Rethinking Internships 

Michelle Camp_214For the past 9 years, I have been the coordinator for the marketing work-based learning program at my school.  I have coordinated countless learning opportunities for students in the work force.  My work has provided students experience in areas that relate to their career goals.  My position allows students the opportunity to gain school credit for their time at work.  I take great pride in the learning opportunities I provide to my students.  From these experiences most of my students realize the value of continuing their education to increase their job opportunities.  These internships are life-changing and provide my students with invaluable skills and life experiences.  

As a traditional teacher, I entered college right out of high school to pursue a teaching license.  I held various jobs throughout high school and college that provided me with entry-level job experiences.  Each one of these jobs taught me skills from customer service, meeting quotas, multi-tasking, etc.  I value these experiences, but none of these jobs were within the marketing career I was preparing my students for.

Last summer, an opportunity came that would allow me to complete a summer internship within my field.  The catch was I had to find it.  I wanted my internship to be provide experiences that I could take back to my classroom.  I wanted it to be authentic and, above all, I wanted my internship to be fun.  If I was going to “give up” 40 hours of my summer vacation, I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk.  

As we all know, social media is a great tool for making connections, and Facebook orchestrated my connection for my internship.  At the end of the school year, I had been told I would be teaching a new Fashion Merchandising class.  I had never worked in a retail setting and had no fashion experience outside of shopping for myself at Ross Dress for Less or TJ Maxx.  I knew this should be my focus area.  And as opportunity would have it, a former student shared an internship opportunity for the Little Rock Fashion Week.  Excitement is an understatement as I read her post.  

I followed the link and completed the application. Even though it was past my bedtime, I went and updated my resume to attach to the application and clicked submit.  I also sent an email to the director of the fashion week to introduce myself and explain why I was seeking an internship.  He email me back a few days later and an over-the-phone interview was scheduled.  I made sure I was well prepared and wrote down talking points that I wanted to share and questions I had.  After the interview, I felt accomplished and hopeful that I would get the internship that seemed like the perfect fit.  

The internship was just that, and I have never walked so much in my life.  I had hoped for an internship that wouldn’t leave me sitting behind a desk and that is just what I found.  I was responsible for distributing flyers to local boutiques and retailers, working with retail management to select and catalog outfits for selected fashion shows, soliciting donations, and organizing models backstage for rehearsals and shows.  I had to opportunity to work directly with designers, makeup artists, and hair stylists.  I built friendships with the models and the director.  We had a total of four shows: Preview, BARE, For Kids By Kids, and the Big Show.  The 40 hours I had committed to quickly turned into 86 hours and I didn’t mind because the learning opportunity was so valuable.  I gained experience in so many aspects and made numerous valuable connections that I was able to take back to the classroom.  

Internships are often considered for students who are working towards a career goal, but I would argue the need for teachers to also complete internships to ensure they are up to date on the demands in the careers they are preparing students for.  I would say any teacher who has been out of the industry for 10 years or more or like me, a traditional teacher, needs the experience an internship can provide them to enrich their teaching!  

 

Michelle Camp
2017 ACTE Region IV Fellow
PCSSD – Maumelle High School
Maumelle, Arkansas

 

Read more posts by Michelle and the other 2017 ACTE Fellows here…

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