NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – This January during interterm, I had the chance to travel to Chicago as a part of the education course School and Community.
The course, required for all Bethel College education majors, is designed to help future teachers enter the school system with the tools they need to provide their students with a valuable multicultural education. It is focused on public schools and their relationship with the community within which they are located.
Issues such as poverty, cultural diversity, abuse, neglect, controlled substance abuse, public health and crisis management were our main focus throughout the course.
We spent the first and last weeks of interterm on campus learning through traditional classroom methods. Our professor, Lisa Janzen Scott, did an excellent job familiarizing us with cultures different than dominant one in which many of us were raised.
The real learning about diversity happened when we ventured 700 miles north of North Newton to Chicago to immerse ourselves in a culture far different than ours.
Hosted by the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture, we spent a week exploring the city and getting to know its residents.
The first day in the city, our group split up and we were assigned tour guides that introduced us to the highly segregated neighborhoods of Chicago.
We spent our second day learning how to use the public transportation system. A scavenger hunt around the city tested our navigational skills by assigning us certain locations, to which we were to find the most direct path using only trains and buses.
The next three days we were able to apply all our new-found knowledge of diversity, culture and the urban lifestyle of Chicagoans as we spent the rest of our week observing in schools.
Our group was made up of a variety of future educators, including students focused in elementary education, music, history, and P.E. So we were placed in a variety of different schools located in different parts of the city.
The schools we were placed in were demographically diverse. We had the opportunity to experience the learning tendencies and communication patterns of students very different from the students we observe in the Newton area.
My rural upbringing and my small-town history made our stay in Chicago scary and challenging. It was also one of the most valuable experiences I have had in my time at Bethel.
My personal, preconceived notions of other cultures were challenged. I am grateful for my new-found knowledge of diversity, which I could have only gained by immersing myself in a diverse environment.
For a future educator, the experience was also extremely valuable. I want to be the very best teacher I can be to every student in my classroom.
The opportunity I had in Chicago to engage in multicultural education taught me things I could not have learned as thoroughly in a lecture hall. After my experience on this interterm trip, I know I am better equipped to create an equitable, caring and effective classroom.