This past week (12th through the 16th), I completed my secondary education internship. In case you don’t know I have a double major in secondary mathematics education (7-12) and special education (K-12). This internship was for the secondary math education major. I was at North Sioux City Middle School from 7:25-3:05 every day for a week. I learned many lessons during my time in the classroom, but a few I’d like to focus on are: Having a backup plan, making sure everyone understands, and that there are many resources out there.
The first lesson I learned is to always have a backup plan. This is especially true when it comes to technology, since it seems to fail so often. Three out of the four days I was in the classroom, something came up that forced my mentor teacher to change her plans. One day (Wednesday) it was the walkout that took place. Another time it was just that many students had a school activity going on that she wasn’t told about. The third time, the computer program she wanted to use wasn’t working properly. Every time, she seamlessly switched to another lesson. I’m not even sure the students noticed that she had changed her plan. That’s because she always had a backup plan. On Thursday of my internship week, I taught a lesson that required the students to use Desmos on laptops. Logging in to the laptops took at least five minutes, and since I had not planned for this set-back, all I could do was stand up front and ask whether they were logged in. After my lesson, when my mentor teacher and I were talking, we discussed how important space-fillers and backup plans are when it comes to technology. That’s another takeaway, along with just having a backup plan in general.
My second major takeaway is to make sure everyone understands. One thing that I witnessed, and this doesn’t really hurt anyone except the teacher, was that my mentor teacher would plan for the fastest students. I did the same thing when I did my lesson plan. When I was trying to figure out how long it was going to take, I was thinking about how long it took the few fastest students to do a similar task. In reality, learning takes time. Checking whether everyone understands takes more time than I would have thought. A teacher needs to go around and make sure that everyone knows what’s going on, so everyone benefits from the lesson.
My third takeaway is that teachers use a lot of different resources. There’s definitely many teachers that don’t, but there are so many teachers sharing what works for them. Why wouldn’t a teacher want to find lessons that work. On a daily basis, my mentor teacher was trying to find more lessons that work, and she ended up finding more interactive, life-like lessons for things she was going to teach in a less fun way. One collaborative sort of website I found was opened.com. In this website, one can search for a standard in a grade or class and find lesson plans for that standard that other teachers have shared. There seems to be a limited number of people that have shared their lessons, but it seems like a great idea. Searching the internet for lessons that can get students more interested in mathematics in worth the time.
It was really interesting to finally see things we’ve learned in class implemented by real teachers. For example, if someone had headphones in or their phone out, my mentor teacher would go up and whisper to them to put it away, rather than yell or pull it out of their hand or anything like that, which is something we learned in class.
It was a new experience to see the break room at the school I was at. If there’s a reason to not become a teacher, I heard it there. They complained about pay, parents, behavior, etc. It makes sense, though. Teaching is a tough profession and at some point, we all need to vent. On the other hand, it was awesome that my mentor teacher and a few other teachers told me they wouldn’t trade their job for any other one. That was a really cool moment.
Middle school is an odd age to me. In some ways, they don’t even seem close to adults. They don’t take care of their hygiene, they behave like middle-schoolers, and they love games and throwing things. On the other hand, some have the same interests as me. There’s also always a group that thinks they’re too cool for me. I’m not saying I don’t like it, it’s just an interesting age.
Those are my takeaways from my internship. I definitely learned a lot, so it was a very valuable experience. It’s great to get out of the college classroom and get some time doing what I want to do the rest of my life.