My placement in Albany Park for the Urban Program was an exciting balance of exploration and anticipation of the unknown. Going in to the experience, I had a very different idea of how things would actually go down while completing my student teaching. I did not anticipate truly being able to go out and explore the city and neighborhoods, but am so thankful that I allowed myself the time to do more beyond school-related tasks. For me, learning about the city itself as well as finding my space within it was truly a highlight of my Urban Program experience.
The host culture:
My favorite part of the host culture was going to diverse restaurants throughout the city and neighborhoods and immersing myself into that specific culture through their foods and atmospheres. Stepping into restaurants that I had not yet been to took me to different parts of the world in ways I had not experienced. Finding new places to eat and frequent were exciting and interesting as I enjoy trying new foods but also gaining a new respect for authentic interactions with all that I encountered.
The most challenging part of my living location was learning how to navigate from where I was to various parts of the city. This was an initial challenge that I overcame quickly and became confident in- with such an awesome public transit system it was important to me to learn how to confidently use as I was using it daily. The most challenging part of teaching in my host location was acclimating to a classroom that was not using a mandated curriculum—this was daunting at first, but turned into a wonderful learning opportunity. I was able to find new resources to supplement the Common Core State Standards which was a valuable thing to learn- navigating and finding appropriate resources.
For me, learning about the city itself as well as finding my space within it was truly a highlight of my Urban Program experience.
I gained the ability to approach students from different backgrounds than myself in a way that I would not have been able to experience if student teaching in Bloomington. As a townie, I have been raised in MCCSC schools and was drawn to the Urban Program because it provided me with a student teaching experience in a community very different than what I would have otherwise been placed in, one that I had been a part of since birth. Immersing myself and becoming a part of the school community allowed me an opportunity to work with students who lived in different settings and had experiences differing from my own in an authentic way.
Advice for future students:
The biggest piece of advice I have is to save space for yourself as an individual outside of student teaching and the classroom—so much energy is placed into your student teaching that it is easy to lose sight of what drives you outside of education. Remember what you love, what excites you, what YOU want to get out of the experience! Take time to explore, learn about, and immerse yourself as much as you can!! You will learn so much about the city and community as well as yourself.
Going the distance:
Things may feel stressful at times being in Global Gateway, you will often be reminded that you’re doing a lot more than other student teachers- you are and you should be proud of it. All the hard work is going to pay off and while you are at your student teaching placement you will be SOOOOO glad that you made the commitment to this teaching experience. There are so many amazing connections within the Global Gateway community, be sure to use them and never hesitate to ask questions! Participating in Global Gateway was easily the best decision I made during my time at IU, and teaching in Chicago was the perfect ending to my undergrad and beginning of my teaching career.