Day 4: Outdoor Chills and Future’s Thrills

Our school visit today was to a public boarding school. Again, another long ways of traveling having to rely on a rather unreliable bus system. This reform model was like yesterday’s in that the focus was on building a culture of achievement, except here it was 24/7 (well, not including weekends when students went home). The 10th grade boy I talked to at lunchtime I could tell was definitely going places. He actually was already a sort of “student ambassador” that gave visitors tours of the school, he was enrolled in multiple APs, and he already had a list of colleges he wanted to apply to…for chemical engineering! He was still very curious about college life; he had plenty of questions and he kept up a good conversation. However, he wasn’t from an urban environment (this school pulls kids from across MD), and his schooling before this one he described as pretty average and calm; so, I wondered how my interaction would have been with a student originally from the stereotypical unstructured, misbehaved urban school system.

At Midtown this afternoon, we had another info-packed day about resumes, interviews, and financial aid. We also thought it would be a great idea to save our students’ letters to themselves until the day of their 8th grade graduation (even though they apparently already did this for another class). I really hope all the information we gave them today and yesterday has stuck at least a little. It’s been kind of hard for our group to tell if they’ve truly felt engaged by our lessons, these past four days with them felt like no time at all…

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Day 3: If it weren’t for that meddling Internet…

Today, we learned about the next reform school model, a franchise charter school, not by visiting, but by being visited. We had a Q&A with the Recruitment Director…first of all, since when did public schools have recruitment directors?? There seemed to be several conflicting descriptions about this school model: joyous but militaristic, about students and about the numbers. While the idea being highly structured sounding appealing, especially after experiencing yesterday’s public schools, some of us questioned whether this emphasis on standardized assessment performance and behavior brainwashing was actually “teaching” the students anything relevant (such as critical thinking…) and if it actually translated to life after this school, to the outside world, the real world.

Also, at Midtown this afternoon, today was my day to lead the lesson. I planned A LOT to cover, but I didn’t think that I underestimated how long each activity would take, and that seemed to be the case in the beginning. As long as we had questions that encouraged the kids to think, they answered. I noticed that their college questions were becoming more specific as the week went on too. However, then we were to used the laptops… We thought that by starting them up before the lesson that we were prepared against any more technical difficulties…NOPE. Even once on the internet and I wanted the students to follow along looking up different college types as we discussed them, the loading was so slow that it was almost useless, and I knew this made my plan to have each student conduct their own college search & comparison a lost cause too. At least they can keep the worksheets with the website names, and there is always opportunity for review…

Day 2: Chaos on the Courtyard

I was really excited for the opportunity to shadow a student today. I went to an elementary/middle school–no special reform model–and my group did not have to leave until late morning due to the school taking standardized tests. Initially, this sounded like a nice perk…

Basically, after awkwardly navigating the bus system to the school for an hour and getting rained on, we were really hoping this visit would go smoothly…NOPE. The principal–the PRINCIPAL–was not even expecting our arrival. We waited in a 5th grade classroom that just finished testing while we waited for more guidance, and we were eventually paired up with some of them to be shown around the building. I mean, those kids were super friendly and inquisitive, but from what I had been told, I was expecting a pre-organized plan and selection of student guides. I was dropped off in a random 3rd grade class. The teacher welcomed me kindly, and a couple students noted my presence, then a few more, then the whole class was trying to introduce themselves at once, and for the rest of the time I spent in that class the teacher struggled to keep students engaged in “free time” and not fighting or running around. When I spoke to students one-on-one, they did seem compliant and willing to answer my questions. But where there was no supervisor, there was madness. The volume level certainly did not die down when I visited the 7-8th grade lunch period either. The girls I met were definitely interested in talking to me, but when they weren’t, their interaction with each other involved a lot of ‘friendly’ yelling and pushing. The disciplinary staff in the cafeteria used this method too…not exactly what I would’ve recommended…

This experience, plus the long bus travel, had very much drained me by the time we had to start Day 2 of the College & Career Institute at Midtown. It was hard for us to go from a chaotic morning to more teaching. Although we had a bit of fun in the beginning, we did not maintain as much of an energetic tempo as we could have, so we lost our students’ attention at times. This is something I intend to work on for my lesson tomorrow, after a lot of coffee…YEAH LEARNING!

Day 1: A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

One day in Baltimore has already left an impression on me. Driving into the city through slums even before we arrived at the hostel, made my mental images from our class readings on inner city environments come to life. I can’t imagine having to grow up in such a broken down neighborhood with  trash and impoverishment everywhere; it makes me appreciate my grassy backyard a lot. Yet, I recognized that my mind  was having a conflict: many of these streets reminded me of those I have walked across in Manhattan several times before in my life, yet this was different…they were not overflowing with the wealthy tourists, businesspeople, and artists that give the Big Apple life. These streets cried out for a pick-me-up. As our class made the walk from the hostel to Midtown Academy, there was a notable shift to clean streets, larger buildings, and colorful eateries. We really found Baltimore’s wealth around the inner harbor, the tourist trap, where many of the people passing through may never know of the dirty neighborhoods only several blocks away.

Also, Eutaw.

Soph Spring 2 001Group 8A’s classroom

 

Final Introduction…

Hi all! My name is Maddie Price. I am a sophomore at Gettysburg College majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Educational Studies and Theatre Arts.  I come from Lawrenceville, NJ, which very much represents suburbia New Jersey, sprawling with nice cars, squirrels, and malls. So, EDUC 220 has been my first big dive into urban studies, and my eyes have already been opened to a lot of harsh realities just from our readings. I’ve only started getting into studying education this year, so I’m really excited for this extra classroom experience in Baltimore! And, as we education students are taught, what better way to learn than through immersion and hands-on work?