But I start off with this because I was asked a very interesting questions last weekend that I, in usual Jess style, answered with too many words. I live in Manayunk, which is about 7-8 miles outside of University City, and takes me about 45 minutes on public transit. I also only spend about 2 days a week on Penn's campus, as most of my days are spent student teaching or doing school visits. So I was asked "Do you feel connected to Penn's campus, being that you're so far away and spend most of your time in the field?"
My answer was, and still is, not really. But I feel extremely close and connected with those who I need to be at Penn. The TEP faculty is very accessible and my professors are all extremely will to meet, talk and help me in anyway possible. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of opportunities provided for me to feel more connected to the campus, to meet and mingle with other graduate programs and to network within Penn. I just don't always take them. The Graduate Center, on top of offering free coffee, offers plenty of opportunities for commingling, community building and awesome activities and workshops. But sometimes, I can't always fit these things into my schedule. It would be much easier if I lived closer to Penn to do so, but I really love when I live and since I treat my dog like my child, it's difficult for me to leave her alone for too long.
Now I hope I haven't turned you off. Trust me, if you want to feel connected with Penn, it's totally possible. I'm bombarded with emails about amazing lectures and community building events. But what TEP offers, that I feel is more important to me personally, is the ability to feel connected to Philadelphia and explore the different neighbors, meet a variety of students Philly schools serve and see what many different educators are doing to decipher what will work for me as a teacher, and what will not. It's great to feel connected to the school you are attending, but what I love about TEP is that I feel connected to Philly and I have a better understanding of who I am making a commitment to serving. We visit schools almost every Friday. We've seen schools in West Philly, in Center City, in Kensington, in West Oak Lane, in Roxoborough, and even out in Conshohocken! If you're not from Philly or familiar with Philly, this might make no sense to you. But trust me, we're exploring a lot of neighborhoods. And we're not even done visiting schools yet! I have seen some of the highest performing students Philadelphia has to offer and I've also seen some of the schools that are struggling the most. I've seen different kind of instruction, from project based learning to blended learning. I have seen the Philadelphia school system, and I have met the students I want to serve.
So, I might not feel that connected to Penn. I don't walk around in my Penn sweatshirt and matching Penn pants (which I really have seen undergrads do). But that's not why I came to Penn. I came to GSE to learn to teach, to serve students who needed it the most, and explore what it means to work in urban education. And I am getting what I signed up for.
Whatever it is you want, trust me, Penn will do their best to help you find it.
I wanted to leave you with some photos. We recently visited an agricutlural school. Yes, that's right. There is an ag school in Philly. And it's SO COOL.
Check out these cute animals we met. (I promise we also met cool students, but FERPA...)