How to Survive an Internship in Elementary Education

Internship is the last step in the education process for becoming a certified teacher in many locations. From the flu to fractions, the intern experience is sure to run wild. Tame the beast. Keep control. Here are some hints from those who have been through it.


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    Create a shopping list. Never go to the store without a purpose or you may come out broke (but with a fabulous new set of books and markers). Some common supplies an intern may need to begin are these:
    • Hand sanitizing wipes. Not every classroom has a sink or bathroom for immediate use, so to avoid germs as much as possible, you will want to wipe your hands pretty often.
    • Pencils, markers, and other writing supplies. Get enough so that you are able to share with the students if you are able. Schools have limited resources, and often it is the students/parents responsibility to provide basic supplies, but a dedicated teacher (or here, intern) will want each child to have what is needed for them to learn.
    • Notebooks, binders, or a teacher's planner. Lessen plans are the main structure of many classes, and during internship, you will want to develop good planning techniques, both by observing and taking notes of the classroom teacher you are interning under, and using the knowledge you have gotten during school to begin creating your own.
    • Snacks, bottled water, and other comfort items. These are for you, not the students! You may choose to bring treats for the students, but these should be reserved for special occasions, or you will find it impossible to stay on a budget.
    • Tissues and toiletry items. This can possibly include many different things, depending on your gender, and the available facilities where you are interning.
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    Talk to the teacher you are going to intern under before your first day. Internship relationships are not always equal, and going into the process with a clear understanding of what the teacher expects from you will help you have a plan in place when you start. Interning is not teaching aide training, but an opportunity for you to use and develop skills and techniques before becoming a full-time teacher. Some of the things you can expect to do are the following:
    • Work with individuals during classes. Often a teacher will take advantage of an intern to work one-to-one with students while they are doing group or general classroom work.
    • Develop, or help with developing lesson plans. While the classroom teacher is still responsible for the daily lesson plan, they may enlist your help in developing one, or give you the task of doing specific portions of it.
    • Checking work, grading papers, or writing tests. These may be considered aid jobs, but most classrooms do not have teacher's aids, so it is reasonable to assume the intern will at least share this duty, and it is a significant part of a teacher's daily work.
    • Developing special projects. This will depend on the course you are interning in, of course, but for example, in a science class you may have an opportunity to set up lab equipment, demonstrate an experiment, or make visual aids for a particular item of study.
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    Use the knowledge you have learned in your college coursework. Before becoming an intern, you will probably have completely four years of higher education (in the US, at least), and this is the first chance for you to use this knowledge productively. It is also a "proving ground", of sorts, since moving the techniques and knowledge you learned into the real world sometimes has exposes problems your professor did not prepare you for.
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    Never question the classroom teacher's performance, technique, or presentation in front of the class. It is his/her class, and if you have reservations about what they are doing, wait to discuss this in private. The teacher you are working under will be reporting to your own counselor, as your internship is part of your own education, so in this sense, you are being graded on your work, and causing friction will not result in good assessments.
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    Keep your cool in the classroom. Nervousness and apparent lack of confidence may cause the students to loose respect for you, especially if you are a young college age intern teaching high school classes, where there may be only a few years age difference between you and the students. Whether a teacher or an intern, you have to maintain control and composure.
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    Get plenty of rest. Getting a good night's sleep is important in any pursuit or endeavor you engage in, and teaching is no exception. Eating healthy foods, and general living a healthy lifestyle will help you get perform better at any task.


  • Follow the hours of your master teacher. Be at the school at the same time as the master teacher and stay until he or she leaves. Show that you are dedicated and professional.
  • Take your internship seriously, and use it as a learning experience. Hopefully, you will intern under a professional, caring teacher, and you may find you learn more in this one semester of real world work than you have in 4 years of college preparation.

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Categories: Internships | Teaching