Last full day

Today we were visiting another type of school reform. We went to Lombard and Hopkins to wait for Bus 10. Unfortunately, it decided it wasn’t going to come, so instead of waiting an extra 10 minutes for the next to come, we just hopped onto Bus 35, which took us close enough to the school. The day was extremely windy, which made the walk to the reform school we visited today a very long and cold walk.

Once we got in, we checked in with a pretty intense security system. Then, one of the school’s staff members came to show us around the school. We were given some background information about the history and then we got to tour the campus. The school focuses heavily on college and starts very early in making students aware of their options. Personally, I think the school provides a great environment for the children. However, I do wish there was a better option for the staff who worked there because their days seem extremely tiring and I can’t help but wonder how they are able to run a classroom efficiently when their long days seem to drain them so much. Still, they manage to do it. After the tour, I got to observe the biology classroom, which was awesome! I loved the class size because there were only about 9 students in there. It made it easier for the teachers to provide a lot of attention to each of the students’ needs. All of the students seemed actively engaged with their worksheet. There was one student who had his head down, but I believe he was already finished. We only observed for about 20 minutes and then we got to go and chat with some students over a lunch break. The two students that Liz and I spoke with were really great. They said that although there were things that they had thought annoying in their earlier years, they said how they had grown to understand and appreciate what the school was teaching them. After about 30 minutes, we headed out.

Rex, Liz, and I had to go to Walgreens to pick up our photos and we had thought we were going to be late, but ended up being the first ones there. Our plan for today was to complete the life map. We had started making parts of the life map, but today was when we were going to put it all together. It took almost the entire time. While they were working, we asked if they had any more questions for us and also, what they would want to do when they came to visit in April. The kids finished at different times, so we asked the ones who were finished to present their life maps to us while we waited for everyone else to finish. Every student got the chance to present and then we gave each of them some constructive criticism. It was great because the students began to critique each other, which to me, shows that they were really absorbing what we were telling them. It was a pretty great end to the long week.

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As we’re wrapping up the end of this week, I really appreciate how my group kept me from being too high-strung about this week. We all contributed really great ideas and planned out what activities would go on which day, but they didn’t feel the obsession to plan about the exact about of time each activity would take. I feel like this probably saved me a lot of disappointment as I’m sure I would have felt if things did not start and end exactly as planned. I’m really excited to see the kids present their life maps tomorrow! I hope Ivan will be able to present his well even though he missed two days.

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Pictures, pictures, pictures!

Today had a nice start. We didn’t have anything on the schedule until 1:30PM, so of course, I stayed up late last night and then didn’t get up until 11AM. It was super nice being able to sleep in. Then I was able to take my time getting ready and at 12PM, almost all of the people in our urban education class headed out to David & Dad’s for brunch. We didn’t get to all sit near each other, but I still had a good time and the bagel with honey walnut raisin cream cheese was delicious!

When we got back to the hostel, we had a representative from one of the many school reform models we’ve been learning about come and talk with us for about an hour. I liked what the school was doing with providing their students a whole new environment and how they would hold their students to a higher standard than what they had expected and grown up with. Parts of their program made me a little uncomfortable because it sounded almost like they were brainwashing the children. But overall, I think they instill really good values. I think even the fact that they give their children the hope of going to college is such an achievement, even if the school itself might not see it that way. Of course, graduating from a four year college is a great achievement. However, when they very idea of going to college seemed like a goal that was too high to reach, even the fact that this program lets their students grasp at being applied and accepted must be a huge step for the students. I worry a little bit whether the standards the program sets are so high that the students feel like failures if they do not graduate from a four year college. It makes me curious how it affects them and how the people who track them make them feel. As the program grows and evolves, I’m sure they will continue to improve though and I hope they begin to get more sponsors to help them.

After the representative left, we all began to head out to Midtown academy. Today was my lucky day and got to ride in the car with Professor Rinke to go to the school. I’ve missed the convenience of cars so much, so I really appreciated it. We got to the school fairly early today. Our group was doing a powerpoint presentation today and luckily, the teacher was still in the classroom and she was able to bring out the projector for us to use. Today’s theme was ‘Where are you going?’. So we talked a lot about their future. We started off with a warm-up called the three-headed doctor, which I think the kids had a lot of fun with. It’s too bad that Ivan was absent today.

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After the warm-up, we had them write out where they thought they would be in 5, 10, and 15 years from now. The kids had some really great thoughts and ambitions. Rodney surprised me by saying that he wanted to have a kid at 18 years old. I was surprised, but then I wondered if that was a cultural difference where he is just used to seeing younger people having children. We had a pretty long discussion with this though and I really loved listening to what the kids wanted to do. Kalyn has such a pure motive where she just wants to help people.

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Next, we transitioned into our powerpoint presentation where we discussed options for after high school. Doug talked about the army and being an entrepreneur. Then I talked about different types of colleges and tried to explain the importance of it. I went through four different types: Vocational, Community College, Four-year college, and university. Then I quickly explained the difference between public and private schools. They didn’t seem as involved in the presentation as with other activities, but it was probably due to the fact that they were more being lectured at than participating. Still, they did ask some good questions. After the presentation, Charrisha explained the importance of networking and we had them make business cards. Then Charrisha, Doug, Michael, and I each pretended to be a type of business and the kids went around introducing themselves to us and talking about what they could contribute. Afterwards, we gave them some critiques and praises. Finally, some of the kids did not finish using up their cameras and so we took them around the school to use up the last few pictures left since we needed to take them to develop. We finished right on time. Then, after our class reflection, we headed out.

Doug, Liz, Rex, and I all needed to get pictures developed, so we separated from the rest of the group after getting off the light rail. We tried Rite Aid first because it was closest, but it was going to take 1 week for them to develop the disposable cameras. So then we went and found the Walgreens that we had passed the night before and dropped off the cameras. They said they should have them developed by 10AM. So overall, this process took a bit longer than I thought. We didn’t get back to the hostel until about 7:30pm. We had four other people waiting for us at the hostel and we weren’t sure where to eat and so we headed toward Inner Harbor and ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp. This was my first time there and it was really delicious. We didn’t get back until around 9 or 9:30, so today was probably the latest we’ve stayed out. So tired and ready to head to bed now. I hope those pictures are developed and ready tomorrow morning!

Buses in the rain..

The day started off at around 9:00 for me, which was great because I really needed the sleep. After getting dressed and ready, we headed out to a cafe place called David and Dad’s right around the corner from the hostel. It was a pretty nice start to the day. Then, all of us who were going to an elementary school headed outside, where it had started raining, so we could catch the bus. I’m always really skeptical about buses because my experience is that they come late about half of the times I take them. And they’re always late when you need them to be on time, and the times when it doesn’t matter, they’re exactly on time. The ironies of life..

So, of course, the first bus we wanted to take was about 15 minutes late and originally, we had 14 minutes to catch the next transfer, so we missed the second bus and had to wait. Luckily, this bus was on time, so we made pretty good time to the elementary school. When we got there, the person at the front didn’t know we were supposed to be there and we had to explain to them that we were from Gettysburg College. The kids were still testing so we had to wait a little bit in the auditorium. It was only for a couple of minutes and then we were taken up to our contact teacher’s class. He went down to hand in the exams somewhere. While he was out, we took some time to talk to the students. I started off talking to two of the girls. I suppose all fifth grade classrooms get like this, but I realized that it got really loud real quickly because I was having a hard time hearing what the girls were saying. They were telling me about their after school activity and walked through their schedule in a day with me. They were also really excited to be going on a field trip to the science fair.

Our contact came back and had a student to take Andrea and me to the fourth grade math teacher’s class. He was really friendly and introduced himself and then introduced us to his class. There was an officer that came in that day to talk about anti-gang and anti-bullying. He told us he didn’t plan a lesson for them because they had been testing that day, but he wanted to help us. So he pulled out four of his exceptional students so we could just talk with them. We walked through their school day and asked them about the school. They all said they liked the school and especially voiced their love of math; it seemed like teacher was the type of person who was really for the students and knew how to have fun with the kids. They talked about the food they get and said how it was too greasy and they were making a proposal for a salad bar to be established, which I was really impressed with. But it seemed like we saw the exceptions. When we were finished talking to them, we walked into the hallway and witnessed a teacher yelling across the hall at a student about how they were being disrespectful. The math teacher’s class was also a bit hectic and he had to ask more than once for them to sit down. He then asked if there was anything else he could do for us and then we thanked him and left.

We got to Midtown Academy around 3:10. Today’s theme was “Where are you from?” We started off with a warm-up called ‘Wah’, which went okay, but I had wanted the kids to get more excited about it. So that was a little disappointing. The rest of the day went pretty great though. I feel like we got some really good kids and all of them are always very willing to participate. We talked about their backgrounds first like: their family, their heritage, and any traditions they might have. This transitioned into interviews where we told them they want to talk about what makes them unique. They wrote down strengths, weaknesses, activities they participate in, and their interests. Charrisha then conducted some mock interviews with them. We used this experience to talk about positives and negatives of an interview process, which Doug facilitated really well. The day wrapped up talking about their role models and what characteristics make a role model, which was pretty successful.

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Then it was time for them to go home. Overall, the day started off really well, traveling was a bit of a bummer, and then the day ended well.

Who are you? (Day 1)

It was pretty hard to get up this morning, but once I was up, I was running around getting everything ready last minute. The class was meeting at 9:30 in Constitution Lot and I got there right on time. I usually hate driving more than an hour anywhere, but the trip went by a lot quicker than I expected. We got to the hostel and after putting away our stuff, most of the girls went to Lexington Market to get some food. Then we went back to the hostel to get a review of what we had to do and then decided to walk over to Midtown Academy together. I noticed that the two sides of the hostel seem like completely different neighborhoods. The neighborhood around Midtown seemed much wealthier than the area around Lexington. It was really weird because it seemed like there were two different worlds within 20 minutes of each other.

Anyway, so we finally get to the school (I really hope I never have to walk there by myself because I’d probably end up getting lost) and the assistant principal talks to us for a bit. Then we went around and observed a couple classrooms. We went to see kindergarteners, first-graders, third-graders and a drum beat class. The kindergarteners didn’t sit still very well, but they were so eager to participate. I was really impressed by the presentations by the third-graders. We only got to see one full presentation, but she was really knowledgeable about her topic. She was talking about Dr. Ben Carson and at the end, one of her classmates asked her how he did the brain surgery, and she explained a step by step process of how he separated a Siamese twins. Overall, all the kids were very willing to participate in their class, which surprised me.

Then it was finally time for the College and Career Institute. Our theme for the day was ‘Who are you?’ and we did activities that focused a lot on their activities. The kids were really well-behaved and listened well, but also funny. Here are some first impressions of them: Maya likes to make people laugh. She seems close with Jasmyne and also talks a lot with Taylor. Ivan participates a lot, but he doesn’t seem as confident in himself as he should be. Kalyn is still pretty quiet. Rodney is pretty laid-back. They’re all so fun loving though, which is evident by the picture I took today. They really loved the photo thing. We gave them their cameras today and they had some pretty good creative ideas about what to take pictures of. I’m also just really glad they all seem to get along well with each other. They also got really excited when we had them show us around the school and it was really awesome to see how much they got into it. I’m really excited to see what their pictures will develop into!

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Pre-trip jitters

It’s the day before the Urban Education class heads out. As usual with any big trip, there’s a lot of mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness. As a biology major, this is the first education class that I have ever taken. I’ve learned a lot so far about all the different factors that led to the condition it’s in now and what our country is trying to do in improving education systems in urban areas. More than anything though, I’ve learned that there is no perfect step by step process in teaching and I don’t have any idea of what works for me when I’m running a curriculum. So this week will be a lot of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. We’ll see I guess! Still, I’m really excited to meet the kids in my group, especially now that we know who we have and got to read their survey. I hope the kids learn a lot, but most importantly, I just hope the kids enjoy the curriculum we’ve set for them. It’s hard to believe it’s tomorrow!

-Yoo Yuong