Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Attending the Parliment of the World's Relgions by Alison Rachel Leonhart

This past Thursday a group of Wartburg West students made their way out of the apartment building by 7am, not because they wanted to be up early, but to hit the road to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Salt Lake City!

First, a bit of background for those of you who are not familiar with the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The first was held in Chicago in 1893, and exactly 100 years later the second Parliament was held again in Chicago. Since then, every five years the Parliament has been held in various places around the world, including South Africa, Spain, and Australia, and this year had returned back to the States. This gathering focuses on interfaith dialogue and bringing people of different faiths together to work towards solving the world’s troubles. Big themes of this year’s Parliament included women’s rights, climate change, and war, hate, and violence.

Now let me tell you, people watching at the Parliament was better than people watching at airports. People from all over the world and of all different faiths were gathered making for a fascinating learning experience. Upon first walking in the convention center there were Tibetan monks making a sand mandala and Jains praying in a small temple. During the lunch hour, a group of Sikhs served a free lunch to everyone, a practice called Langar. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons, were also present and hosted a Sacred Music concert in the Tabernacle on Sunday.

Throughout the four days that our group was there, we all went to sessions throughout the day ranging in topics from the Ideology of Wealth, Inequality, and Compassion to Youth and Religious Extremism to How to Effectively Use the Traditional and Social Media to Promote Interfaith Work.

Attending the Parliament revealed to me what I appreciate from my own faith tradition, the differences I appreciate in other faith traditions, and the similarities between them all. I also tapped into my feminist theologian side by going to the Women’s Plenary and attending sessions on women’s various roles within religion. As a person who is interested in going into further religious studies both the things I listed above were helpful in figuring out the ‘what the heck do you want to do in the future’ process.
Other students reported the Parliament to be eye-opening to all the different types of religions that were out there, especially with the hands-on aspect of learning about faiths from the people that practiced them. Another insight was listening to a message of peace and justice coming from people of all religions. So often violence within religions is what often makes the news, but to see that it is possible for people to believe different things but come together as a whole for the good of humanity was refreshing.

As a side note our group also went on an excursion to In-N-Out and Salt Lake garnering an appreciation for fast food, the beauty of the Salt Lake landscape, as well as some great photo ops J

Overall this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that I will remember for years to com

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wes Westervelt Shares His Student Teaching Experience!

I’m glad to say I have been fortunate enough to do my student teaching placement here in Denver, Colorado, through the Denver Public Schools and Wartburg West. I recently completed my high school placement at East High School, and am now working with an outstanding teacher at Skinner Middle School. 

This program offers an excellent opportunity for students to do their student teaching placements within a renowned school district putting them in position to become outstanding educators in an urban environment. I feel an experience like this would not have been possible in Iowa for me personally, mainly because of the teaching method used here for foreign languages and additionally with the large student populations. Within my placements I have learned how to effectively teach high school and middle school students in Spanish. I love that with the methods they use here in Denver, students are given the skills they need to be able to use their second language in real time. The system we use is called CI or Comprehensible Input, and is backed by the research of Dr. Stephen Krashen. The main principle of this system is learning a language as a child would learn his or her first language, utilizing a multitude of gestures, pictures and a lot of repetition. As said before, with this system students can finally use their skills to actually use the language and communicate with others versus learning about only grammar and the linguistics of a language. It’s truly amazing to see the results that these students get with only a few weeks of teaching them using simple principles that actually work.

Overall, I’m glad to have been able to do my student teaching placement in a district that truly values students being able to learn skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. I would not trade this experience for anything, and I am enjoying my time here in Colorado!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Madison Ehlert Shares Her Student Teaching Experience in Denver

There is nothing quite like being able to spend a semester in Denver, Colorado. I am pleased and happy with my decision to complete my student teaching out here. For my first seven weeks I was placed at Place Bridge Academy where I was student teaching in a Spanish classroom for both first and second grade. I wouldn’t have traded my experience for the world. One big lure that drew me out to Denver was being able to teacher a diverse population. I definitely got a chance to do that by completing part of my student teaching at Place Bridge Academy. At just this school alone over 80 languages were spoken, and for 93% of the students English is a second language. It was such an amazing experience to be able to work with students that were so different from each other but yet so alike at the same time.

Currently, I am completing the other seven weeks of my student teaching at Lincoln Elementary. This school has a completely different atmosphere than Place Bridge Academy. The majority of the students come from very affluent families, and are white. There is not nearly as many behavior issues at the school, and the students complete their assigned homework. I think it is such a great opportunity for me to be placed at two schools that are such polar opposites. I look forward to seeing what else is in store for me at Lincoln Elementary as my time continues there.

In addition to student teaching, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in Denver. I believe I have taken advantage of the urban environment through a number of activities that I would not have been able to do if I were spending the semester back home at Wartburg. I look forward to doing as much as I can in my last six weeks in Denver to make the most of the experience.