Sunday, January 20, 2013

On The Way Home; 1.18.13

At the train station near the Milwaukee airport. Waiting for our 1:10 p.m. train (which arrived right on time).

Hanging out at Union Station in Chicago. Time for one more game of Up and Down the River ...

And now, on the train and pulling into the GR station on Friday night. Woo Hoo! Soon to be in our own beds!!

Our Last Evening and Final Day; 1/18/13

Are we anxious to head home or what? Feelin' good in the second grade lounge on our last night in Milwaukee.

These people are great. Each of them has been in good spirits throughout the two weeks being on the road. They truly enjoyed each other's company, including each member of the class fully. I really enjoyed my time with them. I suspect that we'll see each other in the future. 

Today (Friday) we woke up anticipating our trip back home. Our train was scheduled to leave Milwaukee at 1:10 p.m. and before we caught it, we had several items on our agenda, beginning with breakfast at Miss Katie's Diner.
Miss Katie's for breakfast

This was our third time at Miss Katie's. Our first stop was our first Saturday in Milwaukee (actually when we took the picture above), when we found that the Diner opened at eight o'clock. Since we needed to get back to Saturday School at CTA, we walked over to the Broken Yolk, which turned out to be a great spot. We ate supper at Miss Katie's one night during our stay, enjoying the quintessential diner experience. Breakfast this morning was our third visit.

Miss Katie's is something of an institution in the community. Several pictures of President Clinton adorned the walls, recording multiple visits to the diner. In addition, we saw several pictures of Ms. Obama. Clearly, this is the place to be if one is into Democratic politics. Regardless of one's politics, however, Miss Katie offers awesome food.

After breakfast we joined our hosts from CTA in professional development. Each of us (the writer excluded - I had to take pictures, of course) led a brief lesson on the Pledge of Allegiance while practicing language intended to redirect a distracted and distracting student.

Which student around the table is the one challenging our intrepid teacher? Can you spot the difficult student?

"OK. Just look to my left. You'll see the difficult student."

"OK then. Let me think about how to start this."

"This is more challenging than I thought it would be."
"Let's see if I remember the Pledge."

Our work together was another good opportunity to learn new things and try new skills. Thanks to Ray, Krysta, and Constanzio, faculty of the Center for Urban Teaching, for their excellent leadership and facilitation.

At 11:15 a.m. we dashed off to gather our belongings from the Mission and to head to the train station.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Marquette U Starbucks at 7:30 a.m.

This will be a quick blog (or so I think as I prepare to write).

Several of us have gone to the Starbucks coffee shop on Marquette University’s campus. The shop is about three blocks from the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, so it is a pleasant walk in the early morning chill.

On each of the first three days of stay in Milwaukee (1/9; 1/10; 1/11), we visited Starbucks where it was pleasantly busy. I say pleasant, because while busy, it wasn’t inundated with patrons. The Marquette students were on break that first week, so it wasn’t so very busy.

On each of those first mornings, we encountered eight to ten men who were bundled in multiple layers of clothing seated in various chairs around the coffee shop. Some of them were in the leather-like chairs near the fireplace. Others were seated at tables scattered throughout the front and the back. They typically held a cup of coffee in their hands, a bag of belongs was perched near their chair, and some of them worked crossword puzzles. My impression that they were homeless men was confirmed when I recognized several of them from the Mission.

During our visits to Starbucks, many people patronized the shop. Some of them were dressed like the homeless men. Some of them were dressed in sweat pants and jackets, while others wore suits and carried briefcases. While there wasn't much interaction among the patrons, there seemed to be a general acceptance of all. At one point, I heard a barista address one of the homeless men as John and wish him a pleasant day.

Things changed on the 14th.

When I walked into the coffee shop at 6:45 a.m. that day, I noticed that the face of the shop had changed. I saw no men wearing multiple sweatshirts under a winter coat. I didn’t see any men working on cross word puzzles. I saw no one from the Mission. The homeless men disappeared.

What was different?

On Monday, the 14th, the students of Marquette University returned to school. That morning the Starbucks was inundated with students, faculty, and professionals scurrying to work. The leather chair in the corner was empty. Gone were the men who wore long, Army Surplus trench coats over sweatshirts.

What are the “rules” that caused this happen? What rules govern how an early morning coffee shop operates? Are the rules different for different people?

I find it fascinating that this transformation occurred with little or no communication (I didn’t see a notice in the window saying, “The Students are back. Homeless folks, you need to find another place to hang out until spring break.”).

What does this mean for Christian urban educators?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

UEI2013; 1.17.13 part 2
Wow. This is our last night staying in the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. We're ready to head home tomorrow, but we do so having to say "good bye" to new-found friends. We have grown fond of the students of CTA and the faculty and staff we count as friends.

Today was another day packed with unique experiences. As we have for the past six days, we worked in our classrooms throughout the morning. And, as has been true for the previous six days, we learned new things from these great kids with whom we worked. We trust that we helped them in some measure along their life journey.

 Our aiding work had a different sense to it today as we contemplated this as our last time with these students. After six days in these classrooms, we have become engaged with and attached to these kids. As several interim students stated throughout the days, "The kids are the reason we can get up in the morning, in spite of being extremely tired!"

























The Milwaukee Rescue Mission Program

 In late morning, we met with three men who successfully completed the Mission’s Program. These men told us their life story, candidly telling us about their struggle with substance abuse and the loss of their families and homes. They shared how a decision to enter the mission and begin a journey of recovery changed their lives.

 Each of them spoke of the impact surrendering their lives to Christ had on their recovery and their subsequent full life. I often think that we use the word inspiring to describe such a story. I don’t think inspiring is the correct word, however. Perhaps a “new respect” more accurately describes a response to these stories.

These men have returned from the “depths” (as one described it) to live a life of gratitude and service to others. That doesn’t just inspire; that engenders respect.






Our Farewell Dinner

This evening we took out to supper Ms. Jackie Verhulst, Principal, and Ms. Bledsoe, Assistant Principal. We had a pleasant meal together on our last night together in Milwaukee. We all want to give a huge shout-out to Ms. Verhulst and Ms. Bledsoe. They opened their school, their hearts, and, in the case of Ms. Verhulst, their home. Their hospitality, tireless working, and wonderful modeling of collaboration have been a special example to each of us.











Gathering in Second Grade

As has been our routine on many nights at the Mission, we gathered in the second grade classroom after supper for some hanging-out and quality internet access time (we could access wifi in the second grade classroom and an office space on the main floor). We thought we needed to capture a visual record of the space we converted to our lounge space after the school day was finished. Apart from the chairs that are fitted for second grade-sized students, the room worked quite well for us.

And, as has happened on several nights throughout our stay at the Mission, a cadre of competitive card casters became entangled in a rousing game of Up and Down the River's not often clear who wins, though there is often a fare amount of vigorous debate on that issue.

One issue on which there was consensus was our class "sass" list. We won't name names, but those in the know, know who held the top three spots!
UEI2013;  1.17.13

 Looking out from the MRM to the east over downtown Milwaukee, the sun is beginning to rise at 6:30 a.m. Men who are in the Program (the recovery) program are greeted with this uplifting and encouraging view.

It looks like another sunny and cold day here.

If one is tall enough, one can look from a window on a third floor landing of Cross Trainers Academy. Beyond the parking lot is a residential neighborhood in which many families live as well as students from Marquette University. We can see numerous other neighborhoods from this tall spot, including: Harambee, Bronzeville, Brewer's Hill; among others. The Mission is situated in a visually commanding area. When we are on the third or fourth floor of the mission or the school, we can see for miles in all directions. Really a fun view of the community.

Sunrise over Milwaukee on our last day of working with students at CTA. Each morning this week starting at about 6:30 a.m., the sun has greeted us through crisp air temperatures. One of the very cool things about being on the west side of Lake Michigan is that we see more sunshine. Once the sun is full out, it makes the 14 degree temperature and the very brisk wind seem less onerous.

We continue to have experiences that push our thinking and our assumptions. Two from yesterday stand out.

We visited our last Milwaukee school yesterday afternoon, Mt. Calvary Lutheran School. This school is located in the northwest part of Milwaukee in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Kerri, the principal, gave us a tour of the building, set us “loose” into classrooms to observe, and then spent an hour talking with us about our impressions and her experiences.

Kerri, who has been at Mt. Calvary for seventeen years, said two things that stand out for me: this school is built on relationships and everyone has a story. We have seen numerous examples of schools that focus with undivided attention on academic achievement, including public, charter, and faith-based schools. Mt. Calvary begins from the perspective that relationship is paramount for the students they serve, concluding that without a strong relationship, very little else matters. Kerri talked about the importance of relationship for the students who need a physically and emotionally safe place in which to learn. Several times she told us that, for example, if a student throws over a desk, it isn’t enough to level a consequence for that action; rather, it is critical that one works to understand why the student threw over a desk in order to help him/her and us maintain and move forward, in relationship. We were impressed with the vision and commitment of this school as embodied by Kerri.

Kerri also made the point that everyone has a story. She showed us a picture of five students who are now in eighth grade. The picture was taken when the students were in fourth grade. As you can imagine, when the students saw their fourth grade picture, they could hardly believe those little kids were them. Kerri pointed to each student and told a brief piece of their story. She told us that the first student had seen her father shot to death on their front lawn at Halloween. The second student had to notify authorities of abuse and neglect occurring in her home. Of course, the student and her siblings were removed from the home. They have returned recently, after the household was deemed acceptable; but, this student lives with the guilt and the awkwardness of having exposed her family’s challenges. Kerri’s point is that each student, each person has a story that makes him/her unique. It’s our challenge as educators, and those concerned with bringing reconciliation to this world, to understand those stories and to create a world in which the individuals who live those stories can learn and live vibrantly.

It reminds us that we all have stories and we each bring our stories to our work and to our relationships. The men and women who live at the Mission have unique stories. The students who come to school at CTA and Mt. Calvary and all the other schools we visited have stories. The teachers and the educational assistants of CTA have stories. How these stories are told and how they play out and how they end are bound together with the relationships we have with each other.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Saturday Images

Saturday was a big day ... as noted in a previous post, we worked in Saturday School at CTA. Before school, however, we took ourselves out for breakfast, to contemplate life, living in the Mission, working at CTA, and food. Yes, and food ...

A hearty breakfast at he Broken Yoke prepared us for the morning of tutoring in Saturday School. The great breakfast got us to lunch where we refueled for the tour of the Sprecher Brewery. Clearly the brewery, with its multitude of sodas was an interesting experience.

Sprecher Brewery Tour and Wave Soccer; 1.11.13

This looks like trouble coming down main street!
Inside a hallway of CTA and on the way to Saturday afternoon activities.
Images from Saturday afternoon excursion to the Sprecher Brewery and an indoor soccer game: Milwaukee Wave vs. Baltimore Blast. Wave in OT: 10 - 8
(Did you know that each goal in indoor soccer is worth 2 points? How many points does one earn for a goal from beyond the arc?)

Yup. Uh huh. Strong guys...

Ready for the tour to begin - with gusto.
Seriously. This should be some big fun!

Just my Sprecher size. With a bottle pouch. Genius.

Tasting the Sprecher Root Beer. World/Wisconsin famous.

 At the Game ...