Nathaniel Haas '16

11/30/16

Haas explores urban education during semester in Chicago

At the end of their senior year, Bluffton University education majors move to the head of the class to take on the role of the teacher during their clinical practice field experience. While many students choose to teach close to home, others, including Nathaniel Haas ’16, a senior from Wadsworth, Ohio, challenge themselves in new surroundings.

Haas is exploring the urban educational setting while completing his field experience with the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture (CCULC). “My focus here is to work with culturally, racially and socioeconomically diverse students. I get this experience not only in the classroom but also in the city itself,” he said.

Through the program, education majors work in a Chicago Public School classroom for a semester with supervision provided by the CCULC. Participants attend weekly seminars and have the chance to process their experience with peers and supervisors to learn more about the challenges and promises of urban education.

“The appeal of the Chicago experience was the idea of getting to work in urban education while also getting to live in an urban setting—an experience I would not be able to receive while taking clinical practice in the Bluffton area,” said Haas.

Coming from small-town Ohio, Haas has searched for ways to engage with his students and bring their perspectives to the classroom setting. “Coming to Chicago, I found that education for my students is not the same as it was for me. This is one of the hardest things I have had to adapt to, as I needed to find ways in which I could make my lessons reflect their environment,” said Haas.

Haas is student teaching at Ray Elementary in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. The school is close to where he is living, and he makes an effort to learn beyond the walls of the classroom.

“The real focus lies not only in the teaching experience but also how I view the city of Chicago,” he said. “Each weekend, I try my best to get out and explore what Chicago has to offer in terms of cultures that are different from my own.”

Haas came to Chicago at a challenging time for the city’s educational system. After 22 months of negotiations, Chicago Public Schools and its teachers recently agreed on a new contract and there have been concerns surrounding budget cuts to special education programs. However, Haas says he is working with passionate individuals who are willing to advocate for the education system in Chicago and other urban areas. “Education is a hot topic in Chicago, and being able to experience it at this point in time has been a great experience for me.”

While there have been challenges, participating in the CCULC has given Haas a range of new experiences in education. “I have had more eye-opening experiences here in Chicago than I could have anywhere else,” said Haas.

No matter where he ends up teaching, Haas has developed skills he will use for years to come. “My biggest take-away from this experience is how to properly manage a classroom.”

-B-