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“When I want to be alone, I go to the playground. I like the monkey bars, and I flip off the swing. The ground is made of wood chips, and the posts are made of steel. Sometimes there are squirrels in the trees. We run and play there.” – Deon is Good, from The 826 CHI Compendium, Volume 1.
It’s almost the end of my summer semester, which means I am very close to being done with my first year of graduate school. It feels a bit unreal. With the fall in sight, many of my classmates have been discussing what they are going to be doing for work next year. During the spring semester of our second year, we will all be student teaching (aka no jobs allowed), which makes the job hunt a bit tricky. All of this job hunting talk has made me realize how many excellent opportunities for working with children are available here. I thought it might be useful to others if I shared some of these places, so I’ve compiled a list of some great organizations that work with students in Chicago.
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I WANT TO BE A PAID TEACHER, PLEASE.
There are several excellent opportunities to work as a teacher in Chicago before earning your teaching license. One of the best ways to do this is to work for a nonprofit as a Teaching Artist. Some programs will ask you to submit proposals for a class you could teach, like Columbia College’s Center for Community Arts Partnership or After School Matters. Some classes may last the full school year, while others may be offered for just one semester. Research the type of classes already offered to see what you would be able to offer to the program. Other programs, like Urban Gateways or Changing Worlds, have a set teaching artist curriculum. These jobs are typically after school and part time.
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I’M LOOKING FOR SUMMERTIME WORK WITH KIDS, PLEASE.
Chicago has an incredible amount of summer camp programs. Arts and education organizations will often partner with public schools to offer classes for students in a wide variety of areas. University of Chicago Summer Lab has a diverse lineup in the summer, including both academic and artistic content. The Old Town School of Folk Music has summer camps for kids focused in music, theater, dance, and art. If you’re interested in gaining experience with students but don’t have the confidence to act as a teacher just yet, the YMCA and the Chicago Park Districts have summer long camps for students and are usually looking for counselors. Another great way to work with students is as a workshop leader at the Chicago Children’s Museum. They have received many stellar reviews from grad students at Columbia, who site the mission of the museum as, “helping children to play and explore.” Finally, I would suggest Urban Sitter as an excellent resource for anyone who is simply looking to make some extra cash. The site uses Facebook to connect sitters to one another and to help parents fine-tune their babysitter search. You are able to set your own wage per child and can update your schedule as far in advance as you need. Plus, if you find the right parents, it can become a great way to practice potential lesson plans!
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I DON’T NEED TO GET PAID, I JUST WANT AN ENRICHING EXPERIENCE.
If you are so excited to work with students that you are not concerned about a paycheck, then congratulations (for you are a very awesome and compassionate person)! There are many great opportunities in Chicago to volunteer or intern with companies who are providing meaningful programming for students. 826 Chicago offers numerous tutoring and writing programs for students. Their workshop topics in particular are extremely thoughtful and would provide excellent instructional ideas for a future teacher. Open Books is another excellent organization focused on literacy. Volunteers can work as a reading buddy or help a student craft a story on a Creative Writing Field Trip. Most importantly, both organizations are run by people who are passionate about helping students express themselves. I can’t really imagine a better learning experience for a new Chicago teacher.
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