By Anna Meyer
At 3:30 a.m. on Thursday Oct. 20, most Bethany students were sleeping. However, students in the Center for Urban Teaching club were starting their day and heading to Milwaukee, Wisc.
The Center for Urban Teaching (CfUT) is based out of Milwaukee. Bethany’s CfUT club is a cohort of this organization, so this past Thursday and Friday they traveled to Milwaukee to meet with them.
“The CfUT’s goal is to ‘identify, prepare and support’ future urban teachers,” said club president Abigail Wegner.
“Here at Bethany, we try to do the identify step. We try to get as many teachers here as we can, and involve them in the cohort so they can get exposed to all of these organizations and things like that. We take them on immersion trips and show them what these schools look like, then we branch out into the community and see what resources we can pull here.”
After Bethany students take this initial step, the CfUT becomes more involved for the prepare and supporting phases, Wegner said.
Students can do things like summer school through the CfUT, and that would be the ‘prepare’ aspect.
“After that, for the ‘support’ part of that is, you can graduate from the CfUT, and they’ll help you get a job somewhere urban. They’ll also come help coach you past your graduation, when you’re actually in the field of teaching with a real job,” said Wegner.
This trip Bethany’s CfUT club took was considered an immersion tour, also part of the ‘prepare’ aspect.
Their first stop was at a school in Milwaukee called St. Marcus. They were able to observe the classrooms to see how not only the teachers act, but how the kids respond, too. After observing and exploring the school, they were given the opportunity to meet with the dean and principal in order to ask questions and learn more about the school.
CfUT club member Taylor Nordhausen was especially blown away by this first stop during her first immersion experience, and really took to heart some of the things she learned there.
“The principal gave us some really good advice and that would be, ‘Be coachable.’ Be able to take feedback and apply it. And that’s just stuck in my head: be coachable, be coachable, because I would love to be able to work there someday.”
Their next stop was in Racine at Hope Via. This school was new and only included grades Kindergarten through fifth, which gave them the chance to see an evolving school. Here they saw a school based on very high, demanding standards and found out just what schools look for when hiring a teacher.
Their final destination that night was in Chicago, where they checked into a hotel, ate dinner and reflected on their day.
“We got to talk about our lifelong goals and what we see ourselves doing in life, years down the road. Then we all got to discuss what we wanted to do which was really nice.” said Nordhausen.
Like Nordhausen, member Samantha Ely learned a lot.
“I learned that as a teacher, your relationship with your students is the most important thing. Once you have a strong relationship established, classroom management and every other part of teaching can be carried out smoothly,” said Ely.
The next morning, yet another early start at 6:00 a.m., they headed to Great Lakes Academy which was a charter public school with grades Kindergarten through third grade.
The last school they were able to tour was called Disney II, which was a new, project based, magnet high school. This meant that students had to take a test in order to attend the school, and their curriculum consisted of mainly projects and collaborative work. Here they experienced different teaching styles and saw an example of a school that embraced creativity.
After their last visit they headed back to Milwaukee where they were able to debrief their trip and talk about their next steps.
“We went around the room and talked about action steps. We saw all this stuff and then had to give one action step. We said, this is what we saw and now this is what we’re going to do to help us in our education,” Wegner said.
Wegner’s take-away is to focus on the principal and not the school.
“I always thought you had to go out and find the best school ever, but that’s not always the case. You have to know what you believe in regards to education, and you shouldn’t settle on those beliefs, ever.”
Wegner has always wanted to work in urban schools, to serve kids there and be a role model for them, and to help them attain their goal: attending college.
Wegner’s action step will be student teaching at St. Marcus next semester and graduating from Bethany in the spring. Her dream job would be to continue working at St. Marcus, but the possibility is out there for her to get her Early Childhood certification from Concordia in St. Paul.
Taylor Nordhausen’s action step and take-away really stems from something St. Marcus’s principal told her.
“He said three things to us. Kids want to be known, they want to be loved and they need to be set at high standards. Kids will know if you really care or you’re pretending to know who they are. They want genuine love–I think I can do that for them, I want to give them that love.”