For the past two weeks I have been working at Harlem Village Academy West Elementary as a Network Operations Intern. My job revolves around the behind-the-scenes planning of the Summer Institute, a month long professional development intensive for the teachers and administrators of HVA. I was a little surprised when going over my task list and essentially the expectations I would have to meet for the first week, as my duties involved a lot of smaller, more tedious tasks such as distributing supplies to every classroom, setting up bulletin boards, and organizing tables and chairs in specific configurations to meet every workshop leader’s needs. My coworkers and I had anticipated work that would focus on technology assistance, data analysis, and purchasing, as those were all key facets of the position description we saw when initially applying for the internship. In reality, we were met with a lot of active running around and initial setting up, as the Institute had not yet begun.
Initially, it was difficult to see how my duties were assisting with the actual implementation of and benefitting a student’s STEM education. How were these meager contributions of rearranging chairs and desks and ensuring that all rooms were stocked with chart paper, markers, pens, and the like actually making a difference in a child’s appreciation for and understanding of the STEM field? Upon speaking with my supervisor, she explained that a lot of the Network Operations job is perfecting the smaller details that allow the professional development institute and summer school to run seamlessly – essentially the glue that holds everything together. Without our department, teachers would be left to do a lot of the tedious but necessary work to help their classrooms run, such as retrieving materials and scanning books into the class library and setting up the Smartboard, and wouldn’t have as much time to dedicate to their classrooms and professional development to better their teaching. These behind-the- scenes projects are trying to maximize teachers and administrators’ time spent focusing on how to better their classrooms and the school as a whole so their attention isn't shifted to the more tedious jobs that need to be handled. All of our seemingly minor contributions were parts of the larger machine that is a successful school year.
The second week was a bit more exciting in that my daily projects started to focus more on technology and less on the physical movement of furniture. At the end of the previous week, my supervisor and I had a conversation about my specific interests and what I really want to gain from the internship, which allowed me to express the skills I wanted to refine and develop, and essentially get everything I could from my time here. As an aside, I plan on becoming an elementary school teacher, but the thought of navigating Smartboards, document cameras, audio equipment, and just general technology that I wasn’t familiar with during my elementary school education has always been a bit daunting. That’s partially why coming across this internship seemed like an exciting and educational opportunity – I would finally have a chance to get comfortable with not only setting up this very technology, but also trouble-shooting and fixing the very technology that has always intimidated me. I was finally given plenty of practice, as one of my projects was finding the cables for, connecting, and fixing all of the technology equipment (i.e. the aforementioned Smartboards, audio, document cameras, phone, etc.) in every classroom in the school.
Additionally, we also started to begin day with a daily morning meeting, where we the Network Operations team (both the supervisors and the interns) could bring in articles to discuss that pertain to the world of education. The first day we started this, we talked about charter schools, and their benefits and negatives. Since anyone can bring in content to discuss, I’m interested in sparking a discussion on how to inspire and support more women of color in the STEM education field, while also analyzing HVA’s science an math departments, hopefully gaining insight on how to successfully implement an elementary STEM program or build a better one. I’m also interested in finding articles on how technology has altered the way we learn, and both the pros and cons of this advance in our education system. My fellow interns and I were assigned a bigger overarching project to span the entire internship, where we would pick a focus and eventually present on the final day of our internship. As a collective, we decided to focus on race in education and how it alters the various means and degrees of discipline that students receive.
The best part about my internship is that the needs change on a weekly basis. It seems every week has a specific focus; the first week was moving furniture and laying out the desks in a configuration that would best facilitate conversation, while the second week revolved more around ensuring the technology in the room works well and efficiently. Over the course of the next few weeks, I look forward to igniting conversations that help align my team's tasks with the bigger picture of STEM education, whether it's starting these discussions casually or within the confines of our morning think tanks. Once the actual Institute starts, I'm excited to head the video recording and archiving project of professional development sessions and lab sites, as it will allow me to acclimate to recording a class environment (great prep for when I need to record my own student teaching lessons in the coming Fall semester!) while sitting on informative sessions. After discussing my interests with my supervisor, she briefly mentioned taking part in the lab sites and helping teachers during the first week of school, which happens to overlap with my final week at HVA. Apparently there will be some down time throughout the day depending on the day's needs, so I have also expressed interest in shadowing summer school teachers and helping with classroom management and lessons. I’m excited to turn my goals into realities and discover more opportunities to connect my internship to STEM education.