As I sit in a conference in Dallas, TX hosted by the National Career Pathways Network, I learn more about externships and ways they can revolutionize how teachers and businesses alike can develop a stronger student and a better equipped work force. Listening to Jeff Weld from the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, he uses only 12 slides and three small videos to capture the essence of how externships work in Iowa and the dividends from which students and teachers alike can benefit from this great venture.
I listen more attentively to his example of a teacher who teaches health science at her school and all of the experiences she encounters in her six week externship. Here she was able to observe how a colonoscopy and a knee scope were conducted all in one. Then she sat with a doctor and attending nurses and discussed the MRIs of a CT scan. Experiences like this put her in the center of a career that many students dream of on a daily basis. Day after day she continued to learn and absorbed up everything that she participated in and took it back to her class the following fall.
With an internship, a single or group of students are mentored about parts of a career which gains them invaluable knowledge and accelerates their interest to that pathway. However, with an externship, the teacher becomes the focal point and can return to the class with much more than they entered.
An externship develops the educator more efficiently than an internship as it gives the teacher hands-on learning where the instructor can now fuse real world applications with their lessons and curriculum.
A teacher’s buy-in makes or breaks an externship Click To Tweet. When I have spoken with people about how to conduct an externship, they recommended that educators have the chance to receive the following:
- A stipend to attract the teacher for more than just a day or two. Everyone knows that teachers do not earn what they truly deserve and giving up their summer or extended breaks is priceless.
- Provide recertification points to teachers. When educators have down time, they often catch up on family related things such as trips and their own professional development. It behooves an educator to tie in these practices with recertification points that goes towards their teaching license.
- Making them feel like they are part of a team. Nothing irritates a professional more than anything when it comes to their time being wasted. Trivial tasks and paperwork sets the tone that they are second tier and their work is not appreciated.
- Engage them in a project or work that connects to their curriculum. In the example mentioned above with the young lady that teaches Health Sciences, her experience stimulated her curiosity and passion for the subject matter by directly relating her time and energy into a direct relationship.
- Have a mentor assigned to the teacher at the job site. Even though teachers are self-driven, they still need assistance in knowing the company routines and procedures. It even benefits the company to check in daily on the progress and ask questions from a fresh set of eyes.
- Set aside professional development days for the teacher during the school year. In order to achieve full optimization in this unique experience, teachers need to reflect, plan and adjust. Some schools may only have one or two teachers participate in an externship and it is vital to share their newly found knowledge with their peers in content teams and co-teaching occasions. It is highly recommended that the teacher receive this chance as close to the beginning of the school year as possible.
- Bring the job to the class. Put the meaning into several lesson plans. Too often teachers can’t find a way to tie in real world applications to daily objectives because a typical teacher’s background limits their experiences to just a college degree. If you look at your peers within the building, you will notice that the teachers that have a wealth of experiences are the ones that have captured the attention span of their classes thus making learning fun, relevant and meaningful.
- A highly effective externship requires extensive planning as well as meticulous details. It cannot be assembled and sent out at the last minute. Waiting until the last minute is a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen and will set up the partnership for a possible setback. In order to effectively utilize these chances, timelines like the ones below ensure clear and articulate communication, organization and consistency amongst the stakeholder.
If you have not considered an externship, I highly recommend that you do. It will make a world of difference not only for the teacher, but their students as well.