Putting Experience into Practice: Clinical Intern to Educator, Mariah Hodge

Mariah holds an apple while standing outside on campus.

Mariah Hodge is a recent Rowan graduate from Clayton, NJ (Gloucester County). During her educational career, she majored in Elementary Education and Literacy Studies. Today, she relays her clinical experience and its value to her as an incoming educator. 

Since childhood, Mariah had her sights set on becoming a teacher. Through Rowan University, she was able to graduate with a dual major in Elementary Education and Literacy Studies. Her completion of Literacy Studies has also granted her certification as a Teacher of Reading in New Jersey.

Mariah’s final task to achieve her undergraduate degree placed her in the district of Vineland in a fifth grade classroom for the past year. There she assumed and fulfilled the required assignments that would prepare her for her own classroom.

Prior to the start of the semester, the Office of Clinical Experience (OCE) places interns at schools or clinical settings during the final phase of their academic career. As an intern in the yearlong Teacher Preparation Program, students will engage in collaborative teaching experiences centered in data-based instructional decision making, professional reflection, and ongoing student assessment based on New Jersey aligned standards.

Mariah enjoys a book at a cafe.

At the beginning of her placement, Mariah established goals that she wanted to achieve from her experience.

“I wanted to connect with the students and to see the strengths and weaknesses in my teaching so that I can address them. I knew this would help to prepare me for when I had my own classroom,” she explains.

Clinical interns are expected to observe and practice under the supervision of their assigned cooperating teacher. During the last half of their placement, students will have assumed the entirety of teaching in order to fully immerse themselves. Accordingly, this process has instilled a variety of experiences and lessons unique to each clinical intern.

“My experience was valuable because it allowed me to develop as a future educator. It helped me to see my strength and resilience because there were many times where I had to change my plans based on what was happening, so I had to be very flexible. This opened my eyes to see that I can overcome difficult situations and to trust my instincts,” Mariah says. “As a clinical intern, I always had a schedule. I woke up in the morning, got to the school at a certain time, and planned for instruction during free periods. This helped me to be consistent and plan a structure for how I want my days to go when I am a teacher.”

Mariah sits and poses outside.

At their placements, interns were encouraged to implement a variety of approaches to develop their repertoire of teaching strategies.

“For all of my lessons, I learned to implement the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. I made sure to always model, work with the students, and lead them towards independence. I also used a lot of visuals like anchor charts and slideshows,” Mariah says. “In terms of classroom management, I learned that the most effective strategy is to relate to your students. This means that your approach can change from year to year, so make sure you have expectations placed according to that grade level. Continue to follow and enforce those expectations throughout the day and throughout the year. Remember to have consequences in place for when those rules are not followed.”

Throughout the program, students are aided by Rowan’s network of support systems. Interns are enrolled in a Diversity Seminar class in their final semester, a capstone course that helps candidates to better understand their practitioner experiences through a series of readings, discussions, and assignments. Additionally, each intern is assigned a field supervisor to observe and provide feedback throughout the year.

“My classes at Rowan prepared me by developing my ability to plan and teach these lessons. In class we were able to have mock lessons that we would teach in front of our classmates because that would be the first lesson that we were ever going to teach to a group of students. I’m glad we were able to work it out before we got to the actual classroom,” she explains.

Mariah stands in front of a children's books section at Barnes & Noble.

In reflection of her support from Rowan, Mariah eagerly recalled her experience with her supervisor.

“I’m so glad Rowan assigned us supervisors so that we had an additional resource if there were any issues with our cooperating teacher. The field supervisors were informative and they served as a great connection for recommendation letters and job opportunities. Most importantly, they helped us build on our skills to improve as teachers.” she says.

“I looked forward to observations from my supervisor because it gave me the opportunity to take more control of the classroom. I was able to plan my own lessons and teach it, so I really took over. It gave me the confidence to know that I can teach just as well as the cooperating teacher. No matter who is in the classroom, your teaching should be consistent despite who is there watching or how long they’ll be watching for. You should always be prepared to teach and teach well.”

When asked to impart some advice for future interns, Mariah suggests, “Hold on to the good things and don’t take the bad things to heart. This will help to build your confidence rather than tear yourself down. Take those positive comments that come to you and rehearse them in your head so that you remember the positive aspects of your teaching. Negative experiences and comments don’t define you, but help you in the future. If there are any mistakes that you are making, you’re able to correct them now.”

Mariah holds her decorated graduation cap and smiles.

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Story by:
Jessica Nguyen, elementary education and literacy studies major

Photos courtesy of:
Jessica Nguyen, elementary education and literacy studies major

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