We’re back in Gettysburg after a wonderful week learning so much about Urban Education. Yesterday, we went to a charter boarding school that starts kids in 6th grade and goes through high school. This school emphasizes college from the beginning (98% of their graduates thus far have gone onto higher ed). Compared to the school model we looked at yesterday, I thought this one was a bit moreeffective. The facilities of the property were really nice- new dorms, half an old high school being renovated, and this fancy security background check machine that scans drivers licenses and takes a photo of you- so it was clear that the school had done a lot of fundraising. When Yoo Yuong and I had lunch with two 10th graders from the school, they seemed really passionate about what the school was doing for them. They had already gone on several college tours and had a clear vision of the type of college that they would like to attend. They did mention that it’s hard living in the dorms sometimes because there is so much structure in their days and nights. And they also said that given that the school can only afford to board students sunday-friday, transitioning between home life and school every week can be hard.
After our visit to the school, we had our last day of College and Career Institute at Midtown. We interviewed the students one by one (to give them an idea of what a college interview is like) and discussed and reflected on those interviews. Then, we went over paying for college (scholarships, financial aid, loans, etc), and the admissions process. The kids then spent about 20 minutes writing a mock college essay about an obstacle in their life, someone who inspires them, or something they are passionate about. They wereso focused and had really strong essays, which some of them shared with the group. At the end of the session, we had them put their portfolios together (which they presented today) and we gave them a group picture in a picture frame which they had fun decorating.
Today, when the students in our group presented their portfolios in the cafeteria to parents, peers, and teachers, it was clear that they had gotten a lot out of their week. The students were very professional and shook hand and introduced themselves to anyone who came up and asked about their portfolios. Their professional portfolios consisted of the activities we did throughout the week: their life/goal collage, journal (with entries), resume, and mock essay. Our students were amazing at articulating little things about the week (which I didn’t think they would remember). When people asked our students about the week, they had such positive feedback, so it made us felt like we had made a difference. I am so excited for them to come to Gettysburg and see our lives as college students in a few weeks! I think everyone involved gained a lot from the experience this week!
After a beautiful night’s sleep with my stomach still good of Five Guys deliciousness, I woke up refreshed and ready to start the day! Early this afternoon, we talked with a woman who was the development and recruitment director of a charter school model here in Baltimore. We were originally planning to visit the school, but due to state testing this week, we were not allowed in the building of the school. The school model seemed very branded and like a corporation. It’s a school where the staff recruits students by knocking on doors of underprivileged houses and talking to families to let them know that this charter school model is available to the kids in the family. Families sign a contract with the teachers and are expected to be very involved in their kids education. I think the model had some positive aspects, but definitely did not fit all kids learning styles. It was interesting hearing about a school where everything is so strict and structured (when kids don’t do homework, they are questioned in front of all of their peers why they didn’t do it as a means of getting them to do it in the future). The woman had us really thinking critically about this model and there were many reactions from our group about whether the model was too much like a business corporation that took away the personalization of students.
Today, at Midtown was my day to lead the group! After seeing how effective it is to have students on their feet interacting, I changed our first activity from a discussion into skits. We had the kids pair up, think of an obstacle that might get in the way of the future, and then write a skit about it. They got really into it and the performances were really fun to watch. I was reminded about how important flexibility is in the classroom when the activity took a little longer than anticipated. We had the students write about obstacles that they have personally faced- and plans changed again when they wanted to share what they wrote with their journals. It was really cool that they were comfortable enough with us to open up about personal life struggles. Given that we were running behind schedule, we decided to move our financial aid presentation to tomorrow. We had the kids experience an activity fair, where we had different stations with a bunch of different college activities around the classroom and they had to come ask us questions about the activity and fill out a worksheet about it. They seemed to enjoy the activity and are really excited about coming to Gettysburg for a day in April and seeing some of those activities in action. We segued into having the kids write their own resumes based on the activities they have been involved in. Explaining formatting and reasons behind writing a resume was a little challenging, but most of our students were able to fill up a page with their accomplishments. Our last discussion for the day was to get the kids ready for their mock interviews tomorrow. We had them come up with questions and then talked about proper interview etiquette. Although they were very chatty earlier in our session, they didn’t have a whole lot to say for this conversation, so I had to be flexible again and lead it in a couple different directions. But overall, I thought the day went well! This week is going by so fast and I can’t believed tomorrow is our last day running the program!!!
My day began at 6:30 this morning- definitely an early start for me. And like every other Tuesday in the Pennsylvania/ Maryland area, the rain was coming down hard. After finding a nice jolt of caffeine for the morning, half of our class group made it successfully (although soaking wet) via bus to a vocational technical high school. Our day started off interestingly given that people were unaware that we were visiting and shadowing students for the morning. But, around 8:30, we were paired up with students from the high school and let them show us a morning of their life in this school (which we will be using for a student case study paper for the class).
My student was a junior boy, who’s trade at the technical school is business. We arrived at his first class, biology, where the students were working on genetics (blast from the past), but the teacher could not control her class. Students were walking in 20,30, even 40 minutes late, sleeping (like the drooling kind) on their desks, running around the classroom, texting, cursing up a storm, and doing everything but their work. If the teacher confronted them about it, they would just sass her back and she could barely get a sentence out before having to yell at another student. During the first few days of Urban Ed, we discussed stereotypes of urban education based on movies, tv, or anything we had previously been exposed to, and I was suddenly wide-eyed and a little bit shocked that I was surrounded by those stereotypes. The boy I shadowed was very reserved, and as his teacher pointed out to me after class, didn’t let himself get caught up in misbehaving. Although he struggled with his punnet squares, he stayed somewhat focused. I spent his lunch period (which is at 10AM) and math class getting to know the student even more and found out that he wants to open his own martial arts business. He hopes to go to business school at Johns Hopkins in 2 years.
After a nice bowl of soup to warm us up after being caught in the rain and a short rest at the hostel, we headed to Midtown for Day 2 of our career institute. The kids had great feedback from day 1 and were excited for another fun day of activities and learning. We focused the day on options after highschool: college/university, the military, and technical schools. We played some games and talked about these options. Rex did a wonderful job leading our day, where we had the heaviest lecturing and keeping the students engaged! Tomorrow is my day to lead, and although I’m a little nervous- the fact that a student told us “I wish this program was everyday for the rest of the year. I went home and talked for hours last night with my family about how much fun I had” made me feel energized to lead a busy day tomorrow!!
It’s only been one afternoon and I’m exhausted- but in a good way. We arrived to Baltimore around 11:30 this morning, checked into our hostel, found lunch, and then walked to Mid-Town Academy for the first time! We spent our afternoon talking with Ms. Penny (the assistant principle), observing classes, and then running day one of our college and career institute. Midtown Academy is a k-8 charter school in an old church that has 180 students total. Given the small school environment, teachers know their students and parents of the students very well.
This was clear when watching the students and teachers interact. I observed middle school humanities and science classes and then observed kindergarten and first grade classes. It was quite the juxtaposition, but I loved seeing such a large range of ages in the different classrooms. I especially liked sitting in on a Humanities class, where the kids were in small-group book-clubs. The three students that I was sitting with were discussing “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and having a very thoughtful conversation about the book and quotes they found that they felt related to their lives. It was so cool to see kids so enthusiastic and engaged about the literature they were reading.
The first day of our college and career institute went very smoothly. Four of us Urban Ed students were leading a group of six 8th graders from Midtown Academy. The main point of today was breaking the ice and getting to know the kids in our group! We played some games, and then talked about what the kids already know about life after highschool and what they want to know. They asked us some thoughtful questions about life in college, such as what our schedules are like, how much time we spend on homework, etc. We, then made goal collages, where the kids cut pictures out of magazines to represent themselves and what they would like to do in the future. It was exciting to see the kids so engaged in the curriculum that my group spent so much time planning. We were also slightly nervous because we found out a few days ago that we have a girl with down’s syndrome in our group and none of us had previous experience working with kids with down’s syndrome before. We were told that she has an aide with her and the kids have been in school with her for a while. The girl was very animated and clearly excited from the beginning and it was really cool to see other kids collaborating with her and helping her out by finding pictures she might be able to use in her collage. Overall, it was a great day and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!
Hi! My name is Liz and I’m a Junior Religious Studies Major, Peace and Justice Studies Minor from a suburb of Boston. Urban Education is my first education class at Gettysburg, although I have been interested in going into education for a while now. This past summer, I worked with a non-profit that works to empower at-risk middle school girls in the Baltimore and Eastern Shore Areas of Maryland through after-school book clubs. So, I have been really looking forward to this trip! I’ve loved the readings and assignments we have done so far and I’m excited to see what we have learned be put into action! Today has been busy with final curriculum changes and working with our groups to make sure that we have everything set for our College and Career Institute that will start tomorrow. Although I’m nervous now, I think that will change once we meet our students tomorrow! I hope that the kids will get a lot out of the week and be inspired to work towards college in the future! I’m also guessing that we are going to learn so much through the students that we work with!
Our class is hard at work getting our curriculum ready for next week! We are running a college and career institute at Midtown Academy, where we will introduce ideas of college and future options to 7th and 8th graders through an after school program Monday-Thursday. On Friday, the students will present what they have learned throughout the week in the form of a portfolio or life map. We are really excited and will post throughout the week to update friends and followers about the progress we make!
Happy reading! ~Liz (blog administrator)