MSU interns teaching in Chicago schools

Written by: Donald Heller

Primary Source: The Deans Blog

Chicago interns 1

This week I was in Chicago for my annual visit with Michigan State University interns working in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).  I look forward to this trip every year, because it is a great opportunity for me to see our teaching interns in action and to visit the nation’s third largest school district (you can read a summary of my visit last year as well).  We have 27 interns in Chicago this year, representing our elementary, secondary, and special education programs.  Many of the interns are members of our Urban Educators Cohort Program, which trains students specifically to teach in urban areas.

Elementary education graduate and teaching intern Casey Droste at Walsh Elementary School in Chicago

Elementary education graduate and teaching intern Casey Droste at Walsh Elementary School in Chicago.

I visited five schools on this trip:

  • Ogden International School
  • Walsh Elementary
  • Bronzeville Scholastic Institute
  • Bret Harte Elementary
  • Shoesmith Elementary

I had a great conversation with the interns over dinner, talking to them about their experiences.  One of the defining characteristics of our undergraduate Teacher Preparation Program is that our candidates finish their bachelor’s degree and then complete a 34-week internship in a school district around Michigan or in Chicago.  We are the only teacher preparation program in Michigan with a full-year internship, and one of a few around the country.

The interns, who are a few weeks away from completing their internships, reported to me how much they have benefited from being in the classroom for almost a full academic year.  Many of them are in Chicago schools that have student teachers from other colleges, and they have spent the year seeing these individuals cycle in and out of the classrooms for much shorter periods, often only 10, 12, or 15 weeks.  Our interns say they have learned so much being with the students from before the first day of school, all the way through this part of the school year. In addition, because they have completed their bachelor’s degrees, they have completed all of the coursework before the start of their internship.

I also spoke with the mentor teachers with whom our interns are working, as well as their principals.  The teachers also extolled the value and benefit of having an intern in their classroom for the entire year, not just because it benefits the teachers and their pupils, but because of the opportunity it provides for professional growth by the intern (elementary and secondary interns spend the year in the same classroom; special education interns spend one semester in a special education room, and one semester in a regular classroom).  The principals I spoke with echoed these thoughts; they see how much our interns developed over the course of the year.  Each one requested that we provide them with even more interns next year.

It is certainly a challenge for our graduates who do their internships in Chicago.  Most of them are not from Chicago, so unlike many of our interns in Michigan who live with their families while completing their internships, the Chicago interns have to rent apartments for the year.  Like all of our interns, one day a week they take graduate courses with our Teacher Education faculty.  But while most of our interns in Michigan are in the classroom with their instructors, the Chicago interns take their courses from a distance using real-time video linkages.  We do on occasion send instructors to Chicago to meet face-to-face with our interns there, but most of the class meetings are conducted remotely.

Even with these challenges, the interns reported to me that they have no regrets and would make the same decision again to complete their internship there.  Most said they hoped to get jobs in CPS, and in the 24 hours I was there, two of them received and accepted job offers to teach in CPS schools.  I hope their colleagues will receive equally good news in the coming months.

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Donald Heller
Donald E. Heller is Dean of the College of Education and a professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Prior to his appointment in January, 2012, he was Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education and professor of education and senior scientist at The Pennsylvania State University. He also has held a faculty appointment at the University of Michigan. His teaching and research is in the areas of educational economics, public policy, and finance, with a primary focus on issues of college access and choice for low-income and minority students. He has consulted on higher education policy issues with university systems and policymaking organizations in California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia, and has testified in front of Congressional committees, state legislatures, and in federal court cases as an expert witness. Before his academic career, he spent a decade as an information technology manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Donald Heller

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