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As we enter into this new school year, whether it be as a returning student at Columbia starting a new semester, as a new graduate student here at Columbia College Chicago, or as an educator (pre-service teachers, classroom teachers, and assistants alike) it is important to consider what we do, the profound effect our work will have on the youth of our society, and why it is all worth it.I am entering my second year in the Elementary Education MAT program at Columbia and am thrilled to serve as the Graduate Student Ambassador for my program. Let me take this time to give you a quick welcome to Marginalia, Columbia College Chicago’s graduate student blog. I am excited to share my experiences with you and connect with current and prospective graduate students! Every few weeks I’ll explore a new topic surrounding my experiences as a CCC graduate student, an Elementary Education MAT candidate, and teaching. Sometimes I’ll discuss what my cohort is studying in class, while other times I’ll share my experiences teaching in the field, my experiences observing in the classroom, important issues in the education system, and our work creating lessons, units and curriculums. I’d like to start by sharing some highlights of my first year in the Elementary Education program, truly reflecting on why I am so passionate about education and why we are all here studying this practice at Columbia.
My first year at CCC was a year of many firsts for me…my first year as a graduate student, my first year living in Chicago, and my first year working for Chicago Public Schools. I worked for The Nettelhorst School in the Response to Intervention and Arts Enrichment programs, and my first introduction to this thing called education was nothing less than the influential Chicago Teacher’s Union strike. As part of the union, I bonded with my fellow colleagues as we came together for the greater good of Chicago’s students. I grew to quickly understand and appreciate all roles in a school building and school system, and formed great relationships with co-workers, parents and families, and the community. No matter which side you are on, it is impossible to ignore the changes in the United States’ education system. We are in an era of high-stakes testing while entering into new approaches to teaching. Students are held to high expectations of what is considered the norm and educators are expected to get them there, period. A daunting task, but an honorable one, that comes with the biggest responsibilities, but also the biggest rewards. I am excited to take on the challenge of educating all students equitably through constructivist teaching, arts integrated curriculums, ethical use of standardized testing, and teaching for social justice. I will definitely continue to explore these topics in blog posts to come!
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My first year at CCC was also my first collegiate experience in education. Although I had taught in an elementary school before, I had not taken any classes in education. My experiences in the field included learning on the job, through professional developments, and from observing and collaborating with my colleagues. When I started the program at CCC I jumped right in, eager to add to my bank of knowledge as an educator. I learned the theories behind teaching approaches I had been practicing and how to construct lessons, units and curriculum for a range of subjects and grade levels. I now know all about and practice Constructivism in the classroom, an approach to teaching in which the educator creates a learning environment where students can discover and build their own knowledge. I have grown to love all academic subjects through my math, science, language arts and social studies methods classes (while I still have my favorites, of course). And I have learned how to construct units and lessons with important, measurable objectives in mind, being certain I am truly teaching and assessing standards and objectives indicated.
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As new graduate students, prospective students, and returning students in the Elementary Education MAT program, we have all of this knowledge and so much more to look forward to this year. We will see first-hand the rewards of being an educator as we learn, observe and teach in the field: watching a child learn to read, seeing the glow on a student’s face when he realized he understood a math concept he once struggled with, hearing the excitement of a child who thought of an amazing idea for a piece of writing, or witnessing students come alive as they express themselves through the arts. As we head into a new year of school in the role of both the student and the educator, and inevitably with a lot on our plates and a lot expected from us, remember why we are here and why we do this. It will surely make you smile!
I look forward to sharing much more of my program with you, as well as my experiences in and around Chicago in teaching and education!