Elementary Education: Beginnings

Photo of a piece of art by Dolan GaimanA great piece by Dolan Gaiman. Photo taken at the Bucktown Arts Fest.


It’s the evening before graduate school begins, and I am full of that good butterfly feeling. I’m not entirely sure that I’ll be able to sleep tonight. I imagine that I’ll spend the next few hours meticulously arranging my recently purchased school materials and wondering what our first assignment will be. Tomorrow’s class is Student Teaching Planning. I’m amazed that we begin thinking ahead to spring 2012 so soon, but I imagine I’ll find out why we do pretty quickly.

It’s been five years since I attended undergrad at Kent State University. I think part of the butterfly feeling is putting back on my academic hat and being surprised at how much the hat has changed. Kent was a sleepy college town, I lived on campus, hell, it was 2002! Lately every time I ride the brown line to reach Columbia’s campus for a pre-school event I get giddy – I am a graduate student in Chicago! Chicago IS my campus! I’m excited to see how much the difference between Kent and Chicago plays into my grad school experience.

Although I’m just starting school here, I’ve lived in Chicago for five years now. My husband and I live in North Center in a quirky house off Lincoln Avenue. I love my neighborhood, so prepare for North Center love to be splattered all over this blog.

Big Blue HouseSee that tiny attic window? All mine.


Our first big introduction to graduate school was last weekend. The day started with an early morning meet-and-greet. The first person I met was a Creative Writing – Nonfiction student who lives just a few blocks south of me. We traded info on our respective programs. It was exciting to hear what she’ll be doing and a bit relieving to instantly connect with someone outside my program as I imagine I’ll be pretty immersed in my own cohort.

After the meet-and-greet we gathered together to watch a documentary by a current graduate student called Vera Klement: Blunt Edge. It’s a glimpse into the artistic process and life of an 80-year-old woman, and I highly recommend you check it out. As we all sat in the auditorium watching this film together, I felt this simultaneous wave of both pride and inspiration. Beautiful things are made here. I want to make beautiful things.

We eventually separated into our individual programs. The rest of orientation is a bit of a blur now, but the main thing that sticks out in my mind is this Learning Type Measurement test they gave us. We spent about 45 minutes completing this very thorough exam and at the end read about the learning type that comes most naturally to us and the type that is least natural. I was rather stunned by my extremely accurate results. I won’t quote all of it because it was very long and detailed, but the gist of it is, “I perceive information concretely and process it actively. I integrate experience and application. I learn by trial and error. I am a believer in self-discovery. I am adaptable, even relish change. I thrive on crisis and challenge. I believe content/curricula should be geared towards learners’ interests and inclinations.”

The results sort of simultaneously reflected my past inclinations in education (to be a theatre director), but also strangely helped me to relate a bit how that past is going to connect to everything I do as both a teacher and a learner going forward. After we completed the test, they noted that we should hold onto the results because we’ll also be taking an exam on our teaching style. I had a very nerdy realization at this. I am here to start a learning journey. By the end of it, I will be a teacher. I couldn’t be more excited about this!