|My first two weeks in Greenville have been hectic but enjoyable.
My interterm class (Introduction to Educational Practice) runs Monday-Friday January 5-23, with a day off for Martin Luther King day on Jan 19. The first week from 8-12 consisted of lectures on educational theory, with an hour break for lunch. From 1-3, we learned about the Greenville education program (requirements) and had discussions on ethical issues in education and diversity.
The second and third weeks consists of observation, besides King day and Friday, January 23, which will be our debriefing and class discussion on what we saw. I have been placed at Carr Lane Middle School in Saint Louis, a Saint Louis City public school specializing in the arts. I get on a shuttle bus at 6:30 AM bound for the school and get back to campus at around 4 PM. I have been assigned to an art teacher (specifically a drawing teacher) because there weren't enough history teachers at the school to go around for all the history majors. The teacher has classes of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. I have taken a pretty active role in this classroom, giving instructions to the seventh grade classes, as they are "the most difficult group to teach," as the teacher puts it. Rest of the time I make copies, put up displays, answer student's questions, or just watch how the teacher does it. I have no artistic ability at all, but the teacher says that presenting a lesson is essentially the same, no matter what the subject. He's done a good job of answering my questions about his job and the district he works in.
Carr Lane's student population, according to the Principal, is 75% black, 25% white and other. Teachers are about half and half. Carr Lane is regarded as one of the best schools in the Saint Louis system, and parents apply for their children to attend there because of the school's focus on performing arts and the public perception as a "safer" school. Even so, the school has metal detectors that the students pass through every morning, along with bookbag searches. According to the art teacher I have been assigned to, the school is in the middle of gang territory, specifically the Bloods, but is not a Blood school because of the hard work and dedication of the administrators and the teachers. The school is free of graffiti, and while visibly worn and lacking the materials of wealthier schools, is well maintained. I have been told that other schools do have more gang problems and receive less money.
This observation experience is vastly different from the almost entirely white districts of Roxana and Bethalto, where I was in Spring 2008. Alton, where I was placed Fall 2008, had around 60% black, 40% white and so looked similar, but those students were much more well behaved. Most of the students I see in Saint Louis aren't dangerous or anything, they just don't treat authority with respect. They seem to think art is another word for study hall. I witnessed several kids accomplish drawing four diamonds in 2 minutes. The other 88 minutes of the period were spent messing around. I'm used to students who at least mostly look at the teacher when they're talking.
This is my dorm hall. First of all, you'd think for all the money I'm paying them they could replace the "H" in Hall that apparently fell off last semester, right?
Dorm life has been interesting. There is always something going on and always something I could be doing, and so it's impossible to get to bed before midnight, no matter how hard I try. One night I was up until 2. Which would be mostly fine in a normal semester, but for the last two weeks of interterm I have to get up at 5:15 so I can be on the shuttle bus at 6:30. Ouch. It's especially impossible to get to sleep at a reasonable hour on Tuesday night, the one open dorm night of the school week where girls are allowed in guy dorms and guys are allowed in girl dorms. It doesn't come around often so you have to make the most of it. I've been having a good time getting used to the school and just talking with people about random things. I love random discussions. Best part of college. Also, UNO tournaments and late night trips to McDonalds with four people stacked into the front seat of a pickup truck are awesome. I'm meeting a few new people. There will be a lot more come Spring semester, since only around a third of the students are taking an interterm class.
My dorm room can best be described as a really warm sardine can. 10 foot 2 X 11 foot 3, which is slightly larger than your standard prison cell (10 X 10). There is a federal prison in Greenville and they get their room for free! Doesn't help that my room mate is two inches taller than me (6 foot five). The room was designed to be a single, hence the single phone jack. Room mate is cool; we seem to be getting along just fine. He's a ministry major.
The food served in the dining commons is pretty good. I wasn't too happy about the instant eggs they serve at breakfast, but lunch and dinner are normally at least a decent spread. They do need to get more fruits and vegetables. Starches are great and all, but a body requires more. You can get the main meal, pasta, burgers, cold cuts, salad bar, and dessert bar. All you can eat, but you can't take anything out. Many people smuggle out bags fulls of cookies, though. I'm fond of taking out bananas when they have them and club crackers.
I bought online my textbooks for Spring semester. Spent around $250. Would have cost me more than $350 if I had bought them in the college bookstore. I was lent most of my textbooks at Lewis and Clark because of a federal program, so this is the first I've ever really had to order textbooks in mass.