April 2013 Archives

Hi from Nate!

I'm Nate, a second-year Chemistry major in the College.  I have been working at the Gary Comer Youth Center since winter 2012; I help middle-school students out with their homework.  When I took the van to Comer for the first time, I couldn't believe my eyes as the building first came within sight.  Surrounded by empty lots, boarded-up homes, and liquor stores, the multi-colored panels of the enormous complex stood in stark relief.  My first visit had me nervously getting to know some of the students while playing ping-pong and XBox in the game room.  Immediately, a kid called Brandon introduced himself to me, and we promptly engaged in a heated debate about PS3 vs. XBox.   With that, I realized for the first time how truly awesome the kids at Comer are, and how transformative the center has been for the community.  This blog will attempt to capture that essence. Thanks! -Nate

Reflections from Till

Here is a brief reflection on my experience with NSP and Till Elementary School.  It was a great place for me to start my NSP work.

The Neighborhood Schools Program has been a transformative experience for me.  I always knew I wanted to try teaching.  At the University of Chicago, I saw NSP as an ideal opportunity to pursue my passion for teaching and serve the needs of Chicago Public School students.  Brandi Snodgrass placed me in Till Elementary School, and I wandered into a classroom of 34 first-graders during Fall Quarter of my first year.  I will always remember the little faces of my students as they sat around the little green table, ready to do anything but practice writing numbers.  Over the next eight months I connected with these six year-olds, witnessed Ms. Mallet’s sincere dedication to her students, and saw first-hand the potential of these children.  There were days when I was alone in the room with these students, learning quickly to act on my feet and make decisions about whether the pencil Dakota was holding belonged to him or DeMario.  I discovered the power of acting in control when standing in front of the room when I felt nothing but chaos inside me.  I learned how to calm six year-old tempers when I worked one-on-one with students.  I gained all of these skills on the fly.  Most importantly, teaching in Till Elementary School showed me the potential of these children.  The passions, energies and abilities of these six year-olds, despite everything that works against them, is truly inspiring.  I now work at a high school in the same neighborhood because I want to see where these kids end up developmentally, academically and socially.  I hope to use my experience from both schools to help these students succeed through the Summer Links Program.   At Till, I learned valuable teaching skills including confidence, consistency, and compassion.  I learned the importance real, needed community service work.  Through Till Elementary and the Neighborhood Schools Program, I saw the potential of my students and realized that if I do my part to work with these students, each one of them can become one step closer to doing whatever he or she wishes to do.

Now that the great Era of School Closings is upon us, Till was on the list to close.  It would have been a shame for my first school to close.  Till is the place where, during Orientation week, I helped build a garden in the abandoned lot across the street.  Till is the place where, on my first day of teaching, the kids drew on my pants and shoes under the table and I did not notice until I settled into my dorm room that evening.  Till is the place where I discovered I really want to be a teacher, regardless of age or circumstance.  I am sure other NSPers share similar experiences with other schools that are closing.  I hope these schools don't close.  Regardless, I just hope the closings work out best for the students.

Thanks NSP,


Hi from Annie Wu!

  Hi everyone, I am Annie Wu, a second year Comparative Human in the College. When I’m not tutoring, I practice belly dance with the circus for our upcoming show with Commedia, or dance the tango.  I currently work at both Sue Duncan Children’s Center and Jackie Robinson Elementary in North Kenwood. Sue Duncan is an after-school tutoring program located within Jackie Robinson. I am a teaching assistant for 1st and 2nd grade at Jackie and a tutor for the Children’s Center. All the kids are very interesting, and I know that everyday I walk into the classroom that I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me. 

Reflecting upon my work with Sue Duncan and Jackie Robinson has led me to further understand  the difficult of being a teacher and being a student. As a tutor in the classroom, I am beginning to understand the difficulty of teaching when I begin asking questions like “Why isn’t this student focusing in class?”, “What is this student’s style of learning?”, “Why isn’t the homework helping them”,  or “Which students am I overlooking when I am helping the classroom out?”. When teachers need to “teach to the test”, the impetus both to master material and to produce students who can learn to test grows in gravity which seems to come with many anxieties as well.  Personally, I find this to be a system that cramps the potential of the best of teachers, but I am up for a debate.

For the students, I see a bit of myself in them as well, the frustration of being unable to understand a lesson, the struggle to find meaning in their daily tasks, and the ensuing distraction from schoolwork by friends, by objects lying in their desk, or by the sights around them. Sometimes I wonder whether teaching mindfulness in the classroom would help them become better students, but at the same time, I am overwhelmed by the number of perspectives from which we can analyze and respond with actions to the difficulty of the teacher’s and student’s role.  What actions can we take so we can care for the teachers and the students so they can best develop? 

Greetings from Maggie!

Greetings Everyone!

I am Maggie Nancarrow, a 2nd Year Master of Divinity Student at the UChicago Div School! I currently work in the kindergarten classroom at Shoesmith Elementary School. Shoesmith is a fun school with a lot of interesting students. My kindergarten classroom has a total of 34 students enrolled in it and it can get quite chaotic at times. But, they are pretty adorable and love to chat it up. 

Kindergarten, incase we've all forgotten it, can be pretty traumatic. Systematized schooling is not a natural human behavior! We learn everything about how to 'be educated' in those early years, PreK, Kindergarten, First and Second grade… and kindergarten can be pretty difficult. My favorite part of my job is definitely just being able to care for my students; to be able to hang around with them and let them know that their progress really matters. They've come really far since the beginning of the year, and I am really proud of them. 



Greetings from Alison Green


Hello fellow NSPers and CPSers,

My name is Alison Green, and I am a first year at the University of Chicago. In my free time I enjoy decorating my suite in Max Palevsky East, taking care of my pet betta fish, Nietzsche, and coloring. 

I currently volunteer at Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, where I help kids in first-sixth grade with their homework. I started working at HPNC during winter quarter this year. My favorite part of my job is witnessing the moment when something 'clicks,' and a student finally understands a difficult concept. I also love playing tag and reading stories with the kids in my classroom. 

During my favorite day working with NSP so far, my kids used all the blocks in the classroom to build a castle complete with a moat, a draw-bridge, and spires. 

I look forward to reading about everyone's experiences!



Hello from Ben Nickerson!

Hello fellow NSPers and CPSers,

My name is Ben Nickerson, and I am a second-year at the University of Chicago.  I am the lead facilitator of this new NSP Organization Blog!  Welcome everyone.  I am a big fan of this new Blog.  Hopefully it will lead to an environment where we will all share our stories from teaching and discuss new ideas and questions about education.  We are hoping to have about 1-2 new posts to the blog per week, so be sure to check-in regularly.

Here's a little bit about myself.  Besides enjoying long walks along the 57th-streeth beach, I am an avid runner and card player.  I run Track&Field and XC for the University and am always up for a game of Canasta or Cribbage.  I also try to read one book per quarter, so please feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions (I'm currently looking for one for Spring).

I currently volunteer at UCWoodlawn where I help teach Math.  I started my NSP experience at Till Elementary School in a room of 34(!) first-graders.  I love working and teaching in schools and hope to do something in education after graduation.  One last quick fact about me: I originally signed up for NSP immediately after the community service day project during Orientation Week where I went to Till and helped clean up a nearby abandoned lot that we tried to turn into a garden.  I don't know if the garden is still around, but I hope it is!

I look forward to reading what everyone else has to share.