Learning Isn’t Just for the Kids Anymore

sponge-mainBy Kay Howell – This May was the first time I set foot in Riverside University High School. I came prepared to wield knives—and wear an apron. Inspired mostly by our recent addiction to “The Great British Bake Off” (on PBS, check your local listings), my boyfriend and I decided we needed to find a way to justify binge-watching half a season in one afternoon.

Fortunately, Milwaukee Public Schools came to the rescue! Milwaukee Recreation, a nonprofit division of MPS, gave us just the excuse we needed: an adult enrichment course that promised to unlock the secrets of preparing and cooking authentic British cuisine.

The weather provided us with a very fine English morning, pouring buckets of rain on us, as we rushed to get to class and lamented our lack of umbrellas—or brollies, as they say across the pond. Our class, Real British Food, was meeting in the home ec. room at Riverside University High School. When we got there, the class demographics were quickly apparent: retirees and college students.

Like most people, I took home ec. in high school. I vaguely remember making a mediocre salsa. Since leaving home, my method of cooking has been mostly staring into the refrigerator and then Googling what I can do with a mish-mash of ingredients. Sometimes, this has been deliciously successful. But sometimes, the results have been merely…interesting.

Once we were seated at our work-stations, our facilitator passed out a stapled packet with several different recipes, ranging from appetizers to entrees to desserts. On the menu were exotic and enticing culinary mysteries such as “bubble and squeak” and “toad in the hole.” My boyfriend and I chose cake. Specifically, we went for the most posh-sounding, but least labor-intensive, dessert of all: the Victoria Sponge.

Before we grabbed our whisks and got baking, our facilitator gave us a run-down on the history of the various recipes in our packets. We learned that, contrary to its somewhat horrifying name, bubble and squeak is actually a cabbage and potato dish designed to use up yesterday’s leftovers. And toad in the hole features neither toads nor holes—instead, it is a baked sausage and gravy dish. A word of warning to my fellow vegetarians in the audience: If you want to experiment with British cuisine, be prepared to pick your way around an unholy volume of sausages. Learn to love potatoes and cabbage. Really, you can be perfectly satisfied with a lunch of boiled potatoes and cabbage. And cake.

At the end of the class, everyone put their finished product on the table, and we sampled each other’s dishes. It was a true feast of potatoes and sausage and cakes! Our Victoria sponge was heavenly, despite a slight mishap with whipped cream and strawberry jam. Everyone in the class had managed to produce a dish that were not just edible, but actually really tasty.

So, what did I take away from an afternoon of British cuisine (aside from a real British food baby and an overflowing carryout container)? Well, when we got home, we immediately turned on the computer. Yes, to watch more of “The Great British Bake Off,” but first to sign up for another cooking class later in the summer! So if you’re looking for something fun to do this summer, whether it be dance, cooking, or wild mushroom foraging, check out what Milwaukee Recreation has to offer. As we discovered, it’s never too late to go back to high school and learn something new!

Dwyane Wade Pays a Visit to the Hartman Center

Group Shot from Dwyane Wade VisitBy Lily Vartanian – On July 10, the Wade Readers were treated to a very exciting surprise— a visit from Mr. Dwyane Wade himself!

Our summer of learning with the possibility that Mr. Wade would visit was made a reality. The Wade Readers were very excited for the special day that was planned.

We began our day as we would any normal day of the “Live to Dream” program— bathroom breaks, morning work and reading, and snack. Although some of the children knew Mr. Wade would be visiting, there was still anticipation and excitement as news crews and University Advancement staff members gathered in the Hartman Center.

Mr. Dagget

Around 9:45, we gathered as a group in the main area of the Hartman Center. Mr. Daggett and Ms. Dillon, our “hosts” for the event and fellow Wade Coaches, gathered the group by practicing applause and getting the students ready to sit quietly. Mr. Daggett read a story to the Wade Readers, which kept them occupied as we waited for Mr. Wade’s entrance.

When Mr. Wade arrived, the students applauded and chanted “We are Marquette” to welcome him to the Hartman Center. After greeting the readers and getting seated, Mr. Wade had the opportunity to read to the students a story called “Stevie,” asking comprehension questions as he read. The Wade Readers were engaged and enjoyed listening to Mr. Wade narrate the story.

Story time

Following the story, each classroom had the chance to ask Mr. Wade one question, which turned out to be a very fun and exciting moment for them. For instance, my student, Oscar, was called up by Mr. Wade to show off his cool hairstyle, which was a great moment for my otherwise shy Oscar! Ms. Lewandowski’s student, Dwayne, also enjoyed Mr. Wade’s acknowledgement that they shared the same name, despite joking about the spelling difference.

Later on, we unveiled our gift to Mr. Wade and his sister, Ms. Tragil Wade: a canvas with each student’s handprint. Mr. Wade and Ms. Wade were given the opportunity to also place their handprints alongside the students’ on the canvas. After a group picture altogether in front of the new artwork, we returned to our classrooms to prepare for the afternoon.

Hand printAlthough our days during the “Live to Dream” program usually only run from 9:00 to 11:00 in the morning, this day was extended until 1:30 for the students. We had planned stations and games for the students outside, each of which was run by a University Advancement volunteer. Games such as water balloon toss, pillow-sack races, and wheel-barrow races made for great fun for the Wade Readers. Not only did the readers have the chance to be active outdoors, but Mr. Wade joined them during their rotations!

Balloon Toss

To finish off our busy morning, we gathered in the central mall of campus for a special lunch, joined by Mr. Wade and Ms. Wade, as well as Dr. Lovell. The readers were excited to see that many of their principals and administrative members also were able to join us for the luncheon. Our Wade Readers had a very exciting day and were each on their best behavior throughout the course of the extended day.

Now these past few weeks – having been treated to an appearance by Mr. Wade himself in the “Live to Dream” program – the Wade Readers ask when he will be back to visit. It was certainly an exciting moment not only for each of them and for us Wade Coaches, but also for Marquette to have the former student and now famous NBA player back on campus.

As our last days in the Hartman Center’s “Live to Dream” program approach, look back at my blog for more updates on the end of our time together to follow!

Wade Coach

Vacation Is All I Ever Wanted

tumblr_mpdwq0DiwC1s8y1hoo1_500_largeBy Shannon Bentley – Hey readers! It has been two weeks since I made my last post, and many events have happened since then.

Scott Walker has announced his candidacy for President of the United States, the USA female soccer team won their championship match, and the homicide rates continue to rise in Milwaukee and Chicago. However, I have been able to ignore all of these events, enjoy my life in the sun, and reflect on life itself.

My mother and I decided to go on an adventure and take a cruise to the Bahamas. The trip was better when we decided to make it into a road trip to Cape Canaveral from Milwaukee instead of taking the airplane.

Well, it has been awesome so far.

The weather is beautiful, the people are friendly, and the food is decent (I can cook better lol). However, the most interesting part about the trip is meeting new people from different parts of the country. I have gotten some perspectives on certain topics in the first paragraph and it is interesting to hear what people from the outside think about when it comes to your own hometown. In fact, I had an amazing conversation with a Chicago native and Houston natives about education.

Before we left for our vacation, I noticed that I got into a very habitual schedule where my life only consisted of work, school, and occasional visits to my friends and family. When the 4th of July passed, I realized that I did nothing to spend time with others, or have any fun – I literally worked the entire day between two jobs. My schedule became overwhelming and frustrating – I wasn’t happy going to work, I had to rely on others to make me smile and happy, and the more I worked the more I realized that my money was going into finances more than fun.

The cruise to Bahamas changed a lot of this stress.

I wasn’t worried about any major news events, I wasn’t worried about a heavy work load, and I wasn’t even worried about my bills (they were paid off before I left). I was worried about what I wanted to wear, what kind of makeup I wanted to put on, and what I wanted to eat that day. I got a pedicure, and I went dancing. I heard a lot of shows ranging from Motown, to 80’s, to current top 100 billboard music. I had amazing conversations with people that weren’t overheated. It was an awesome feeling. My mother did the same and she even got a ton of sleep on the cruise, as well.

All in all, everyone needs to take a vacation every once in a while. We must spoil ourselves and treat ourselves to the finer things in life. The stress overwhelmed me. I saw my temperament change and that I wasn’t having any fun. Nobody should live their life that way. I’m only 23 years old and like I stated in the previous post, I didn’t want to go into my career right away because I feel that I should be exploring, having fun, and volunteering.

I finally got the “having fun” part in my life – and volunteering for City Year is right around the corner.

Teaching Knowledge by Teaching Application without Knowledge

bar-exam-300x182By Nick McDaniels – Like most things that have most significantly impacted my teaching, this particular reflection comes from my own experience as a learner.

For the last few months, in between working and parenting, I have been studying for the Maryland Bar Exam, though admittedly not as much as I wish I could. Never before have I prepared for an exam that requires such an expansive knowledge base along with the ability to apply the knowledge. Quite simply, it is so much information that one of the most effective ways to learn it is by attempting to apply knowledge you don’t have to situations requiring such knowledge and then filling in the knowledge gaps later.

And one thing I think about most through this whole process, other than how much I do not know and wish I did, is how much this process of learning is going to improve my classroom practice.

To be sure, I have no intentions of throwing 6-hour, 200-question multiple choice tests at my students. But what I am going to emphasize, particularly in the design of my instruction, is having students demonstrate AND acquire knowledge through application, never independently of application.

Quite frankly, who cares what the 4th Amendment says, if you don’t understand how it affects a person’s rights? Independent of your knowledge of the 4th Amendment, if I asked you whether police should be allowed to bring drug dogs into schools to sniff lockers, what would you say? It doesn’t matter, really, what YOU say, because there is a rule that tells you whether such activity is allowed. What does matter is that I have asked you to apply the knowledge you already have to a situation, rightly or wrongly, helping you to understand your own strengths and weaknesses in knowledge and the parameters for its application. Then, when I provide for you the actual rule, whether you knew it or didn’t (sniff your little K-9 heart out Rin-Tin-Tin), your ability to apply such knowledge will be more precise.

It sounds obvious. Application is more important than knowledge because one demonstrates the other. But we as teachers so often try to increase the amount of knowledge a student has instead of focusing on whether a student can apply knowledge they have (or don’t). This simple shift in thinking, for me at least, is going to change the way I go about instruction.

Honestly, many of my assessments are already ridden with application components, but when I am preparing students for those assessments, I give them knowledge, discuss rules, vocabulary. Then, on exams I give them scenarios and let them apply their knowledge. I have been skipping the step that has been so productive for my own learning, being forced to apply what I do know to something I don’t know, so then I know what I need to know and where and when to apply it.

6 Things that Every Humanities Major Understands

By Aubrey Murtha – For my fellow humanities majors out there, you’ll understand this list:


  1. 1. A “take home exam” is really no easier than a regular in-class final. For humanities majors, take home exams are usually lengthy papers that require an excessive amount of time. Sometimes, when I have 27 papers due at the end of the semester, I’d pay money to just take a multiple choice exam.
  2. 2. “Short reading assignments” are just not a thing. An English professor’s idea of a short assignment might be 75 pages of a novel. I don’t know about you, but in my science class freshman year, a short reading assignment was like 12 pages. Much more reasonable.
  3. It’s all about the real-world experience. Internships, internships, internships. If you want a job after graduation, you have to be proactive. Get out there and get involved. Sure, you might be able to write a gorgeously-crafted sentence, but what good will that do you if you can’t apply that skill to a real work situation?
  4. Plagarism is a grave sin.
  5. There’s no such thing as cutting corners. Once you establish yourself as a good writer with your professors, they will be able to detect when you blow off their assignments.
  6. Work often mixes with pleasure. For example, some of my English major friends were in a “magic in literature” class this past semester, and yep, you guessed it – They got to read Harry Potter. Because we are so passionate about our subjects, and to us, the meat and potatoes of a humanities education is really quite enjoyable, sometimes, work hardly feels like work at all.

Feel free to comment with other things only a humanities major would understand.

A Thank You to Parents (Who’ve Been Right All Along)

Quotation-Mahatma-Gandhi-home-university-parents-teachers-Meetville-Quotes-261129By Sabrina Bartels – This past year, my husband and I vowed that we were going to watch all of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars (for the record, we are missing Grand Budapest Hotel in order to complete our list).

One of the first movies we saw was Whiplash, with J.K. Simmons. In the movie, Simmons plays a tough-as-nails teacher who demands nothing less than perfection from his students. When he won his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the movie, Simmons gave a thoughtful speech. The end, however, was what touched me the most. He told viewers to call their parents, not text or email them, but “call them and tell them that you love them.”

I work with parents a lot as a counselor, both during the school year and in summer. I do my best to be a liaison between parents and the school, and sometimes, the go-between for parents and their students. Sometimes, talking and working with parents is easy. Other times, it can be very difficult. Regardless, I think people usually remember the bad experiences they have had with parents.

That being said, this blog post is in praise of all the amazing parents out there, whose hard work, dedication, and devotion to their children sometimes goes unnoticed. I think about the parents who pick up the phone to talk to me about their child, no matter how frequently I call. I think of the parent who scolded me for not telling her I got married in October, and then sent me a congratulatory card. I think of the parents who always have smiles on their faces, or parents who always ask me how I’m doing.

I think of parents who drop everything to talk to me when it concerns their child, whether that means a phone conference, email correspondence, or coming into the building to meet with me. I see parents attending sports games, concerts, and dance recitals, even when they are completely exhausted and just getting off of work. There are parents who consistently give us their time, energy, and a listening ear whenever it is needed, and I am thankful for that.

And that’s what I really want parents to know: We hear you! We appreciate you! Without you, our school would not be the organization it is! Thank you for everything you do for us and for your students. We are so incredibly lucky to be working with you. We know that you work hard and want what is best for your kids; thank you for doing that! Thanks for being involved! I know your kids might give you grief about that, but really, it is so important that you stay involved in their lives.

Also, I want to let you in on a secret (that I’m sure many of you know!): Your kids may whine, scream, and “hate you” for being involved. They may think you’re nosy, or that you don’t want them to have any fun. But later on, they will realize that you were right all along. They may not be able to verbalize it, but at some point in their lives, they will turn around and realize that the best and most important friend that they’ve had their whole lives are you. Their families. It doesn’t matter if you are mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, or family friend. The sacrifices you have made and the love you have shown for these students is such a gift.

Middle school is one of the toughest years when it comes to being a kid. They really are. But by sticking to your beliefs, and raising your kids to have the same values, you are setting your children up for a wonderful future.

Thank you to all the wonderful moms and dads out there! And an especial thank you to my wonderful, selfless parents, who were on the receiving end of my middle school angst. Here it is, in print: I was totally wrong before. You were not out to make my life miserable; you were making sure that I walked forward in life with the right set of goals, values, and beliefs.

Expect a call from me soon – I love you!

Summer Optimism: Basking on the Manic Side (for a change)

By Claudia Felske – I’ve written several times about the fact that teaching is fertile ground for manic depression: extreme highs and lows occur on a daily basis in this profession.

These past few years in Wisconsin education, though, the emphasis has been on the depressive side.

sunSo, as a temporary antidote to this condition and in the spirit of full disclosure that the manic side is indeed currently alive and well (chalk it up to summer optimism or perhaps sunstroke) I shall now blog about two recent occurrences that have offered a jolt of optimism in the life of this educator.

Both relate to my two most recent blogposts:

Last month, in Unintended Consequences: The Gutting of Education in Wisconsin, I blogged about the unfathomable proposal by the Joint Finance Committee to allow, among other things, the licensure of teachers who haven’t even earned a high school diploma.

The manic part? I’m here to report a happy(ish) ending. many thousands of phone calls to local legislatures (thank you) and 37,000 signatures (thank you) delivered to the State Capital, decrying the ludicracy of this measure, seem to have had an effect.

Though the new wording of this measure has not been released, promises have been made to remove language allowing non high school graduates to become teachers, and relegating non-degreed, non-certifiied positions to part time, difficult-to-fill positions. While the measure should be removed in its entirety, the tide has turned, and it looks like the integrity teacher licensure in Wisconsin will, at least for now, prevail.

Secondly, in May, Teacher Appreciation Month, I blogged about ten of my most influential teachers: 10 Teachers Par Excellence: A Belated Appreciation. While writing that post, it was fun reminiscing about all the great classroom moments I was subject to, and it was difficult choosing just ten.

What I didn’t expect (the manic part begins…) was that of the teachers I wrote about, 6 connected with me after reading the post (My 6th grade teacher, 8th grade science teacher, 11th & 12th grade English teacher and 3 of my college professors) sending email replies, grateful for the shout out, and anxious to “catch up,” reminding me of their generous souls, still interested in the education of their student.

But even more manic, imagine my surprise (and manic reaction) when a few weeks ago in late May into my classroom on a seemingly ordinary day walked Mr. Bergener, my 6th grade teacher. “I read your blogpost,” he explained, with an ear-to-ear grin, “I was typing you an email, but then thought, no, I really need to go see her.” 

rick b1So there he was, in my classroom, my beloved 6th grade teacher who I hadn’t seen in 36 years, when he used to be a daily part of my 10-year old life. I had the fortune of being able to thank him in person for the lasting impact he had on me. We reminisced about classroom moments and referenced the challenges of education today.

And upon my invitation, last week, Mr. Bergner and his lovely wife made a guest appearance at my 4th of July family get together, where he completed the reunion with the rest of my family, my parents and three of my siblings, each of whom he remembered in detail. He delighted in learning what we’re up to, caring about us as 6th graders and as adults.

And that, dear readers, not test scores, is the mark of a great teacher.

Thank you Rick Bergner, and thank you Wisconsinites for the wherewithal to make those calls and sign those petitions. Thank you for caring for Wisconsin students.

Therein lies my currently manic state wherein Kindness and the Public Good seem to be in the lead.

Let’s hope it’s a trend in Wisconsin and not just a fleeting moment of summer bliss.

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