REFLECTIONS ON THE PROFESSIONAL INTERNSHIP

by Kyle Dunich
a Spring 2010 K-12 Social Studies Intern
at Linden High School
(Presented at the Fall 2010 Internship Orientation)

Good morning professional interns. I would like to thank Dr. Mobley, my former clinical instructor, Mr. Sam Mendelson, and the staff at the Teaching Performance Center for providing me with this opportunity to speak to all of you today.

I know many of you are feeling uncertain, apprehensive, and anxious about the end of summer and the beginning of your professional internship.  It is understandable to have a wide mixture of feelings at this point.  It was only about eight months ago that I was in your same seat feeling uneasy, unsure, and jealous of the former intern speaking because she had already completed the task I was feeling so uncertain about.

Today, I want to try my best to free you from some of your doubts and concerns and provide you with a bit of advice that may help you feel more at ease and complete a very successful internship.

Most importantly, it is now time to get focused.  At this point, I know it may not have sunken in yet, but five months from now it is very possible that some of you will be full-time teachers with your own classrooms.  So, begin to prioritize and take what you are doing very seriously.

For my first bit of advice, and I know you may not want to hear these words at this moment, but begin your Teacher Work Sample now.  Your introduction, philosophy, and contextual factors can all be completed before you even begin writing lessons, and trust me, the sooner you begin tackling this project the better.  I witnessed some interns putting off their work sample until the last weeks of their internship and their grades and evaluations suffered because of it.  The less time you spend dwelling on each portion of the Teacher Work Sample will provide you with additional time to focus on your role in the classroom.  So, remember to start early and complete it in small but frequent intervals.

Next, start focusing on your writing skills more than you ever have.  While you think your supervisor or clinical instructor may know you best from his or her observations of you, you are mistaken.  Your journals, lesson plans, and teacher work sample will paint a much clearer picture of you as a teacher, student, and professional.  Do not haphazardly throw together a thoughtless journal entry or lesson plan because you feel overwhelmed by all of your other obligations.  Your supervisor will take note of this and begin to form opinions about your professional skill and thoughtfulness.  Take your time with all written documents and inspect them multiple times to make certain each submission you make directly represents the professional you hope to be.

Furthermore, jump right in and ensure you make your students and cooperating teacher aware of your presence.  You do not want your students and cooperating teacher to think of you as timid or incompetent.  You want to create a presence in the classroom that encourages students to approach you with concerns, as opposed to having them view your cooperating teacher as the only real teacher in the classroom.  All of you are at an advantage with this bit of advice because you are starting your internships in the beginning of the school year.  So, from the very first day, begin helping with small tasks like grading or attendance to ensure your presence is recognized.

Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the school where you are placed.  This place will be the only thing you think about for the next four months.  So, befriend the office staff, administrators, and other faculty.  These people’s opinions of you matter enormously and your demeanor, attitude, and level of professionalism in front of them may have an impact on a future teaching position.  This means act, speak, and dress professionally in an effort to be noticed and commended by the school faculty.  One Vice Principal during my internship simply knew me as the intern who dressed well, and something as simple as that can go quite a long way.  Also, leap at opportunity to be a part of extracurricular activities or events.  Show that you are dedicated and that you are appreciative of being a part of the school where you are placed.  I did something as simple as attending a department meeting and received positive comments from other faculty and the chairperson himself that they had never seen a student teacher attend a meeting.  Always remember that it is sometimes the small, intangible things that people will remember most.

Moreover, become very skillful at stealing ideas.  What I mean by this is that you should always be aware of and willing to try things that are proven effective.  If you see your cooperating teacher or another faculty member implementing an innovative strategy that students seem to love, or you see a credible lesson plan online that utilizes technology in a way that seems extremely attractive, steal these ideas.  Some of the best teachers will be the first to admit that they attribute some of their success to ideas they stole from other veteran teachers.  But also within this bit of advice, I will say that you should never fear attempting new things in the classroom.  Some of my best lessons came about as a result of utilizing instructional styles that I had not previously believed in.  This is the best time for you to get a feel for what works best, so try everything.

In closing, I want to leave you with a bit of advice that I feel is most important, and that I unfortunately did not come to realize until the end of my internship.  While all of you are about to undergo an intense four month training course while assuming multiple responsibilities, whether it be work, school, or relationships, none of these concerns should ever outweigh the learning experiences of your students.  Your students will remember you and the experiences they have with you for the rest of their lives, just as all of us can vividly recall our classroom experiences.  While this thought may sound cliché or contrived, I want to assure you that it is unmistakably true.  Every word that comes out of your mouth or any one of your daily actions can make a lasting impact on every one of your students.  Do not be overwhelmed by the roles that you will fill and do not be over concerned with your impending evaluations, because the most important and lasting evaluation you will receive is the approval and appreciation from your students.

Thank you all and I wish all of you the best of luck.