As a Community in Schools of Chicago partner, I have seen how a teacher’s passion for a topic, and ability to connect that topic to other subjects and areas of interest, can come together in way that make for a truly remarkable learning experience for both the students and the facilitator. In preparing for a visit with Ms. Schueller’s 2nd Grade class at Goethe Elementary, I could see her passion for the topic through her emails. After sending her a list of topics—ranging from disability awareness, to water and the environment, to education and gender equality—she immediately chose global citizenship to align with social studies lessons on peaceful communities.
This information aided me in the creation of a workshop that would connect what the students had learned in previous lessons with UNICEF’s work, while also introducing new vocabulary, geography and information. Because Ms. Schuller had included information about the students’ interests and previous lessons, I was able to incorporate video and media to further engage the young learners.
I could feel the positive energy in the school and recognize the community that the faculty, staff and students had built as soon as I walked into Goethe. From the security guard working the door, to the students walking in a single file line to their first class period of the day, nearly everyone had a smile on their face. After checking in at the front desk, putting on my small, sticky nametag, and signing my name on the welcome sheet, the security guard escorted me to Ms. Scheuller’s room, where I was welcomed by twenty energetic students. Ms. Scheuller, who had worked with the other 2nd Grade classrooms to schedule a time for me to visit them as well, had prepared a brief itinerary for my visit. With my itinerary in hand, and another, smaller escort by my side, I was walked to the first classroom for the day. When I arrived, I learned that Ms. Scheuller had sent my presentation to each teacher, so we did not waste time loading it from my USB with each new classroom—it was an enormous help!
After visiting several classrooms, it was time to return to Ms. Scheuller’s room. I was again greeted by the same energetic students, many of whom were so excited they began yelling “UNICEF is here!” A rare, but refreshing welcome, this small gesture signaled that Ms. Scheuller had not only introduced our work to the students, but she had shared her enthusiasm for the organization with them as well. While we were not able to get through all of the points or activities I had planned, this visit was a success. Our agenda was not derailed because of technology issues or a sudden interruption over the announcement system, it was altered by thoughtful, engaging questions from the students. They had questions about the definition of global citizenship, about the other children they saw in a video and about the logistics of an organization that works in 190 countries and territories around the world. They made connections between their lives and the lives of the children we discussed, and our session ended with one eager raise of a hand. The small, but confident voice said, “Our mission at Goethe is to persevere and never quit, and my favorite thing about UNICEF is that you persevere and never quit too!”
Ms. Scheuller’s work at Goethe and with Communities and Schools is just one example of what our teachers in Chicago Public Schools accomplish each day. They are using their passion to raise students who are inquisitive and thoughtful and they are creating spaces that allow students to ask tough questions and dive into issues. With this kind of dedication, even one visit to a school can be a success and leave a lasting impact.
Post by: Whitney Cross- Chicago Community Engagement Fellow for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF