As a future math teacher I think tests are a very important part of learning and assessment, but I think that retesting over the same material—combined with all the obstruction to classroom activities that this entails—is a waste of time.
 
I’m looking forward to a good week and some urban teaching experiences. I would really like to explore more of the Chi-Town nightlife. Who needs sleep in Chicago?
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Blake Experiences First Day in Classroom

Kam Blake ‘ 11 – Upon waking up at 5:25 and showering, Mitch and I departed the hostel and boarded what the natives call “the L” to travel to Von Stueben High School. The day prior, Dr. Pittard and Iazetto, had suggested rather strongly that Mitch and I make a trip out to see Von Stueben, what they called a “dry run” a two-hour round trip, choosing rather the hostels comfortable bed over the uncomfortable sets of “the L”. Fortunately choosing the comfortable over the uncomfortable, did not back fire today, we arrived at school a mere ten minutes late.

After going through two security checks, Mitch and I arrived at the main office where Mitch decided to leave me to deal with the bureaucracy of the main office. After ten minutes of arguing and me nearly exploding in anger, I was kindly told by the office personal “you’re lucky, you can go up."
Upon arriving I was told to sit in the back of the room and the department chair would talk to me after class. When class concluded, I was escorted to see Mrs. Thomson who for a change of pace, had a warm inviting aura about her. I observed four classes, all freshmen world civilizations. All these classes were rowdy to say the least. From there I went to fifth period lunch. The experience brought me back to my middle school days, not sure what line to choose, then when finally choosing realizing you choose wrong, only to notice your half way down the line and cannot start again. After lunch I returned to Mrs. Thomas’s class for the remaining four class periods.
The ethnic break downs of the classes in general were about 50% Hispanic, 25, African American, and the remaining 25% White and a variety of other races. The average class size differed depending on the time. First class had at the start of the hour about ten or so students, by the end twenty five had appeared seemingly from the wood working.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Education Students Begin Chicago Experience

Professor of Education Michelle Pittard - Known as a “city of neighborhoods,” Chicago plays host to 10 education students this week who are taking part in the Chicago Urban Education & Cultural Experience. After an early morning train departure from Crawfordsville, six Education students (Nick Durm, D.J. Singfield, Cody Stipes, Mitch Rivers, Andy Todd, and Jake Turner) arrived in Chicago just before noon today. 

The other four students participating in the Chicago Experience (Chris Beedie, Kam Blake, Josh Miracle, and Tommy Mambourg) traveled to the city from their homes and met the group downtown for a quick orientation with faculty before heading out to the Maxwell Street Market – a Sunday tradition in Chicago and the group’s first urban cultural event of the week. 

The market, where we could buy everything from steak tacos and churros to light bulbs and antiques, offered a glimpse of the ethnic and cultural diversity the city has to offer. After experiencing the market, and equipped with a Chicago Transit Authority pass (good on all public transportation in the city) and a good city map, students were given time to make a practice run from the hostel (their home for the week located inside the loop) to their host schools that include five Chicago Public Schools and one private school. Part of experiencing the culture of the city is using public transportation and since Wabash students are expected to be in their host schools by 7:30 every morning this week, the practice runs allowed students to gain confidence navigating the city by themselves, even if this meant getting a little lost.
 
One of the highlights of our first day in Chicago was meeting alums, Bill Andrews and Art Howe, for dinner at the Asian restaurant, Tamarind. Students enjoyed talking with Mr. Andrews and Mr. Howe over dinner and learning more about life in Chicago from two true “insiders.” 
 
Monday will find students in their host schools getting acclimated to urban schooling done right by some of the most successful teachers in the city. After a long day in the schools, I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to tomorrow’s evening meal at a popular Polish buffet on Milwaukee Avenue. While Monday will largely be an observation day for most of the guys, some will begin teaching classes in their host schools as early as Tuesday morning.  
 
Then, in our effort to experience a variety of cultures and visit as many of the Chicago neighborhoods as possible, we will have lunch on Tuesday and a guided tour in Pilsen, a Mexican neighborhood where one of the host schools (Benito Juarez H.S) is located.  
 
Wednesday is another full day of working in the schools, but the group will be rewarded with dinner in China Town! More teaching is expected on Thursday and Friday and if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to squeeze in a Cubs or White Sox game one evening!

In photo: The group getting Monday morning instructions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Juniors in Education Returning to Chicago

Education Professor Michelle Pittard - Juniors in the Teacher Education Program will participate in the Chicago Urban Education & Cultural Experience (CUECE), which is a week-long (May 9-14) urban school immersion experience in Chicago.

In addition to living in the city and working in the Chicago Public Schools, students experience many diverse cultural events in the city, such as: the Maxwell Street Market, the Chicago History Museum, and tours and meals in a variety of ethnic neighborhoods (e.g. Pilsen Mexican neighborhood).

Wabash students are placed with host teachers in a variety of CPS schools, and part of their experience in the schools includes planning and teaching lessons during the week.

New to our schedule this year is an event with alumni. A group of Chicago-area alumni will welcome us to the city on Sunday May 9th with a dinner for our group.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Chicago – A Life Defining Experience

Bill Murchie ’10 - Wow, what a week thus far! During these past 6 days, I have learned so much about the city of Chicago as well as myself. For an Indiana boy who has never used public transportation before, the first couple trips on the L intimidated me. However, I now feel fully comfortable and look forward to my next trip to the metro. 

As for the cultural aspect of the trip, living south of Indianapolis where there is little cultural diversity, my only true interaction with people from different ethnic groups came when I spent my summers at Culver Military Academy. Though there were people from all over the world at this camp, I honestly believe I have learned more about different ethnic groups and the way they interact with one another this week than I have in the 10 summers I have spent at Culver. The sad part of my last statement is not that I have learned as much in roughly one week as I have in 10 summers, it’s that I have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning about these cultures and what defines them.

Whether it has been going to the Maxwell Street Market, visiting the Polish neighborhood on Milwaukee Avenue, taking a personal tour through Pilson Street, or spending the afternoon exploring the South Asian neighborhood on Devon Street, this experience has taught me to really enjoy the parts of the city in which most tourists do not go. 
There are no enormous skyscrapers on Pilson Street, but there are beautiful murals one can spend hours looking at. You cannot find a Snickers in the local market in the South Asian Neighborhood, but I tried a piece of candy that was absolutely fantastic. Needless to say, some of the most exciting parts of Chicago are not found directly downtown or close to the Cubs and White Sox’s Stadium. The most exciting places, and in my opinion the best food, is found in the local neighborhoods!
Transitioning to my experience at Von Steuben High School, I would describe the school as extremely diverse and full of hard workers. It is obvious that Von Steuben has students from a wide variety of neighborhoods in Chicago. I observed students from all different ethnic backgrounds and I noticed that, though they might look different or speak different languages, the vast majority of the students worked extremely hard and pushed themselves to achieve to the best of their ability! 
Before I came on this trip, I never had any desire to work at an inner city public school. This being said, this trip has opened my eyes to inner city public schools and I know to “never say never”. Overall, this trip has been a great experience and I look forward to moving forward with my newly acquired knowledge about the world around me.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Experience Expands Perspective on Life

Chris Schweigel ’10 - What can I say about my experience in Chicago and the public school system? I can say that I have had a lot of new and eye-opening experiences. In my short time in Chicago I have seen things that were completely new to me and done some things for the first time in my life. 

Coming from the small town of Sheridan, IN. and going to only a slightly larger city in Crawfordsville for College, I have had a pretty dim view of large cities and society as a whole. But, I got my first new experience right away when we got on the train to go to Chicago. I had never been on a train; do in large part to the fact that trains are not a common means of transportation in Indiana. Once we got to Chicago trains and buses were our only means of transportation, so I have spent several hours on the Chicago public transportation. I really think that that is a good way to see the city, observe and meet a lot of people. I do not know the number of times that I or the people I am with have struck up a random conversation with some random person that we were next to on the train or bus. 
 
The other new experience for me has been diversity of the city and the school I am observing. I am observing in Von Steuben High School and just like the city of Chicago has a large variety of students from different races and ethnicities. For the first time I am in the minority. Whereas the school where I went to high school and the school in Montgomery County are around 90 percent Caucasian. It has been really neat to see how the different students and groups interact with one another. Though the atmosphere of the school feels different, which could be do to the fact that it is an inner city school, the students for the most part tend to behave and act the same as those I have observed at schools like Crawfordsville. 
 
I will admit that I was real skeptical at first to come up here. But, I am glad that I did. Not only have I gotten to see and do new things, but I have a new perspective on life and feel as though I have a better concept of society as a whole. If you were like me and have never really been out of your own small town I would highly recommend that you visit a major city. And, Chicago would definitely be a great place to look.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Learning How Culture Shapes a School

Elijah Sanders ’10 - This week has obviously been a learning experience for me. I have contemplated teaching in Chicago for a couple of years now and was really looking forward to this experience, and it did not disappoint.

I have learned a lot about the various cultures in Chicago and how the education system has reacted to them. At Benito Juarez, I have found the school has really embraced the Hispanic community. They have made the front of the school open for members of the community to travel around. My home high school was always on lock down during the school day. Not Juarez, it is not uncommon to see a member of the community sitting on one of the benches outside the school reading the paper.
 
The school also allows community events in the cafeteria, which was designed to be a sort of theatre. Furthermore, throughout the high school you can see murals that are both professionally done and student projects. They have these for multiple reasons. The first is the obvious; murals are a staple of the Hispanic community. Walking around Pilson, the neighborhood the school is in, you would see massive murals on the side of almost every building. These murals give the students a sense of ownership by coming up with designs, to be approved by their teachers, and painting the murals, themselves. I find that it gives the school a lot more personality, which is good, because the students, themselves, have a lot of personality.
 
Although the graduation rate may be low, there are a lot of bright kids with interesting perspectives and insight to share. I have really enjoyed the various history classes I have observed. The students at Juarez are not afraid to ask me questions to where I am from; to why in the world would I would go to an all guy’s college? And as I tell everyone when answering this question, you just have to see it to believe it.
 
So this entire time I have been in these classrooms I have been wondering, is CPS for me? Can I do this? After multiple conversations with my host teacher and Alums like Jeremy Robinson ’04, they have convinced me not only can I do this, but I will more then likely fall in love with this job. These teachers have a true passion for their students and the urban community. It is a feeling I hope to share with them in the future as I develop into a teacher. Although I am not sure if Juarez is the school for me, as I am not a Spanish speaker, I do believe I can teach in Chicago.
 
The students are fun, the teachers are dedicated, and as long as you are willing to put in the work, the long term results are very fulfilling. Plus it is Chicago, the greatest city in the world.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off