Archive Page 3

On Discovering My Knack and Niche for Teaching

3d0fbec22ddff84924a0cc5c31ab15bcBy Bill Waychunas – What’s up Marquette Educator blog readers? My name is Bill Waychunas (class of ’09) and I’ll be contributing my thoughts and experiences each month on this site, hopefully for your enjoyment and also to give you something to think about.

Since this is my first ever blog post, I figured that it would be a good idea to give you a little background about who I am so you can have some context for my future posts.

Let’s start with how I got into the wonderful profession that is known as teaching. As a high school student, I had a knack for math and science. This led my high school counselor to recommend that I pursue studies in Engineering. Luckily, my high school offered an Architecture and Engineering course, so I signed up.

This class (seriously) changed my life and not necessarily in the way you’d think. What I learned was that I was pretty good at the design and construction part, but that I found it to be extraordinarily boring (no offense to any engineers out there). Since this wasn’t exactly challenging and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my days working in a cubical, I knew that this wasn’t the career for me. I scrambled at the last minute to change my class schedule to something that would maybe help me to figure out the answer to the “what do you want to do when you grow up” question as college application deadlines were fast approaching. I found my answer in a course called Invitation to Teach.

In this class, I spent the last two periods of each school day serving as a teacher’s assistant at the local middle school. After some serious thought, I selected a 6th grade social studies classroom because, although not my strongest subject area, it was the content that I was most passionate about. Over the next few months, I spent time working with small groups of students, helping out the teacher, and even taught a few lessons by myself.

I was hooked.

I knew that I wanted to go into teaching. Ironically, this all happened around the time that college applications were due, and I can vividly remember racing home after school and erasing the box on my Marquette application (yes, those were still the days of paper applications) where it said “Engineering” and checking the boxes for History and Secondary Education.

Once I started courses at Marquette, I began to really appreciate the opportunities that the College of Education gives freshman to get into classrooms and work directly with students. These experiences, as well as an immersion trip with the Center for Urban Teaching (which I highly recommend), showed me the deplorable inequities that exist in the American school system. Knowing that I could contribute to changing this injustice, I decided that I wanted to teach in a low-income school.

After graduation, I moved to Las Vegas with my then girlfriend, now wife, who was working and getting her masters from UNLV. We spent four years living in the desert where I taught middle school social studies at an almost entirely African-American K-8 charter school in one of Las Vegas’ poorest neighborhoods. The school had a bad reputation and had chronically underachieved, but with an awesome middle school staff, we were able to turn things around and give students a respectable education.

During my final year in Las Vegas, I was drawn out of the classroom and served as our the School Improvement Coordinator. We made some significant changes for the better, but in the end, there were too many factors outside of our control which doomed the school and students to mediocrity at best. (maybe I’ll go into more detail in another post).

My wife and I were unhappy with our jobs and longing for a change of scenery. We were both able to find employment in Chicago, which is where my family is from, and moved here during the summer of 2013.

“Finding employment” doesn’t exactly give justice to where I am now. I had the opportunity to be a founder of a new school on Chicago’s South Side with one of the most prestigious charter school networks in the entire country. So, for the past two years, I have served as the 9th grade Civics/Reading (non-fiction) instructor at Baker College Prep.

Baker is really an awesome place. In my mind, it represents what quality education should look like in urban districts and in the two years that we’ve been open, we’ve had tremendous success. As a 9th grade team, we saw the top growth on a Pre-/Post-test in the entire network despite our students starting the school year with some of the lowest scores in the network. We’ve been able to create students that love to learn while maintaining a warm-but-strict culture. Just as our staff works their butts off to make a difference on Chicago’s South Side, we want our students to be able to go out and do the same.

Our school is named after Ella Baker,  a civil rights activist. In our mission, we seek to create “change agents” out of our students that will go out and make “multi-generational” differences in their worlds. At the end of their 9th grade year, our students complete a “Be the Change” project where they identify a  problem in their community, research its causes, then develop and present a plan about how they, as an active citizen, can solve it. Check out this link for an article detailing the event:

Outside of my school life (yes, teachers can and should have personal lives), I am an avid Cubs and Marquette basketball fan, enjoy spending as much time as possible outdoors with my wife and our dog Riley, and enjoy a fine craft beer.

With that, I hope that this post has shed some light on who I am and where I’ve been as a teacher. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts and stories with you in the near future.

Cultural Competence: Embracing Each Student as an Individual

bd08832_By Sabrina Bartels – For the past two weeks, my husband and I have been exploring Europe, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells in Paris, Barcelona, and Rome. We have loved every minute of it, especially the food. After tasting authentic pizza here in Rome, I am not sure I will ever look at frozen pizza the same way again …

As you can imagine, Europe is very different from the States. For me, one of the biggest changes I had to adapt to was the cultural differences in restaurants. In all of the cities we went to, we never automatically received the bill for our food. Instead, we had to ask for it. Over here, it is considered incredibly rude if the waiter drops the bill off at the table without the patron requesting it. We also had to get used to the times when restaurants would serve lunch and dinner; in Barcelona, lunch is frequently served at two in the afternoon, with dinner starting around eight or nine at night. And meals are LONG. You could be at the restaurant for two or three hours for dinner, which is considered perfectly normal. Life is a little slower.

During our first few restaurant encounters, I got antsy. Why weren’t people giving us our bill? Why did it take so long? And why did people eat so late? But after a little bit, I began to enjoy the routine of having a leisurely meal.

Every year, we have students come to us with their own ideas of what they expect with school, what they expect at home, and how things work in general. Some families view education as a right, while some see it as an opportunity. Some students have been taught to stand up for their family honor by fighting; some students have been taught to use their words to stand up for themselves. Some students parrot phrases that they believe are flattering, when they may be considered degrading by other people. Some students may seem consistently disrespectful, but they are only repeating what they hear in their community or in their home.

As a school, we need to ensure that we are culturally competent, taking into account the fact that all of our students come from different walks of life. There are no two students who are raised in the exact same manner, and every student enters the school building with a unique personality and way of seeing things. We need to be able to cater to this individuality by ensuring that each student knows he or she is loved and cared for because of who they are. We also need to make sure that we are using diverse ways of teaching our students; some students can patiently sit through a 40 minute lesson, while other students may need more hands-on activities.

For me as a counselor, it comes down to making sure that I am in-tune with my students’ needs, and respond accordingly. I have many students who have been taught to fight for their family and their family’s honor. And while I understand where they are coming from, I work with them to understand that fighting is not always an option. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, they don’t listen. But I think that by my acknowledging that this is a way of life for them, they realize that I am not “out to get them.” Instead, they see that I really am trying to help them out.

As the sun begins to set on our summer vacation (where in the world did it go?) I hope you find the time to think about your students and how you can embrace each of their differences!

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.

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