Over the past few weeks, I have developed a rhythm here at New Classrooms. My two co-interns and I have been quickly making our way through the math assessment editing. Our process begins with an assessment tracker, which notes the status of each assessment question and allows us to track which questions still need to be coded into the software. Once one of us codes a question, we send it over to one of the other two co-interns, who does the problem from the perspective of a student in middle school student, and then that intern edits it. Next, we send it on to our supervisors who do a final editing before publishing.
I have gained a strong feeling of ownership over the work I have been doing in this position. With each question that I work on, I have the power to enable a student to understand or reinforce one’s understanding of a mathematical concept. I need to write in the feedback for a student who might get the answer wrong, and that requires an understanding and articulate explanation of the mathematical concept. I feel really lucky to be immersed in these mathematical concepts before I continue my path to being an elementary school educator. I am learning how to give feedback and guide students through difficult math concepts, and I am also relearning these concepts myself. I am also noticing which concepts have stuck with me throughout my own schooling and which have not, and trying to determine which teaching methods were effective and which were less effective when I was a student. As my student teaching becomes closer and closer, I picture myself teaching the mathematics concepts and lessons on which I am working at New Classrooms, and I know that this is a preparation for which I am very grateful.
In addition to learning about the inner workings of creating math assessment content, I have also learned an immense amount about what goes on inside a non-profit organization and start-up. Our supervisor recently gave us (the co-interns and I) an overview of the different branches of the organization, revealing to us the ways in which the organization functions like a beehive, as one of my co-interns put it, with everyone doing a small share of work to allow it to function cohesively. This is something I’ve noticed specifically at our weekly academic team meetings as well. The first fifteen minutes of the meetings is a time for members of the team to update the rest of the group on their various projects. I am always excited by the fact that everyone in that room is working in smaller groups on different projects to come together for the greater project that makes up the academic team.
I have also been grappling with the role of money in a non-profit startup like one. It is extremely costly and labor-intensive produce the lesson plans, human resources, and materials for schools, and the main form of funds for New Classrooms comes from investors and donors. This means that we as an organization are often beholden to the desires and visions of those donating. This has pros and cons. Many of the people who donate money do so because they appreciate the work of the organization and their goals do not differ with our own. At the same time, receiving conditional donations does not always allow an organization to expand in ways it wishes or thinks is best. I am interested in thinking, over the next few weeks of my internship, of ways that funds can be brought in without being tied to people. Another issue is that in order to provide programming, schools need to be able to pay for our product. However, one of the greatest issues in education today is the uneven distribution of resources among public schools. Therefore, I would like to look more into the types of schools that have the ability to purchase the New Classrooms product and which schools get left behind in this. I am interested in figuring out ways for us to be more accessible to all schools, given the effectiveness of the personalized education product that New Classrooms sells. I plan on discussing these questions with coworkers who have worked at New Classrooms and as educators in public schools, as I am sure that many of them have come across these questions as well. In the next few weeks, I may work on some different projects with some of the other employees here. I expect to get see what goes on in the actual lesson planning, rather than just the assessment questions, or “exit slips,” as they are called here. I look forward to working with more people here and getting to know other parts of the organization.