The culminating experience for aspiring teacher candidates is student teaching or an internship. Both are designed to be intensive full-time classroom experiences that allow the persevering teacher to further develop and refine the skills, competencies, and dispositions needed to be an effective educator in today’s schools. Although internships and student teaching have many similarities, internships give immediate rather than gradual responsibility and require more independent classroom management. These can create more challenges for a new teacher, but they also provide opportunities to grow, which is why McKay School student Alexandra Ford chose to do an internship.
Ford graduated in June 2013 with a degree in elementary education and a minor in teaching English as a second language. She recently finished a 2nd grade internship at Riverton Elementary in the Jordan School District and accepted a full-time teaching position at the same school in the 3rd grade.
Ford decided to do an internship instead of student teaching even though it was a greater commitment. “We had the option to interview for an internship or to be assigned to a student teaching position,” Ford said. “I was interested in the challenge of an internship and was lucky enough to be selected.”
The challenge of an internship comes from the condition that the interns have full classroom responsibility from day one. “In the students’ and parents’ eyes, I was the teacher,” Ford related. “I was in charge of everything that a graduated teacher is expected to do, which made it a very challenging year. I have students who have tested me in ways I did not know I would be tested.”
With a high level of responsibility comes a high level of commitment. “On the first day of school, you are the teacher. There is no easing into it; it is a huge commitment,” Ford said. “Not only are you extending your graduation a semester, but you are also giving up much of your everyday life to make the lives of 20 plus students run smoothly. I often got to school at 7:00 a.m. and did not leave until 5:30-6:00 p.m. There is a lot to do, and it can be completely overwhelming.”
Making up lesson plans, applying the knowledge learned at the McKay School, and keeping a bunch of 2nd graders happy and cooperative would be quite a challenge for anyone, but with the difficulties also come the rewards. “This experience has helped me grow,” Ford said. “I have become a stronger, more confident teacher because of the challenges I face.”
However, Ford did not face the challenges of her internship alone. Like most interns, she had a facilitator—an individual whose aid Ford found very beneficial. “The internship allowed me to gain confidence and test out my capabilities while having [the facilitator] to bounce ideas off and learn from. My facilitator was there to help me set up procedures and gave me ideas on how to best help my challenging students,” Ford said. “I have learned so much from my facilitator, and this internship has allowed me to gain experience of what being a real teacher is like. I knew I had the help if I needed it, but the classroom was mine and it was my responsibility to teach.”
The challenges and the support of a facilitator made her internship something that Ford would recommend to others—if they can handle it. “Doing an internship is a very personal decision. You have to be confident and willing to adapt. But [to] anyone who is thinking [she is] brave enough to do an internship, I would say go for it,” Ford said. “I have loved my internship, and many girls in my program who did not do one look back and wish they had. It really helps to shape you as a teacher, and it is a good way to start out. You have the safety net of a facilitator to help. I have loved my internship and feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be the teacher of these 22 second graders. I would not trade this experience for any of the others I have had at BYU.”
Ford and her husband live in Lehi, Utah. Ford completed her internship July 2, 2013 and is teaching third grade this school year.