Harrison Fellow education students prepare for trip to Mexico
By Mark Donahue
With the cold rolling into Chicago, there couldn't be a better time to travel to Mexico. And later this month, a group of NLU education students will do just that. But this is no typical college sight-seeing tour. These future teachers will witness firsthand how children in another country learn — insight the trip organizers believe will help them in American classrooms.
From November 27 to December 6, 10 Harrison Fellows in the undergraduate elementary education program at NLU will be in Guadalajara, Mexico, with four faculty and staff members, including professors Krista Robinson-Lyles and Deborah O'Connor; Kimberly Ponczek, Administrative Coordinator; and Monica Ramos, Student Success Coach.
The group is going as part of a Chicago Teacher Partnership Program grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Partnership, that aims to help NLU and other select Chicago universities prepare highly qualified teachers in high-need Chicago Public Schools K–8 elementary schools.
Ramos, who in her role provides extra help and coaching to pre-service teachers, stressed that the trip is not part of any class but is a student support effort. The students going to Mexico had to apply and write an essay detailing how they hoped the experience would affect their work as future teachers.
"The main goal of the trip is to help students broaden their understanding of culturally responsive pedagogy," said Ramos. "Because we are a teacher-quality program, we want to give our students all the tools they need to be proficient, to be efficient and to be the best teachers they can be."
The group's itinerary — set up with help from the Dept. of Ed's International Affairs office and the office of the Secretary of Education of the state of Jalisco — is a combination of cultural immersion, classroom observation and idea-sharing with peers at universities in Guadalajara. The group will visit and meet representatives and students at the University del Valle de Atemajac (UNIVA) and the Supreme Normal School, two highly regarded teacher-training universities in Mexico.
Faculty, staff and students will then split into groups to do observation at a number of schools inside and outside the city, including an urban elementary school and an urban middle school; a rural school that combines pre-K, kindergarten and elementary students; and a rural middle school that uses technology as part of the learning process.
To get a further taste of Mexican culture, the NLU group will also visit the massive Guadalajara International Book Fair, the Tonalá handicraft market, the Tlaquepaque art district and Tequila, Jalisco, the tequila center of Mexico.
Ramos hopes the trip will leave the students with a better sense of the world many of the children they'll be serving as future teachers come from — something they can take with them into their professional lives.
"It is important that they have this broad picture of who they're serving," she said. "And I think it's a great opportunity for them to experience the culture of some of the kids that they'll be working with. I think it's a great opportunity for them to explore where the kids come from."
Students will be using social media to share their experiences in Mexico. Visit NLU's Twitter and Facebook accounts to follow them. And stay tuned for more when we check in with the group after they return in December.