All of us in the counseling and teaching professions have had or will have the experience of being an intern- whether a student teaching intern or a counseling intern. This can be a magnificent, life-changing experience…or a roadmap of all the professional pitfalls to avoid. Either way, read on for some sure-fire tips on making the best of your intern (or intern’s) experience! And as always, I've included a lot of helpful resources- just click on the green links which will take you right to an article, video, or product you can use.
TIPS FOR THE INTERN
Tip #1- Be Your Best. Go above and beyond. Be early and be excited! Try to work longer and work harder than everyone around you. Think of your internship as a semester or year-long job interview. (Actual interview questions below!!) Stay positive and avoid making negative comments about others/programs. Dress professionally, even if you see others that don’t.
Tip #2- Fit into the Program. Learn the program that is in place at your internship and make sure you fit into that program. Avoid creating your own program in an internship setting unless your supervisor encourages you to do so.
Tip #3- Read the Handbook. Review your workplace handbook carefully and refer to it often; make sure you check the handbook before you ask your supervisor a question. Always keep in mind that your supervisor has their own workload that they have to accomplish, in addition to training and supervising you.
Tip #4- Ask for Help. Tell your university professor/leader if you are being used inappropriately such as in a substitute or secretary capacity. This is your chance to be a workplace sponge and you don’t want to waste it soaking up data entry or crowd control skills. Sidenote- make sure you know what the appropriate tasks are for your job before expressing a concern; here are links to appropriate VS inappropriate tasks for counselors and teachers.
Tip #5- Observe Other Professionals. Ask your intern supervisor for time and opportunities to observe lots of other experienced counselors or teachers in the workplace. The more you see, the fuller your toolbox will be!
Tip #6- Make Mistakes. This is your chance to mess up without professional repercussions! Don’t be afraid of failure; learn from it instead.
Tip #7- Embrace the Chaos. You will be completely overwhelmed with all the new stuff you are having to suddenly learn and we get it. We’ve all been there. Just breathe and take in as much as you can. There’s always tomorrow, or next week, or your career, to learn the rest!
Tip #8- Use a Planner. As you embrace the chaos, you will need a planner to keep track of all your duties throughout your day; a planner is also an excellent place to plan out your actions for each of your duties. I recommend the At a Glance teacher planner for student teaching interns and the At a Glance Academic Planner for counseling interns.
TIPS FOR THE INTERN SUPERVISOR
Tip #1- Make Space. If at all possible, give your intern their own space, where they can sit, work, and leave their stuff during their workday. I give mine a desk, computer, phone, a drawer, and cabinet (that they can lock with a chain or bike lock if they are so inclined).
Tip #2- Interview. Before agreeing to supervise their internship, give them the experience of a job interview where you can also determine if they are a good fit for your workplace. Use these links (ASCA interview questions or teacher interview questions) to pick out 3-5 interview questions to ask. Also, show them the duties and time commitments of the internship (see next link below).
Tip #3- Sign an Agreement. Create (and revise together, if necessary) an agreement that you both sign of their duties and time requirements in your workplace. This is also a good place to include a timeline of their semester/year at your workplace. Here is an example of my counseling intern agreement, which can be modified easily for use with student teaching interns as well.
Tip #4- Train with a Handbook. Before the first work day with students, provide a training session or two for your intern where you go over their handbook. The handbook should include all they will need to know to function in your workplace (lesson plan template, important phone numbers, crisis protocols, data tracking templates, etc). The handbook should also include norms of the workplace (start times, dress code, appropriate use of time, etc). Have the intern read the handbook before the training, then they can ask you questions about it during the training as you go over key parts of the handbook together. During the training, it is also good to have a checklist of technology and training items that need to be completed in order for them to do their job.
Tip #5- Observe, Observe, Observe. Have the intern observe you (with a 10-20 minute debrief immediately after each observation where they can ask questions, give feedback, etc.) before they try any student/parent/teacher task on their own. The first 2-3 weeks should be mostly observation and shadowing; it is also good for the intern to observe lots of your experienced, best practice colleagues.
Tip #6- Provide 3 to 1 Feedback. Observe them at their duties. A lot. Give them written feedback on your observations- try to aim for three positives for every constructive criticism.
Tip #7- Do Your Homework. ASCA’s School Counseling Principles: Mentoring, Supervising and Coaching or Supervising Student Teachers: The Professional Way is a must-read for intern supervisors.
Tip #8- Give a Project. Give them a lengthy, long-term project such as creating several college-themed bulletin boards, conducting Minute Meetings, writing a positive note home for every student, etc. This project should be something they can work on without your supervision, during any downtime that occurs. This really helps them to stay busy and gives you a break to get your own work done at the start of an internship when they need a lot of guidance and haven’t yet learned how to do their duties independently.
The intern experience can be such a rewarding time for both the intern and supervisor! So, I hope this post leaves you with some food-for-thought to energize your next internship adventure. Remember, to access any of the resources mentioned above, just click on the green links. Please comment below to share any tips you have for a successful internship-- the more tools we all have, the better.This brings me to the end of April's post. Some exciting news to explain why I won't be writing a May post, or anymore spring posts, for that matter... I just signed a multi-book deal with the Youthlight publishing company! Look for my multi-group counseling guide, Sending Students Soaring, in book stores by June 2017. Yes, I know it's only 3 months away- hence my silence here for the rest of the spring! I will be crazy-busy trying to meet my book deadlines! So, check back here in the summer for my next post about must-do's for attending summer conferences. As always, you can find out about Bilingual Learner’s latest promotions, free stuff, or my counseling/ESL adventures by following my Facebook Page, Instagram Page, and Pinterest Page!