Zapata Elementary Urban Experience reflective

My colleagues and I in the halls of Zapata elementary in front of a Frida Khalo Mural

Zapata Elementary is Located in Little Village. Zapata is part of the largest school districts in Illinois, Chicago Public Schools. To understand my experience I find it important to know the demographics of the school. Zapata has 817 students, 99.6% of those students are hispanic. 97.1% of the students at Zapata are low income and have free and reduced lunch. Free and Reduced breakfast is also available at Zapata elementary. 49.2% have limited english making Zapata a bilingual environment.

Zapata Branch (left) and map of Little Village area (right)

Continuing to discuss the demographics and location of Zapata Elementary I thought it was interesting the situation Zapata was in. Due to the size of Zapata they have a extension, or as they call the branch, to their school. There is a large problem with the branch though. To start with it is one large block away from the school. A block is not that far but when i walked it with my classmates, it was a lot farther than we thought. The walk was about 10 minutes and we were surprised how hard it was to cross the first street. The branch does not have any other amenities such as a cafeteria, gym, or elective classrooms. For those things students need to travel to the other school. To get back and forth from the branch to the school students need to cross a busy road (Kostner Ave.) and then go down a block (w. 27th to S. Kolin Ave.) and through a neighborhood. I myself did this walk with my classmates discussing how much of a hassle it is to go there by ourselves, let alone with students. If you think about it, this is Chicago, this is not California, some of the worst snow happens in Chicago. It is crazy to imagine taking 30 plus students with all of their snow gear one block away to get lunch. Since my art education sequence also discusses students with disabilities, i couldent help to think about students who had to make this trip when they are wheelchair bound. This moment stuck with me because the assistant principal was also telling us about how excited she is for them to finally have a branch on their property. Although it will be another year before the new branch will be open, it will be much better for the students once it is built.

Me (left) and my colleague Mckenzie Palm (right) teaching 1st grade

My colleagues and I created 2 different lessons to teach to the students of Zapata. 1st-3rd grade students focused on emotions and color focusing on representing what things make them happy, sad, mad, etc.. 4th-6th grade students focused on self portraits that included elements that represent themselves.

1st-3rd grade Student work

With both of our lessons we had a lot of student freedom. We gave the students parameters to work in but allowed exercise of choice. This encourages motivation and eagerness to work (Jenson 2005). The older students were encouraged to add things that were specific to themselves when they drew self-portraits, things they liked, such as sports or video game symbols. This connected to the students so they were learning, but also included things that they found important. Students were able to pick what they outfit they drew on themselves or what background they placed themselves in them. The younger kids were able to pick their favorite thumbnail sketch out of all the ones they created to use in their final project. On the thumbnail sketches they focused on what evoked their emotion, things that make them sad, angry, happy etc. Both lessons focused on the students and how to help them create a piece that represented themselves in some way.

4th-6th Grade Student Work

With the older kids we did some lecturing regarding facial features and where facial features should be placed. We would lecture for short periods of time, allowing artmaking time in-between. We did this to keep students engaged while also providing information to help them continue with their art projects. Hurwitz states that “the lecture method should be used sparingly” (Hurwitz & Day, 2007). This also relates to Jenson’s idea of how many minutes students should receive of direct instruction. K-2 should receive a max of 8 minutes of instruction whereas 3-5 should be a max of 12 minutes for direct instruction (Jenson 2005). Over all it’s important that we were aware of how long we were giving a lecture or direct instruction in our teaching. That’s why we broke it up into segments to avoid attention loss.

Unrelated to theories and teaching I also learned about urban settings. Things such as classroom norms and social issues. It seems that every classroom had some sort of interest in the most recent presidential election. In our 4th grade classroom we were able to discuss with the teacher the political buttons students created hanging in the classroom. They were all anti-trump and pro-Hilary. It was really important to see how the students felt, or even their parents (influencing the students). The majority of students in Zapata elementary are Mexican or Mexican-American. In this time in history they are one of the targeted groups in political issues. It affects the families of these students and they bring it to the classroom. From what I saw with the teachers at Zapata is their ability to teach and understand the importance of informing their students what is happening in the country. I hope to be able to help my students go through tough times just as the Zapata teachers allowed. They were able to understand that things happen outside the classroom and able to teach about it inside the classroom. Combining the classroom to the community, an important thing to do as an educator.

Zapata elementary was a very different experience, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Having two different lesson plans made it easy to get the hang of teaching the lesson the second time around. The many different teaching theories and practices helped me to better teach the students especially because I was only teaching one lesson. Getting to try these practices first hand really boosted my confidence in teaching more .

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