As my internship nears its close, I’ve really started to reflect on just how incredible this experience has been. The work environment my team and I have cultivated has made our assignments all the more efficient and enjoyable to complete. While I have always understood why teamwork and community is so vital in the workplace, I feel as though this particular journey has truly illustrated the benefits of a cohesive, well running machine in the form of a 3-person team. We played to each other’s strengths and had an understanding of how our individual, specific roles could propel our work forward for the better.
Our collaborative work ethic was best demonstrated in our group project – through not graded, the Network Operations Intern Team was expected to research a topic of our choosing that involved education. It was extremely broad in the expectations since the main goal was to provide us an opportunity to explore a topic in education while also having access to the school’s resources and staff as an information base as well. My team and I were most interested in race and education, so we decided to center our topic around that and further specify our interest in the school-to-prison pipeline.
Instead of doing a standard presentation that involved talking at our audience, my team and I wanted to provoke discussion and actually engage our supervisors and fellow colleagues in our research. We incited dialogue by including discussion questions throughout our slides and calling on individual experiences with over-policing in the school system, as well as utilizing various school experiences to contrast our unique backgrounds with regard to the school system. One intern on our team is majoring in communications at his college and is a talkative people-person, so he focused on reaching out to potential resources for the project and gave us direction in terms of what our project should look like aesthetically. Another intern on our team is a psychology and Africana studies double major, and she was really interested in the history of this particular topic and how it has affected racial tensions in schools presently. Correlating with my studies as a future public school teacher, I was interested in the potential trajectory of our topic – how we can make changes in the present for a better future? What are different approaches and content we can teach the potential future leaders of our country to diffuse these racial tensions and rid the institutional racism that is prevalent in our education system today?
In addition to the research project, another opportunity I was given was the recording of a 1st grade math labsite. I was extremely excited when I was tasked with this responsibility since this is the grade I hope to teach once I graduate. Since this labsite was supposed to focus on problem solving in math, a skillset students often have difficulty with, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to see real teachers work with real students live and help them understand the concept (as much as they could in a 45-minute window). The concept of problem solving for younger kids tends to be a difficult one because it's essentially creating a story and assigning deeper meanings to typically arbitrary numbers – sometimes that deeper meaning goes over the kids' heads, so the way it is presented and broken down is vital.
Originally I sat in on a 3rd grade math curriculum planning session but I never got to see teachers actively partaking in the education of children, only them discussing it. With a labsite, I actually had the opportunity to see teachers put actions to their practice and interact with children. While I was partially there to learn what to do right, I was also able to get an observer’s perspective and see what could be improved, allowing me to reflect on what I'd like to incorporate or do better on when I teach my own class. This labsite would be slightly different in that two co-teachers would take half of the class, and another pair of co-teachers would take the other class and each would teach the class on different sides of the room.
The double lab site would eventually exhibit a weakness in testing certain teaching methods out because the students would get distracted with what their peers were learning on the opposite side of the room. One group of teachers had much louder voices while the other pair were more on the quiet side, which seemed to affect how frequently they had their students’ attention. One particular model teacher seemed like she needed to be more comfortable with an awkward wait time. She would often only gives a short amount of time to think or answer, and considering they were only in 1st grade, I don't think they had adequate time to ponder what the numbers in the word problem symbolized. Although students were given colorful math block manipulatives, I think there needed to be a stronger connection between what the manipulatives stood for versus what they actually were.
As I first mentioned, this internship has taught me a lot in terms of teamwork, but it’s also taught me a lot about myself. I came into this position nervous because it was a realm of education I’d never experienced before – I’d never heard of an operations department for a school, I’d never I’d never even so much as entered a charter school, so I was filled to the brim with questions and confusion about what my job expectations would be. My first day, a hectic foreshadowing of the journey to come, did little to nothing to calm my nerves, but I found that over the course of my time here, I’d grown accustomed to – even comfortable in – the frenzied, consistently chaotic work environment. I imagine it’d be the same for kids in a classroom setting – while routine is vital in the classroom, so is breaking the routine to maintain interest. In subjects like math and science where students usually have a process of steps to follow, this method of changing it up and breaking routine is imperative – students need to see a variety of ways to solve a math problem, they need to understand that diverse ways of viewing their content is a good practice. I’ve come to realize that no matter what I do in education, no two days will look the same, and to be quite honest, they shouldn’t. While I wasn’t working directly in the department I plan to be, having a constantly changing job description helped keep me on my toes while it also allowed me to maintain an interest in the work I’m doing. This is an invaluable lesson that I definitely want to maintain in my future classroom, and I’m so grateful I had this internship and opportunity to learn it.