Reflections from Rebekah: A CS Student Teacher

A Few Deep Breaths

I vividly remember my first day at the Chicago Semester office as a student teacher. It was a warm, Sunday afternoon and I was waiting for my train at the Irving Park “L” stop. I had been dreaming of student teaching with Chicago Semester since my sophomore year at Calvin College, and three years later the day finally arrived. After an agonizingly long train ride, a short walk, and a few deep breaths, I eagerly entered (what might be) one of the most exciting adventures in my journey to become an educator.

My name is Rebekah Courtney and I am pursuing degrees in elementary and early childhood education with a minor in urban studies and a focus in urban education. It is hard to believe that the memory recorded above occurred only three weeks ago. Fast forward, and I am about to enter my third week of student teaching at Cleveland Elementary school in the second grade.

While the Chicago Semester offers two amazing housing options for their students, I chose to live off campus with a family that I have a close relationship with. While this is a nontraditional path for Chicago Semester students, I have found that I am able to find the bright side in this situation! I have been living in Chicago since June with my new “family” and I have been able to grow deeply in my relationship with them. They provide me support and comfort, and did I mention they have a super cute 8-month-old baby that I get to watch?? Before I get too far off track, one of the real perks of me moving in early was that I had the opportunity to meet my cooperating teacher before the semester and help her set up our classroom! I look back at this opportunity fondly because my cooperating teacher and I have begun to form a beautiful partnership together. While I’ve only been with her for three weeks, I know that this semester I will be challenged, molded, and guided into my identity as a teacher.

I mentioned earlier that I have anticipated my time with the Chicago Semester Program for a little under three years. I believe that Chicago has so much to offer me as a growing teacher. The different schools, families, neighborhoods, and cultures that abide in Chicago provide a diverse experience for an aspiring urban educator like myself. One aspect of my daily routine of student teaching that brings me joy is the uniqueness of my students. Whether we are having a number talk or sharing lunch together, my students are constantly teaching me about who they are and what they need as learners. Although this is only my third week at Cleveland, I am so excited to see how my class and I are going to learn together!

Since I live “off-campus,” I believe it is important to spend intentional time with the other Chicago Semester students. To give you a small-taste of city life thus far, I would love to share a recent memory with you. This past weekend, a few of the other student teachers and I went to the Pilsen Art Walk that is offered once a month in the neighborhood of Pilsen. We spent the evening appreciating local artists, exploring new buildings, and trying to find an exciting place to eat. We ended up eating at Chato’s Pasta House (which I would highly recommend!) and we strolled around the neighborhood on the way to the pink line. One exciting aspect of the Chicago Semester is that we are encouraged to take public transit everywhere we go. This was my first time on the pink line and I definitely think it’s more scenic than my usual trip on the blue line!

I’m eager to share my journey with you over the next three months, and I hope that by doing so some small part of the joy and excitement that I am experiencing is conveyed to you all!