Rather than waking up and relaxing in the common area, I woke up and immediately went out the door after my morning shower. Today was probably one of our longest days but it was definitely a great a day. We explored another charter school reform model that also attempted to remove the students from their external environment and place them in a more academic environment. This time we were able to visit the school and see it in action.

This charter school was placed on top of a hill, away from the neighborhoods surrounding it. Walking from the bus stop to the school, it was easy to notice the contrast. It had a large campus and provided it students’ with amazing facilities and staff that could take care of them at anytime. It’s a public school that serves all the counties. We spent a lot of time touring the campus and learning more about the philosophy and structure of the school. It more or less attempted to resemble a college campus. After our tour, I had lunch with a student and I questioned her on the school. I asked her, “Describe the school in three words,” and her response — “Challenging, Friendly, Crazy.” She enjoyed the rigorous curriculum that they were providing her and felt like it will be helpful for her future. She appreciate the staff that the school hired and love their friendly personality. Then again, she does experience some crazy drama with younger students and there were an array of situations that happens throughout the year. Overall, she likes the school but thinks that the school was trying too hard to resemble a college campus and felt like it was an exaggeration. For me, I am still torn that there are thousands of other students who are missing this education.

As for our College and Career Institute, today is our second to last day of it. I’m so sad that it’s going to be ending tomorrow and so proud of the work that we’ve accomplished this week. Today, Rachel had the students do a mock interview, an application essay, and begin compiling their portfolio. As I reflect on the entire week, I am satisfied with the Institute, although there is a few things that I would like to improve, I’m happy. I am going to miss the students and miss Baltimore. It’s been great spending my entire Spring Break here.

What to expect tomorrow: Final reflection! :[

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We’re half way there

“There” as in the end of our Spring Break in Baltimore, and it’s probably one of the last things I want to say.

Today we spoke with the Recruitment Director of another charter school reform model. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the school and see the model in action but I believe the class was able to get a pretty good idea of what the charter school was about. This model definitely resembled a private corporation rather than a public institutions. I previously worked for this school and can testify that I felt like I was working at a private company rather than a public school. One of main things that bothers me about charter schools is funding. Midtown Academy receives both funding from the district and from private donations. There are other models who want to achieve the best results, however, to make this all happen has to have the initial funds to make it possible. The model we learned today required students’ to do an array of academic-enriching activities but these same activities would not be able to be implemented into the public school system because there isn’t enough funds.

Initially, I thought charter schools were schools started by ambitions teachers or educational advocates who had amazing ideas to improve education, and hope to be the positive change that our public school needed. At the moment, it appears that these charter schools are not planning to share their methods with public schools or understand that public schools are not unable to do their methods. They are definitely making a positive difference on the students and families they are working with, however, there are thousands and thousands of other students who are not receiving the same academic experience. Although charter schools are contributing to closing the achievement gap, they’re not contributing to solving the problems that still exist in urban public schools.

Beside that, today was day three of our College and Career Institute and Liz did a great job with facilitating the session. She modified the curriculum to make it more engaging and interactive, and it definitely worked! We also had a great discussion on obstacles and different activities that certain colleges have. I really enjoy interacting with the students and learning more about them. It’s also a pleasure to share things about myself to them. I know I am going to miss them so much after this week and I am trying to see if I could possibly return for their graduation. I mean, I can easily get a bus ticket from Philadelphia to Baltimore — we’ll see!

What to expect tomorrow: The Urban Education class will be learning about and immersing  ourselves in another charter school reform.

Continue reading!

Technical Tuesday

Today felt like walking down memory lane. The Urban Education students had to decide whether they were interested in going to a public elementary school or a city-wide vocational-technical high school. Two completely different options, it was an easy decision for me — the vocational-technical high school. I graduated from a vocational-technical high school and was really familiar with the curriculum and the numerous trades that students were allowed to pick. In addition, I had a closer connection because both the schools were in urban areas.

When I entered the high school, I immediately saw how nice the interior was. The lockers, the flooring, the decorations, the classrooms, everything that you saw pertaining to the school was high-quality. There was, however, a contrast between the interior and decorations of the building to the high school student body.  I was assigned a student tour-guide and basically followed her to her classes. I had great discussions with the students about an array of topics — how would they describe the environment of the high school and the study body, the difference between a good and bad teacher, future goals, and much more. In the classrooms, the students were very loud, and during my first period class, there were students coming in late sporadically. Also, compared to Midtown Academy, the high school students did not work quietly and independently on their classwork, and frequently did not follow the teachers’ directions. I told the teacher that I will be going to lunch with my student, and they told me that I should be prepared because I will be entering the “jungle.” A lot of the students appeared that they had goals to go to college and to be successful. Several of the students discussed how their school was pushing them to go to college but it “just wasn’t working” because many of the students weren’t driven. But it was difficult to see how their high school was preparing them for their higher-level education.  Unfortunately, this high school reminded me of my high school experience. Loud classmates, frustrated teachers, rowdy students in the cafeteria, my trade class was the highlight of my day, college was barely promoted, and more. Despite my negative experiences and awareness that urban teaching is rigorous, I continue to strive to be an urban educator.

Then we had our second day of our College and Career Institute and it was my turn to lead. Our theme for today was “Options after High School” and I discussed about the various options — college & university, vocational-technical & career college, and the military. I tried my best to give most of the leadership to the students and have them take the lead. Initially, a few of the activities would of been led by me, but after receiving some advice from Professor Rinke, I decided that the students should do the work themselves. The students were split into groups of two and then assigned an option. They were to find five facts about their opportunity then alter two of the facts to make false statements. When the facts were gather, we played the Four Corners — Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree. It was great seeing what the students knew and didn’t know. After the Four Corners activity, I provided additional information about the options and answered any questions. In addition, we had the students take a personality test and they really enjoyed learning more about themselves. To end the day off, I answered the questions that students wrote in their journals the previous day, and we had some great discussion. I absolutely love the students I am working with and couldn’t ask for a better group. But as I ponder about my great experience at Midtown Academy, I wonder how the program would of look if this was implemented at the high school. Would my group members and I be effective and efficient teachers with the students, or would we be burnt out from  trying to maintain the students?

Earlier in the semester, we watched a few films of urban education, and my classmates and I who visited the high school felt like it reflected the stereotypical urban school. But Midtown Academy reflects what an ideal urban school should look like. I am still challenging myself on how could I possibly make a public school classmate resemble a charter school classroom.

What to expect tomorrow: We are meeting with the Recruitment Director of KIPP School and will be learning about their educational model. In addition, it’ll be around third day of the College and Career Institute.

Keep reading!

“I was a scientist today!”

explanation for the title: it was career day today at Midtown and the first graders had careers that they needed to present. I spoke with one student and she enthusiastically talked about how she was a scientist today.

Today was the big day — our first day in Baltimore and of the College and Career Institute! I really wasn’t sure what to expect so I approached today with an open-mind. We eventually arrived at Midtown Academy and had brief discussion with the Vice Principal about the school and had a Q & A’s session with her. The Urban Education class had a conference call with her a few weeks ago but was very short, so today we were loaded with questions.

After spending some time with Vice Principal, we spent some time in the classrooms at Midtown Academy. I was really surprised to see how engaged the students were. During a visit in the Humanities classroom, the students were sharing their main takeaways from a book they were reading for the class. The group had some thought-provoking comments and challenged each others’ opinions. In addition, I felt like the academic caliber was much higher. For example, in a Kindergarten class, they were learning addition and writing — something that I thought would be taught in first or second grade. It surprised me because I teach elementary Sunday School in Gettysburg and few of my first or second graders do not know how to read or write. I guess this shows how Midtown is really working hard to make sure the students were being challenged and receiving the best education.

Finally, we had our College and Career Institute. In my group, we have six 8th graders. Like I said earlier, I really didn’t know to expect, but after observing an 8th grade class earlier, I was able to make a better idea of what to expect. All of the students were great, and my group did an amazing job! Today we did introductions and goal collages, and it appeared that all of the students enjoyed the activities. Many of the students openly expressed how eager they are to go to college and to pursue their dream career. I’m really happy that the students feel comfortable and are having a great time. Tomorrow is my day to lead and I really hope the students find it exciting!

What to expect for Tuesday reflection: In the morning, I will be going to Carver Vocational-Technical High School, which is a typical school. This visit should provide a significant contrast to the learning environment that we’ve experienced at Midtown. Personally, since I attended a Vocational-Technical High School, I’m curious to see how it will be similar or different.

Continue reading!

 

Baltimore, here I come!

 

blogpicHi, my name is Rex Yin and I am currently a junior at Gettysburg College studying Intercultural Studies through Education. I am interested in studying the relationship between culture and educational achievement, and how these relationships contribute to educational policy decisions.

I am from Philadelphia, PA, and is a product of the Philadelphia public education system. Although I am tremendously familiar with urban education, I enrolled into EDUC  220: Urban Education so I could study urban education through a scholarly and academic perspective. In addition, while studying abroad in Denmark last semester, we did a ton of academic excursions and trips to schools, learning centers and other country’s school systems, and it really enriched my learning experience. I’m really excited to go to Baltimore because I know this will be one of my highlights for the class.

This trip is focused on charter school reform, and this is something I’ve always had mixed feelings about. Specifically, I have friends who graduated from charter schools and bragged about their amazing experiences. Then again, I see how they’re being detrimental to the public school system but would like a firmer grasp on this. I am hoping that this week will help me understand charter school reform and answer my big question: “Should charter schools be a part of the public school system?”

Well, I will be blogging daily starting today, so continue reading!

– Rex Yin