What if you could get real life experience “trying on” the career you are studying for while in university? The Faculty of Education offers both two-week introductory and three-month long internships to students in the undergraduate programs to do just that. Teaching in both local and international schools has reinforced many student teachers’ decisions to pursue their education degree. The internship provides an opportunity to either confirm or contradict the experience the student has already gained from lectures and textbooks.
Scott Tobin credits the hard work and dedication of the teachers that he had throughout school for his decision to become a teacher.
“Teachers have such a profound impact on children and adolescents and I hope to represent this guiding figure in my career. Teaching is everywhere and it is not restricted to the four walls in your classroom, it is ongoing and I have always wanted to give back to what I was received as a student,” says Mr. Tobin.
As a prospective language teacher, Mr. Tobin feels strongly that he needs to possess the highest comprehension and overall embodiment of the French language. He has participated in three exchanges during his university career: five weeks in Québec, three months in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, and nine months in Nice, France. “I want to ensure that my use of the French language is beneficial for my future students; I owe that to them.”
Mr. Tobin believes that his internship experience had added an important layer to his education in both teaching and the French language. “There is only so much you can learn through textbooks and chalk talk; practical experience is the key to success. Through making photocopies, supervising the cafeteria, volunteering for the breakfast program, using your teaching email account, teaching all hours of the day, and spending every evening prepping for the next class, I believe I have lived my internship experience to the fullest.”
Mr. Tobin’s cooperating teacher consistently demonstrated and discussed different approaches he was using with the students and this advice will undoubtedly show when Mr. Tobin begins teaching this fall. The teaching profession is one of constant change and adaptation and teaching internships prepare the students to take on that responsibility once they graduate.
Heather Kenny started university with the intention of becoming a music teacher, but soon realized that this was not the path for her. In her second year at university, Ms. Kenny began working with the federal government in a bilingual position while completing her Arts degree, double Majors in German and French, part time. She developed a love for the French language through communicating with Francophones every day at work and decided to return to her original plan of becoming a teacher, with French as her focus.
Ms. Kenny’s work, volunteer and academic experiences all contributed to her decision to become a teacher and to share her love for the French language with others. She wanted to work with the junior and senior high age group specifically after volunteering with her high school's music program while attending university and working. She has now completed a three-month teaching internship in French and it has been an invaluable experience for her.
“I learned so much over the course of the internship, and the practical experience of being in a classroom, teaching my own lessons, creating my own assignments and tests, and interacting one-on-one with students was an excellent learning experience," says Ms. Kenny. "I definitely used daily what I had learned in the classroom in the previous semester, but I feel the learning experience of the internship is not something that could ever be replaced, nor fully prepared for, by classroom learning alone.”
The teachers who mentor the interns at their schools also see the value of the internship program. Tracy Gorman teaches kindergarten at Roncalli Elementary and has participated in the Memorial University Internship Program for the past 10 years. “An internship is a MUST in the education program. It is the ‘meat’ and the ‘heart’ of the program. It is where everything that a university education student learns gets put into practice.”
Ms. Gorman believes that the internship helps a student teacher prepare for things that cannot be leanred from a textbook, such as classroom management skills. A university student can study and recite all the classroom management strategies that are taught in a course, however, they do not have a true appreciation for classroom management until they step into the classroom.
Ms. Gorman sees a lot of change in the student teachers during the three months of their internship. “I love watching the growth that an intern makes throughout their internship from the first time they enter the classroom and introduce themselves to the class, to the first time they teach a lesson, to the final day of their internship. Not only does their self-confidence increase in their teaching abilities but they learn how to manage and deal with various classroom and student situations and challenges that occur on a daily basis.”
The internship enables student teachers to experience dealing with parents, administrators and fellow colleagues for the first time. Although many of them have worked with various classmates on group assignments, it is very different than working in a ‘team teaching’ atmosphere or classroom. The internship allows a student teacher to see all sides of the teaching profession. Once a student teacher finishes an internship, many do not want to leave and end up returning every few weeks to volunteer or visit with the students and the school environment.
“Let’s just say in my experience, it has been a most rewarding and positive experience for all involved: the student intern, the students and of course, myself!" says Ms. Gorman, "I am continually learning new things from my intern each semester. After all isn’t that what teaching all about?”
Click here to hear video testimonials of Mr. Tobin and Ms. Kenny's internships.