By Senior Associate: Chelsea Rink
I recently graduated from a small Midwest university with degrees in education and English. Reflections during my June flight from the American Heartland to the capital of this nation allowed me to conclude that only three days before my first substantial post-graduate experience, I did not have a great sense for what my summer 2K13 was going to look like. I knew that I would be an unpaid intern in the main office of one of the most closely followed districts in the country. But I was anxious to learn whether or not my supervisors would trust me with substantial work; what my “Project CCARE” project designation meant; and whether this internship was a step in the right direction for someone who is interested in a teaching career.
As it turns out, Project CCARE isn’t a term that we use much on the STEM team. Technically, it stands for Project Common Core and Resources for Educators—which doesn’t paint much of a picture for what my project actually is. I am working with the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) team within the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL). Recently, DCPS – along with all but three states in the country – adopted the Common Core State Standards. DCPS adopted its Math standards last year, and this summer, the STEM team is devoted to creating documents that will support DCPS teachers in teaching to those standards. While I have no background in math (my last mathematics course was freshman year Calculus – three credit hours I am okay not remembering in too much detail), I have gained huge insight into the creation and formulation of curriculum. I have played a significant role in the formatting of Unit Plan and Scope and Sequence templates, with which my semester of student teaching provided me a decent familiarity. I have also had the opportunity to learn some HTML code in order to help with the DCPS educator portal; aid OTL office staff with hiring logistics; and aid in STEM teacher professional development preparation.
I am halfway through my DC summer. It has been hot and humid. It has been historically overwhelming (the amount of Smithsonian here is inordinate). It has been fun. In the month that I have been here, I have gained a much deeper understanding of what happens behind the scenes of a public school classroom, and I have gained perspective on my place as an aspiring teacher in American education. There are incredible personalities working in this office, who know education, and it is an inspiration to work with them every day. And whether you are interested in teaching, policy, educational leadership, curriculum, or any other lens of the educational stratosphere, this is a summer – or spring or fall – opportunity that provides perspective, knowledge, and a foundation to continue moving forward in a landscape that is more and more wrapped up in reform.