Today’s Tuesday with Tulsa blog post comes to us from a 6th grade classroom in Chicago, IL. Hear what Stella Hannon Norman, TU Alumna and National Board Certified Teacher has to say…
I have been a Chicago Public School teacher for nearly 20 years, currently teaching educational technology and social studies to 6th-8th grade students with a 6th grade homeroom. I’ve been an educator at Spencer Technology Academy (Spencer) on the West Side of Chicago for over 12 years. College Week (7th Annual) is a BIG DEAL at our school! Winning the classroom competition is an honor sought passionately by teachers and students alike.
College Week at Spencer
During College Week (around the 3rd week in May) each classroom from Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade (approximately 950 students) selects a college or university to represent. Of course, my class chose The University of Tulsa! (Go ahead, ask them why – they better have the right answer!) Students participate in lessons that focus on general information about college and specific information about their institution. Classrooms and hallways are decorated in school colors. There is competition at each grade level based on decoration of the classroom and presentations by students demonstrating their knowledge of and enthusiasm for “their” university. I had been out of the classroom for a few years so this was only my second time competing (last year my class got crushed – but then again, I did not represent Tulsa). This year we had Mrs. Elder, Super Parent! She has never lost a college week and has worked with the classroom teachers of five of her children as they have moved through the school. This is a wonderful family! I had an Elder in my classroom this year and it was on!!!
We prepared for the competition by creating art work, decorating the classroom, doing research about TU, creating t-shirts and pretending to be actual TU students. Students were required to create Hurricane Warning”signs that included their name, an actual major, a student organization they think would be fun/interesting, and a residence hall in which they would like to live. Some students learned about specific departments in the University in order to represent them to the judges. The Butterfly garden was created and the biologists (entomologists) learned that butterflies hear through their wings and that music stimulates them. Student butterflies demonstrated that the faster the beat in music, the faster the butterflies move. They did this by creating their own dances to songs with varying tempos. Mrs. Elder developed the butterfly concept and did the decorating – cutting out and glittering over 100 butterflies! What did I do? I created and implemented the lessons, coached the students through gathering information and preparing for presentation, I worked with the students and edited their video; and I came up with the idea for the t-shirts (fabric spray paint and stencil) and coached our fashionistas through their creation. Shout out to future educators out there – don’t try to control everything, coach and observe. Let the students learn from other adults – many parents are awesome teachers.
The Moment of Truth
Competition/Parade Day found us prepared and confident! Robert was the Student Ambassador who was assigned to guide the judges to each department dropping T.U. facts along the way. Sarina and Sha’ron represented Admissions and Financial Aid by providing information about freshmen requirements and tuition and fees, as well as scholarships. Beondcé promoted Institutional Advancement by displaying a multimedia presentation featuring the students interpreting the TU motto. Aries facilitated fellow students working out in the Athletic Training Department. He also informed the judges of the various sports and accomplishments by TU athletes. Antonio B. created the majority of the student artwork – he represented the Art Department. Karen featured Alumni and Friends by explaining a display of some of her teacher’s OLD pictures and Lottie Jane sweatshirt. She also shared that Lovie Smith and Dr. Phil are TU alumni. Finally, the judges went to the Butterfly Garden ath the University School to see the demonstration of the findings of our biology department. The judges appeared to be impressed, but there were two other 6th grade classrooms to see (Tougaloo College and University of Iowa).
Each classroom selects 5 students to represent them in the parade that marches around the school grounds. They have on school colors and carry banners. (The younger students are the cutest!) This year’s parade also featured a motorcycle club, drum corps, stilt walker, high school marching band; the DePaul University Blue Demon mascot, the Jesse White Tumblers, and the South Shore Drill Team (that has performed across the nation and participated in both of President Barack Obama’s Inaugurations). The students loved it! I love seeing the pure enjoyment on their faces during activities like this one.
“And for sixth grade,” said Ms. Fells over the P.A. system, “Room 303, representing The University of Tulsa!”
My students went bananas! They were screaming and chanting “TU” through the hallways. What did we win? Bragging rights baby!
The highlight of the week was when Antonio H. came to me after the announcement with so much excitement and happiness on his face and exclaimed, “I’ve never been in a classroom that won College Week before!”
I’m so proud of my students and so proud to be an alumna of the University of Tulsa. Though I did not major in education at TU so many of the skills I acquired and the many social and practical experiences I was fortunate to have prepared me for my career in teaching. How I went from the Collins College Of Business to teaching in Chicago public schools is a much longer story! But, it is all about “Wisdom, Faith, and Service.”