Once you have been accepted into graduate school, you will most likely be expected to participate in an internship or practicum hours, regardless of your degree area. An internship can give you exposure to the field and help ensure it is the job you wish to pursue.
Skills You Will Develop During Your Graduate School Internship
There are several areas in which you might gain experience through an internship. Depending on the degree you seek, you might be required to spend hours observing in a classroom for special education or English language learners. If you seek a degree to become a reading specialist, then you will work on developing your skills in progress monitoring, analyzing data, and providing intervention strategies. If your degree is in educational leadership, then you might be required to shadow a school administrator. You will observe daily routines of a school principal, and what responsibilities the job entails. To get a better grasp of the school culture, you may be asked to ride a bus route or spend time in collaborative meetings. No matter your area of focus, the practicum hours you obtain will help you develop a deeper understanding for the position.
How to Find the Best Mentor
More than likely the hours spent observing and working with professionals during your internship will lead to a mentor relationship. For this reason, if you have the opportunity to choose with whom you work, you will want to consider your options carefully. If you are new to the field, you might contact someone at the district level to provide input. If you are familiar with the area, you might have someone in mind with whom you want to work. It is best to think about how closely their job aligns with your career goals. If you dream of being an elementary administrator, then you would want to choose that level to observe.
How to Manage Your Time While Teaching Full-Time
An internship can be a daunting thought if you are teaching full-time. One option is to work on your internship before school, after school, or during your planning period. Another option is going outside of your district on school holidays such as spring break that do not coincide with others’ vacation times. A third option for positions such as administrative roles is working during summer, a time when the principal may be able to talk more one-on-one about the role and responsibilities.
Best Practices During an Internship
Regardless of the internship field, it is best practice to observe the law. There will be times when you will not be able to observe based on student confidentiality. Respect these limits, and always let your mentor know you appreciate their time and willingness to share their busy schedule with you.
In order to best learn from your experience, it is beneficial to reflect on what you learn each day. This will help you as you apply what you learn in class and move into becoming an expert in your area of focus.