Advice from one intern to another

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A redraw of the scene from The Office where the character is making and explaining a connection wall to another character, this time instead of a connection wall there is just a poster that says “How To: Job Application.”
While there isn’t any one way to do your internship, here’s some advice. lee lim

Need some advice about an education internship? Read on!

Being a student teacher is really hard. For those Carnival readers who don’t know, I’m in my fourth-year of my education program, currently in my internship. And dear Cholera consumer, the shit is difficult.  

They make it seem so easy when you’re a high school student. They make it seem so easy right up until you’re the student teacher. But, along the way with every bump and bruise, I’ve learned a few things. As my departing gift to you, here are a few of the things I’ve learned. 

The difference between tough and mean. 

Your co-op teacher should be tough on you. They’re trying to mold you into a great teacher. They should push you past your comfort zone. They should be giving you constructive criticism so you can work on and improve your work. 

But, they should not be mean to you. There is a line between tough and mean and it should never be crossed. There is a power difference between you and your co-op teacher. If there is a moment where it goes past criticism and into cruelty, tell your advisor or your seminar leader.  

The meanness might look like only ever criticizing you without ever giving you anything to help you improve. It might look like refusing to help when asked. It might look like telling you to do something specific and then getting upset when you do it. If you are constantly feeling crushed and like nothing you do will ever be good enough because of how they’re treating you, that’s a problem.  

Lesson plans. 

Odds are that in your university classes, you’re going to see many different types of lesson plan templates and when it actually comes down to it, you’re not going to be sure of what to put in them practically. Here’s what’s in mine to help me make sure I have what I need.  

I have a section for all of my materials so it’s easy for me to find and grab everything I need. There’s a section for my instructional strategies and my goals, which is great for your placement profile and makes it really easy for your co-op to find what you’re working on. 

In your opening section, you should have a review of the previous lesson. It’s the most important thing. It’s also where you should be reminding your students of anything like due dates or upcoming tests. 

In your main activity section, you should be writing down all the questions you’ll ask your students for guided inquiry, which I’ll talk more about later. I also have my accommodations and modifications here, which doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be how you modified an assignment, your classroom management strategy, or something you feel like you have to repeat often – things like that. 

In your closing section, there’s a few things you can do. You can do another review, which is always beneficial. You can open up for questions, or have your students watch a video. You can give more reminders, do an exit slip, or some sort of wrap-up. But, you write it down here. 

Formative. 

Your formative assessments are not going to always look like what they show you in university. You aren’t going to be doing exit slips and think-pair-share’s every day, multiple times per day. 3-2-1’s are great, but they aren’t always applicable and students aren’t always going to participate. Formative assessments in practicality look more like individual check-ins to make sure they finished a worksheet.  

A personal favorite of mine is using a Google Form, putting the QR code on the screen, and letting them fill it out as they show up to class. It lets you double-check attendance and see where students are at in their assignments, plus it feels a lot less formal and neatly structured compared to some of what they teach in university. 

Goal setting. 

It’s important to make accomplishable goals. If they’re too elaborate or complicated, they aren’t going to happen. Let your goals be simple. Let them be a five-word sentence of something you want to do rather than the three-sentence thing you feel like you have to do.  

Target sheets are also something that can be a bit complicated, especially if no one ever shows you what they look like. Think of it like a drawing, and your actions are the reference. Your co-op can only put pencil to paper if you do the action.  

For example, checking-in with every student while your co-op has a seating chart to mark off when you check-in with each student. Having a chart of question types and your co-op tallying up every time you ask a question of a type. Or, anecdotal evidence, writing down in a notebook all your check-ins with students and where they are and showing that to your co-op. 

Questioning. 

If you’re teaching secondary like me, questioning is incredibly important. It’s a way to engage your students and get them thinking about the content. So far, I’ve explored four different types of questions.  

The first is a simple, “Tell me about a time…” Ask your students to give you a personal experience about something, relate the lesson to their lives. The next is a simple “Yes/No,” but followed up by the ever important, “Why?” Let them form a solid opinion and then ask them about it. Question them.  

The third type is “probing” which is a question followed by a question, similar to the “Yes/No.” Again, they’re forming their own opinions and learning to think independently, but also backing up their opinions with evidence.  

The last is “Example.” Ask them to give you a related example. Typically, this comes from a media connection, but it’s great for students who don’t really want to tell you about their personal lives. 

Asking for help. 

Asking for help is terrifying. Especially with that power imbalance between you and your co-op and feeling like you’re a bad intern/pre-intern if you don’t know everything already. At the same time, you aren’t going to succeed unless you ask for help. 

Write down everything you need help with or questions you have before-hand. That way you won’t forget, and it’ll be easier to come to peace with your questions and your need for help. 

When you feel like your co-op has a moment, simply ask, “Are you free to go over some things with me, or would it be better in a little bit?” That way you aren’t demanding their time, you’re giving them a chance to finish what they’re doing and get ready to help you. Then look at your list and go through it one-by-one. 

Thank you, Education Cartulary readers, for indulging in my advice to you. I hope it does you well in your adventures as an intern and in life. 

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