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Thank You Ravenswood

It’s no secret that 12 weeks ago I didn’t want to be a teacher. Originally, I came to college freshman year upset that we couldn’t start observing in the classroom until our sophomore year, but by that February I was so amazed by the power of student leadership that I decided I wanted nothing to do with the K-12 classroom and instead wanted to pursue a career in Higher Education and Student Affairs. 

Three years and multiple student leadership positions later, the second floor of Arts and Letters let out a huge gasp as I shared in Dr. Hansra’s literacy class this winter quarter that I still didn’t want to be a teacher.

I held strong until the morning of my first day of Student Teaching. I didn’t want to be a teacher. I just wanted the next twelve weeks to fly by, so I could start graduate school. However, not even thirty minutes into that first day my cooperating teacher walked us down to gym class where I was directed to play dodgeball with my 6th grade students. As I continued to dodge balls thrown at me I couldn’t help but laugh - in that moment I knew that this place was somewhere special and the next twelve weeks might not be so bad. By my fourth day of student teaching I had fallen in love with Ravenswood Elementary and my students. I thought the honeymoon phase would end, but it didn’t.

Megan
After our first day of PARCC Testing my Cooperating Teaching and I rewarded our students with outdoor recess. For March, it was a gorgeous day. Full sun and nearly 60 degrees. During a game of soccer, one of my students with special needs scored not one, but two goals. He ran a victory lap around the entire field as the class cheered him on and chanted his name. Soon after, when it was time to head back inside to wrap up the day I was astonished with my student's ability to be silent in the hallways and respect others who might still be testing. The last 20 minutes couldn't have been more perfect, even if I had directed them in a movie myself. However, I was quickly brought to reality when not even two minutes after being back in the classroom a Social Studies textbook "mysteriously fell" out of a second story window. Every single one of my days at Ravenswood was special in one way or another. The twelve weeks passed so quickly that I found myself in tears at the end of my last day of Student Teaching. 

Thank you Ravenswood for making me love every day of my last twelve weeks of college. Thank you for being the reason I got out of bed in the morning and remarkably never felt tired. Thank you for giving my life energy and keeping me on my toes. Thank you for accepting me, testing me, and pushing me to become a better teacher. The 113 of you are the reason I am here. YOU are the reason that in the last 12 weeks I have decided that I DO want to be a teacher. 


My Not So Typical College Job

Every high schooler has that classic, embarrassing first job. Mine was fall of my senior year as a hay ride attendant at an apple orchard just outside of my hometown. The hayride didn’t even have hay and by the third weekend I was fairly certain I had sun poisoning. So naturally when my friend Emily told me the magazine her Mom worked for was doing a story on a Family Entertainment Center that was opening I couldn’t have been more excited, primarily just because the job was indoors (in addition to the 32,000 square feet of GoKarts, Laser Tag, Ball Blaster Arena, Arcade, and a quick service restaurant!). Under the Big Top finally opened its doors to the public on Friday, April 20th, 2012. There’s no shame in saying that the first open didn’t go as planned and without enough customers, two weeks later all of us entry level minimum wage employees were laid off.

First Job
In the next six months I graduated high school and moved to DePaul to start my freshman year of college. On October 3rd, 2012 when one of our owners called me to ask if I’d like to come back to work for Under the Big Top, I almost didn’t answer the phone. On the last ring I did, and in the next two minutes I far too willingly agreed to a job that at the time I had no idea would change my life forever. The next day I started the pattern that I’ve followed virtually every weekend since. School at DePaul Monday-Thursday living on campus, and Friday-Sunday in St. Charles working at Under the Big Top.

Some people would call me crazy. And that’s okay. Through my Party Host to General Manager adventure I’ve given up parts of the traditional college experience, weekends in the big city of Chicago, and a sufficient sleep pattern. Yet in return my journey with Under the Big Top provided me with experiences and memories I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Saying yes on that short phone call allowed me to create memories and gain experiences that I never had imagined would be a part of my life. Working for Under the Big Top challenged me to take on responsibilities that I didn’t think I was capable of as my young college self. Under the Big Top introduced me to the attractions industry that I previously didn’t even know existed. For this I am forever grateful. My advice to anyone who’s considering working through college is to do it. Go ahead, jump. Say yes. For me having a job at a Family Entertainment Center became more than just about how I was going to pay my way through school. It taught me how to manage my time, think critically, and learn to swim while everything around me was drowning. 

You’re not going to DePaul to have a cookie cutter college experience where you’re shipped off to the corn fields for four years to earn a degree. You’re attending DePaul to have an experience that is unique to you and to become world ready.  

Last First Day of Class (Plus 9 Days)

On Monday social media exploded with “last first day of classes” posts. For College of Education seniors however, Monday was already our 10th day of “classes”. All aspiring teachers complete 11 weeks of Student Teaching the quarter before graduation, meaning that we start full time at our placement schools during finals week.

As stressful as this might sound, teaching 35-40 hours a week, recording your lessons for edTPA (the new teacher licensure exam), and writing final papers - it’s an experience you’ll become thankful for. Once you make it through five long days of hard work and little sleep, the rest of your Student Teaching experience will be far less stressful.

And that is what’s awesome! My last quarter at DePaul past the official “last first day of classes” isn’t stressful. Is teaching hard work? Of course! Five days a week you’re up on your feet in front of 30 preteens trying to convince them that history is cool. You’re teaching in the now, but constantly thinking in the future. Each day of your class needs to connect, or the instruction won’t be meaningful. You’re constantly trying to find the balance between independent and interactive activities while monitoring student learning.

Besides being a Social Studies teacher, I’m wearing multiple other hats. I’m a comedian that hopes at least half of my room thinks I’m funny. I’m a private investigator when someone jokingly steals someone else’s pencil case. I’m a referee when my students decide the pillows in the back of the room are toys. I’m an advocate for the moments where someone is being bullied in the hallway. I’m a cheerleader when I motivate my students to share their answer with the class. And what some days seems to be the most frequent – I’m a nurse responding to the bumps, bruises, and upset stomachs of the 5th and 6th grade.

Yes, being a teacher is hard work – but it’s worth it! Taking classes and participating in leadership positions the last three and a half years have prepared me to be successful in the classroom. There’s no other way I’d rather spend my last quarter at DePaul than with the 5th and 6th grade at Ravenswood Elementary School.

Budgeting with Financial Fitness

Tax season is upon us. If you’re like me and love numbers, you might even anticipate the day you receive your W-2’s with excitement. Completing my taxes each year also serves as an opportunity to think about how I budget my money. Knowing that graduation was less than a year away I met with DePaul’s Financial Fitness Office last August.

Determining how to balance living expenses, saving for graduate school, and the looming repayment of student loans in the most effective way can be tricky. Luckily, DePaul has an office that will help you make your budgeting goals clear! Located in both Lincoln Park and the Loop, Financial Fitness is a campus resource that can benefit all students. In August I had the opportunity to meet with Natalie Daniels. She shared that the popular “80-10-10” rule was a good place to state. Within this rule, 80% of income goes towards monthly expenses, 10% directly to savings, and 10% to debt repayment. As an independent student with a large amount of student loans, the goal I set for myself after the meeting was to trend around “45-55”. The 45% makes up for all expenses, while the other 55% goes towards savings and loan repayment. In my 45% I also include short term savings goals such as purchasing plane tickets for a trip. The money I set aside for savings is meant for long term savings. With this goal I’ve been realistic in knowing that I won’t always be able to predict expenses such as a car repairs and out of pocket medical expenses. This is why my “45-55” rule is a trend, as long as my percentages average out over the quarter and then entire year, I’m on track.

For now, my budget is very conservative. I learned from both meeting with Natalie and the Financial Fitness website that I should be capitalizing off of the fact that being in school and living on campus saves me from the costs of rent and utilities that I would be paying if I were living off campus. Saving more now will help offset the shock of having more necessary expenses when I graduate. I highly recommend checking out the Financial Fitness ​website, even before you start classes at DePaul! The spot I’ve found the most helpful is by choosing “About Us” at the top, and then navigating to “Infographics Gallery​

Interning in Florida

In movies we see interns depicted as professionals in two things: coffee runs and office supplies. In real life, this stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. A portion of your Liberal Studies requirements at DePaul are fulfilled by the Experiential Learning (EL) credit. Your Experiential Learning can be completed virtually anywhere, as long as the company or non-profit organization is able to house you in a position that will fulfill DePaul’s requirements. If you plan to be an education major, your EL will be fulfilled by your classroom observations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find time to pursue other passions during your time at DePaul!

In November I was fortunate enough to take my finals early and spend 10 days in Orlando, Florida interning with IAAPA​ (the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions). Serving alongside 30 other college students and recent grads, as an Ambassador I had the chance to learn about the ‘Serious Business of Fun’ through the eyes of industry professionals. With the Expo including education sessions, FEC & HR seminars, on site facility tours, events, a trade show floor spanning nine miles of aisles, and 32,000 people there was little down time during - but it was all worth it! Working with the Ambassador team made my decision concrete that the attractions industry is where I see myself working in some capacity for the rest of my life.

Even taking into consideration the networking opportunities and free Dippin Dots the Expo provided, my favorite part of the week was our first night spent volunteering at Give Kids the World​. GKTW is a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida that houses children with life threatening illnesses and their families for a cost free week long vacation. During this week families experience not only the rides and events on property, but also receive tickets to central Florida's most well know parks - Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World. Since opening in 1989, Give Kids the World has granted over 140,000 wishes. While at the Village myself and the Ambassador team had the opportunity to prep materials for a charity golf tournament and decorate two villas with holiday decorations. We were all moved by the caring spirit that everyone at GKTW has for children and their families.

Spending my first night in Florida volunteering for such a wonderful organization grounded me in knowing that no matter where I go or what I do in life I will always carry the Vincentian values that I learned at DePaul with me. If there’s one thing I learned from interning with IAAPA it’s that you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and you can’t just sit in what’s comfortable. DePaul will help give you the tools to succeed, but after that you just have to trust yourself and jump in! No matter your major, the life changing internship is out there!


A Peak Into DePaul’s Hiring Process

This week my supervisor in the Office of New Student and Family Engagement is hiring a new Office Assistant. Whenever adding someone new to our team the candidate interviews with both their potential supervisor and a potential coworker - which is actually a really innovative process. The students I had the opportunity to meet today were all well-polished and interview ready. In honor of them we’ll be taking a look at the steps to finding a job on-campus.

If an office is hiring on campus, you’ll find out about it on the Campus Job Board​. On the right hand side you’ll enter your Campus Connect username and password and then select ‘Student’’. I know you’re probably excited to head straight to the ‘Jobs’ tab, but what you’ll want to do first is set up your profile. In this section you’ll list your contact information, academic information, and availability. It’s important to keep this page up to date, especially since your availability will likely change quarter to quarter.

Now that you’re all on the edge of your seats, go ahead and click on the ‘Jobs’ tab. From my experience, there are usually between 25 and 50 postings on the job board at any given time. You should have lots of options to choose from! Once you click on a job that looks interesting there a few key items to pay attention to. First, make sure you read the job description in full. Aligning some of the key words mentioned in the Duties and Responsibilities section with the experiences on your resume will help you stand out as a qualified candidate. But be sure to always be authentic, don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk!

If you’re offered an interview it’s important that any emails exchanged between you and your potential supervisor are clear and concise. Make sure to start each email with a greeting, end with a salutation, and use spell check. Always communicate through a professional email address. If you don’t already have one, you can set up your free DePaul student email here (once you are officially enrolled in classes).​

To prep for your interview I recommend meeting with the Peer Career Advisors​. These advisors are a group of students who’ve been selected and trained by the Office of Student Employment to assist their peers through the job search process.  With walk-in hours in Lincoln Park and the Loop these peers can be a great resource at any step of the job search process! Once you’re ready for advice about full time careers after graduation, you can also request to meet with a full time Career Counselor​ who’s specialized in your major! For additional tips, you can check out the Student Employment website or post your questions below!


At DePaul There's a Dialogue

Recently someone close to me was a victim of domestic violence. They are not a DePaul student, and for their confidentiality will remain anonymous. Through working in various job and leadership capacities at DePaul we’ve been taught what to do when someone discloses a violent or abusive situation to us. Specifically when working for the Dean of Students Office my fellow Office Assistants and I served as a first point of contact for students and supporters interfacing with our department. I always felt safe knowing that, although my job was important and needed to be done well, in a crisis situation I could rely on our Deans and counseling staff to take the reins. Over the past few weeks I’ve realized that the bystander intervention and mandated reporter trainings I’ve been required to participate in have provided me with some of the most significant knowledge I’ve learned since coming to DePaul. When you choose DePaul, you're not just choosing academics, you're choosing life. I'm incredibly thankful that I attend a university that doesn't keep difficult topics hush hush. Instead, DePaul opens up a dialogue about them and teaches its student to be better informed and more compassionate human beings. ​

An Open Letter to My Friend, Who Was the Victim of Domestic Violence,

The cards you were dealt certainly aren’t fair. Nothing you’ve ever done, said, or even subconsciously thought means that you, or anyone else for that matter, deserves to be hit, bit, and threatened by someone you’ve known since the day you were born. I’m thankful that you had the courage to come to me when you did. It caused me emotional and physical pain to know that I couldn’t keep you safe, so I went to the police that night to report this crime that someone had inflicted on you. In the past I had kept your secrets, when there was a new boy you liked and when you accidentally told me who you had for Secret Santa, but this was a secret that I just couldn’t keep. I’m proud of you for going to the station and talking the police after they called you.  Selfishly, I’m glad that you weren’t mad at me for not keeping your secret too.

I wish that I could erase that scar from under your eye and the bruises from your body. I wish I could make those bad memories and your pain go away. I wish I could pay for all of your bills and living expenses, so you didn’t have to work so much while you try to heal. I wish I could build you a house of your own with the most advanced security measures, so you could have your own space and feel safe. I wish I could make any judicial process you might decide to go through simple. And I wish that I could give your aggressor the help that they need too.

But right now, all I can do is tell you that I love you. I’ll always be here to listen, no matter the time of day. I’ll keep sending you Snapchats, hoping to make you laugh. I’ll keep reading up on resources for victims, so if there’s an option you want to explore you won’t have to do it alone. And most of all, I promise you that for the rest of our lives no matter how many miles are between us you will always be my friend. I feel like God has brought you into my life to help him watch over you. The cards you were dealt certainly aren’t fair, but these cards won’t stop you from accomplishing great things. Despite everything you’ve been through, I know that you’re going to change the world for the better.