Well, this is likely one of my most requested TTT topics of all time! And, to be honest I tried to write this many times but it just didn’t feel right. I have never had an intern and so I felt I wouldn’t be able to give you the advice you were looking for. SO, I enlisted two very talented and experienced women to help me with this. Lindsay Stuart and Amy Lawson are two ROCK STAR teachers who have had a handful of interns over the years! Who better to give you advice than two experienced cooperating teachers, right?! SO you wan to CRUSH your internship? Keep reading!!!
Few things can feel as great as trying on a new outfit that just fits perfectly. Stepping into a new job – especially if it’s one that is unlike anything you’ve done before – can be just as exciting, but with that slight touch of terror. Your teaching internship is an incredible opportunity to “try on” the teaching profession with the help of a mentor, and hopefully, you’ll find that it’s the perfect fit. Here’s a few tips and tricks that can help you make the most of it.
- Relationships: Relationships are the key to everything in education. When they are thoughtfully planned, entered into genuinely, and nurtured with care, your experiences in the classroom will be impactful. Too often our worries centre only on curriculum, instruction and assessment, but without genuine relationships in place with students and families, learning will be superficial. Take the time at the beginning of your internship to reach out to every student and family in your classroom.
- Quick tips:
1) Choose 4-5 students a day and email their families to touch base about something fantastic their child did during that day. By the end of the first week, you will have made contact with every family in your room in an easy and meaningful manner. You will be surprised by the comments you receive back.
2) Use talking/sharing circles at key moments each day (in the morning and afternoon) to ‘check-in’ with students. Don’t forget to share information about your own life, family, pets etc. as well. Relationship are reciprocal.
3) Enable students to help in creating the classroom climate (i.e. rules, expectations) through open conversations.
4) If you have trouble remembering the ‘small things’ your students tell you (like we do) create a word document for each student and add these small but important pieces of information to it.
- Making contacts: Teaching is not a solo endeavor. If you enter into it with this thought in place, you will quickly feel like you are on a sinking ship. At times you may feel isolated and alone, but know you aren’t. Take the time to begin to develop your PLN (personal learning network). In your school, make sure to talk to your speech and language pathologist, learning resource teacher, english as an additional language teacher, school counselor, and teacher librarian. They are all a wealth of information. However, gone are the days that your PLN will exist solely within your school. Some of our strongest allies aren’t even in the same city/province/country. The ‘twitterverse’ is great place to start! There are some amazing ‘ed chats’ that take place every week where you will be welcomed with open arms. Here in Saskatchewan, #saskedchat (every Thursday evening at 8 p.m.) is a great place to begin to find like-minded colleagues, ask questions in a safe environment and learn some new strategies. Once you begin to ‘reach out’, you will be amazed how much more fun teaching will become. Collaboration becomes like an aphrodisiac. Just remember, it goes two ways!
- Quick tip: Right now, sign up for Twitter and make a post using a hashtag such as #edchat, #edtech, #makerspace, #ntchat (new teachers) and introduce yourself. (You can also follow us at @MsSClassroom and @lawsonames!)
- Ask questions!
- Every online relationship quiz you take (thanks, Buzzfeed!) likes to remind us about the importance of open communication and remembering that our partners are not mind readers. Well, if internship is like an extended blind date between you and your cooperating teacher, the rules are pretty similar. If you have something that’s on your mind, or a question you’re wondering about, speak up! When we were going into internship, we felt silly asking simple things like what time our cooperating teachers liked to show up in the morning and if dark jeans were “school appropriate.” But every school has its own norms, and asking questions before internship begins can help avoid some awkward situations down the road. (Forget accidentally wearing the same outfit as a friend. Parking in your principal’s parking spot is the new faux-pas to avoid!)
- Quick tip: Bring a list of questions like the ones above to one of your first meetings with your cooperating teacher. (Be sure to include: dress code, parking, time to arrive, time to leave, emergency procedures.) Trust us: he or she will be happy to go over them!
- Welcome growth (take charge of your internship)
- Our internships were one of the best experiences of our lives. Yes, there were definitely a few days with some very ugly tears (think the Kim Face), but those tough times lead to some really amazing discoveries about ourselves as teachers and as people. That growth won’t happen if you’re not open to it. A good cooperating teacher will build you up, but a great one will do so while challenging you to think deeply and go beyond your comfort zone. Those can be tough conversations, and we’ve seen interns be very resistant to them and act defensive (not good) or dismissive (maybe worse.) Even if your cooperating teacher has a different teaching style than you see for yourself – maybe they’re still loyal to flare jeans and you’re set on your skinnies – be open to their feedback and seek out advice from others as well.
- Quick tip: Don’t feel like you always need to react/respond to feedback right away. It’s okay to let your cooperating teacher know you would like to take some time to think about what he/she said. Once you are able to remove emotion from the equation, usually, you will be able to reflect honestly and respond professionally.
- Take time for yourself (8-8 job during internship, but remember to breathe and nourish yourself, in order to nourish others)
- This last bit might sound like we’re saying two different things, and in some ways, we are. You’ll hear so many people talk about the importance of finding balance as a teacher, and with good reason: it’s not easy! Your day as a teacher is never truly “finished.” There are always more plans that can be made, more reflecting that could be done, and more students that linger in your heart. Internship magnifies the workload by adding the stress of your evaluation onto the pile. There are lots of reasons to push yourself to do your very best during internship: on the one hand, it really is a chance for your to show your best (like a multi-month job interview!), but more importantly, it’s the chance to try as many new things as you can while you have the support of your cooperating teacher cheering you on. But there’s a key difference between pushing yourself and punishing yourself. (You might wear your six-inch heels out sometimes, but you’re not going to make yourself run laps in them, right?) Teaching is a career that allows you to take care of so many people, but it’s impossible to do your best at that if you’re not taking care of yourself, too. Don’t be afraid to talk to your cooperating teacher if you’re feeling overwhelmed; chances are, they’ve felt exactly the same way. At the end of the day, sometimes the best thing to do is curl up on the couch with a good friend, a good drink, and a good blog post. (Might we suggest Teach Me Style?)
- Quick tip: Carve out scheduled time each day or week as “you time,” and try to stick to it. Blocking it out as sacred Grey’s time helps you remember to put down the day plans!
Those interning in the younger grades are sure to be bombarded with sweet notes and drawings from your doting students. Hang onto these treasures and take them out on those extra tough or extra long days to help you remember what (and who!) we do this for. Our profession is so lucky to have so many amazing people entering it, and you will have such a great opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of so many.
Did you catch all that?!! WOW, a huge thank you to Lindsay and Amy for sharing their knowledge, expertise, and wit! These ladies have done such an amazing job, I’m now thinking about having more guest contributors to TTT, what do you guys think!?
Did you find this beneficial?! Feel free to share it! Remember, teaching is not a solo endeavor!