As I come to the end of my school administration internship I have started to reflect on what I did differently this time than the previous times as an intern and as a student teacher. I fully believe that we must grow and help one another, so hopefully I can offer some tips that made my most recent internship experience a valuable learning opportunity.
Use social media
Joining Twitter has been one of the best educational choices I have made. Building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) will help you grow as an educator and as a professional. You must connect with others in the field. Joining chat groups is instrumental. You will connect and meet others in the field and learn from their experiences and knowledge. Some great chat groups include #satchat, #edchat, #edbeat, #TEDEdchat. Most states have their own chats too - I’m partial to #ohedchat. Then find one that specifically relates to you: #spedchat, #apchat, #leadupchat. You can easily find a chat every night.
You can also utilize other forms of social media - Instagram, Facebook, Voxer (Voxer offers a lot of interactive chat groups as well). There are great videos on YouTube you can use in your classrooms and schools. Find the time to learn from these free resources!
Read, Read, Read
Yes, more than likely you’ll be reading for classes that you’re taking, but you need to read more than that. It is important to know the pedagogy behind what you are studying, but you need to know the practical side as well. There are great, quick reads from people in the field that will improve what you do on a daily basis. You can find short articles from Ed Week and Edutopia. Educator’s personal blogs are another great resource (see below). Again, make the time to improve and grow yourself.
There are hundreds of great educators and leaders that write phenomenal blogs about personal experiences, educational insights, current issues in education, and tips and strategies for innovation. They do this to help others grow. These educators and leaders are the same ones that you see at national conferences! You can learn from them each week by simply following their blogs. Here are just a few that I personally follow (again, found through Twitter): Bobby Dodd, Neil Gupta, Jennifer Hogan, Jimmy Casas, Craig Vroom, Jonathon Wennstrom, George Couros. Each of these blogs will lead you to many more.
You should also try blogging yourself. I am just beginning my blogging journey, and recently joined a blogging tribe #compelledtribe. Even if you're not at the same level as the above mentioned leaders, you have experiences to share and a story to tell.
Connect with Others
This is more than connecting with others through social media, this is actually face-to-face time connecting with others. More than likely you will do your required internship / student teaching time in a designated location with a designated mentor. That’s not enough. It’s unlikely that your job will be in the exact position you're assigned to. Stretch yourself - during planning time, visit other grade levels and/or departments. Days off; not this year. Visit schools that are open. I emailed principals at all levels this year and asked if I could shadow them for a day. A good leader/teacher won’t deny you an opportunity to learn. Observe and work with as many people as you can so you can see as many aspects to the job as you can.
Start a personal journal. Reflect on things that you see in your school or other’s classrooms. Reflect on what you read about. Write about what you want to try or accomplish when you get the job of your dreams. When you see or read about something great, write it down. Write down all the advice and strategies that you hear from others. Take pictures and put them in your journal. Inspirational quotes are great too!
Find A Mentor
This by far is the best advice I can offer. Do some research. Who are experts in the field you are going into? Reach out to these people and ask if they would be willing to work with you and mentor you. You may be placed with a teacher or a leader, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find further opportunities on your own.
I literally sent out an email to my now mentor last spring. I simply asked if he’d be willing to work with me in an untraditional internship setting. Exceptional leaders who are passionate about their profession will want to work with you and build the profession. A great mentor may be one you don’t see every day or even every week, but one that you can email or message with “Help!”, “What if…” “What do you think about…”. A great mentor is honest and won’t provide “fluff”, but truthful advice that makes you think and will move you forward to your ultimate goal.
This is your year, make the most of it. It will be exhausting, time consuming, and draining, but if you feel those things, it’s also likely you’re moving in the right direction!