How to Find the Best Supervisor for Your Graduate School Internship

Lori McDonald
Lori McDonald
Elementary School Teacher; Ed.D. in School Leadership/Administration

The importance of graduate school internships cannot be overstated. These internships, in some ways, can be seen as a year-long interview. Therefore, it is critical that you have the best possible supervisor to guide you through such an important process.

Why the Internship is an Important Part of Graduate School

Teacher internships in graduate school are vital to your career success because of the immense experience that can be gained from the skills that you will learn. Many of these are skills that you just cannot learn in a college class.

Bookkeeping – Be aware: that utopian environment in which you get to teach your heart out all day to a class full of bright-eyed, highly motivated students may not be exactly accurate. It is actually far from it. For example, any given day you will have to take attendance, submit the attendance report to the office, submit lunch count to the cafeteria, record attendance in the online attendance program, collect money for the next field trip/yearbook/play, count money, fill out log sheet for the office, teach, write receipts for students, submit all appropriate forms and money to the office, teach, document little Susie’s bathroom trips (at the pediatrician’s request), tie someone’s shoes…you get the idea. There is a lot of “other stuff” that teachers have to do that often come as a bit of a shock to new teachers. An internship is a great opportunity to learn from other experienced teachers how to effectively manage all of the extra paper shuffling that must be managed on a daily basis.

Classroom Management – This is another area for which you can learn about theory in graduate classes, but you must have on-the-job-training in order to truly understand how to apply that theory. A good supervisor can help you establish procedures to help your class run smoothly.

Parent Communication/Involvement – This is a critical component for classroom teachers and for the students. An internship is a great time to learn different methods of parent communication from more experienced teachers, as well as creative ways to get parents involved. Remember, the school, teacher, parents, and student make up a team whose job it is to work together to provide the opportunity for the most success in the student’s educational experience.

Teaching with Valuable Feedback – Whether you are teaching whole group, small group, team projects, enrichment, or remediation, you will gain vast and valuable experience. This is where a great supervisor can make or break that experience. What you need most during this time is honest, open, constructive criticism. This is infinitely important for you to learn to refine your craft and also learn how to evaluate yourself.

Important Qualities to Look for in an Internship Supervisor

Available and Approachable – It is important that a supervisor has an “open door” policy, so that they can be easily reached for questions or concerns. It is also important that you feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with the supervisor.

Transparency – Nobody is the world’s perfect teacher! We all have areas that could stand some improvement. A great supervisor is going to let you know about his or her own instructional struggles to make you feel more comfortable about your own.

Knowledge – Of course, anyone who is in the position to be a supervisor of a graduate teaching internship would be knowledgeable, but the ideal supervisor would be one with extensive knowledge in your particular area. That may mean a supervisor who has a wealth of experience in primary grades, middle grades, or high school history. If their area of knowledge matches yours, you have an excellent resource for help and guidance.

How to Set Expectations with Your Supervisor to Get the Most Out of Your Internship

So how do you set those expectations? Communicate! Make sure you are open and honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Let him or her know the things you are most worried about and what you feel you will need from them. Discuss the best means of communication for both parties. With open and honest expressions of expectations, you should be well on your way to a very successful and beneficial internship.

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