In this first-person perspective piece, graduate student in Education, Lucas Taylor of Gloucester County, NJ, discusses the arduous trials of being a part of something bigger than higher education – being a part of an internship. Throughout his experience, Lucas describes the rigors of becoming as consistent as possible in a professional scene as well as understanding the developmental period that comes along with internships.
When someone brings up “internships” in a conversation, a mix of different themes are always talked about. Whether it is sharing personal experiences, the existential dread of preparing for the professional field, or feeling lost and acting like everything is fine while trying to enjoy the shakes from morning coffee on an empty stomach, there are several different ways in which people bond over their internships. In my own experience, I have been a part of a year long clinical internship in the M.A program for Education teaching English at Paulsboro Junior and Senior High School. As I am nearing the end of my time with my own experience at the school, I have been able to reflect and gain some semblance of how this internship has prepared myself for ultimately moving onto my next part of life.
Understanding that the biggest takeaway from internships is the general experience of being a part of something bigger is one of the most difficult parts of settling in. I still remember that general feeling of excitement, as well as nervousness, began to creep in when I had received notice of my placement for the first time. Especially within the Education program, many of my classmates and friends had started to frantically message and start to compare the different placements to try to get as much information as possible to create an expectation before they get started.
The first week was something of an acclimation period; I had felt like I was pretending to be a teacher but knew that I wasn’t just yet for the longest time. Even though I was coming into the internship with ideas and theories to use in a classroom setting, I knew that something like that was still way off and I had to build upon the foundations.
With my internship in particular, I knew that it was going to be a learning experience for myself, just as much as my students. I’m extremely grateful for being able to experience the ins and outs of teaching with my cooperating teacher, Ms. Bria, as she had individually broken down every single idea that she had in mind for the class. In her daily feedback, she provided reasoning in her actions and method and helped me to understand why certain things were done in a certain way. Whether that be creating lesson plans or getting ready for the warmups at the beginning of the day, she had given examples of her own experience as well as advice as to how to move forward. In my own opinion, a healthy and supportive cast is not something that is usually brought up, mentorship in particular is one of the most crucial parts of a successful internship. There were never days where I was doing XYZ just for the sake of getting through the day, my CT had reiterated the importance of being articulate with my actions as well as being accountable with what was going on in the classroom. Although there were plenty of days where I knew my own social battery was becoming depleted and all I wanted to do was drink my coffee in a nice secluded spot, I learned to grit my teeth and put forth my best effort irregardless of whatever I was feeling at the time.
It’s an interesting period in life, I would often reflect and think of the limbo situation that I was in. Even though I was throughout the year becoming more adjusted and taking more responsibilities in regards to teaching four different 11th grade classes, I still had felt as if those same feelings from the first week could creep back at any time and set me back. Halfway through, I did become aware of how difficult it was balancing all the different facets of my own life as I was still juggling two part time jobs, my time spent with friends and family, as well as the internship. Looking back now, it’s easy to understand and feel sorry for myself for having to go through all that, but that would be an easier route. I willingly understood what was expected of me with an internship experience, breaking down halfway through was never something that has been a part of my life; I would rather be able to get through difficult times and understand that I’m better for it.
With all that being said, my internship experience was something that I never anticipated enjoying as much as I am now. In comparison to my teaching methods in the first semester, I had felt as if I was being too safe and unable to really relish in being a future educator. Once I broke out of that mindset, I really started to build rapport with my students as well as become more invested with the intricate details of teaching.
This is not just saying that all internships will be the same, I’ve heard horror stories already from my peers in regards to their placements, but it creates a unique bonding moment; being able to share different stories of what goes on in the day-to-day life and really relish those moments of reflection. In terms of preparation for a future career, I’ve never felt more confident in my own outlook mainly due to my experience this past year with learning to guide students through units on Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman or different literary figures that they have heard of, but never really took the time to really learn about. Throughout the entire experience so far, nothing has been more satisfying than being able to drink that hour-aged coffee after my first class of the day and realize that I’m in the best position for success.
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Lucas Taylor, English education graduate student