For middle year students at Montessori Habitat, internships are an important element of the curriculum as they are a way to explore the ideas of learning and leading, as well as the adult world of profession and work. They are highly anticipated learning experiences!
Our students have two internships each year. In the fall, they have a child development internship and in the spring they have a career internship. While the internships are different with a variety of goals, they offer extremely valuable and timely opportunities for our students which results in deepening their understanding of themselves, of others, and of what it takes to actually work.
These internships are timely as the students are reaching the age when their decisions and personal choices in and out of school can have significant consequences. In the child development internship, they learn what are typical milestones and when they are usually reached for an infant, toddler, and pre-schooler, they observe the interactions and teaching in our early childhood classroom, they learn the ways classroom materials work to educate young children, they propose material ideas and then create the materials in order to provide a lesson to a primary-aged child, and they build positive connections with our primary students. From this project, their understanding of the challenges faced when one is in the position of teacher or leader continues to grow, and it helps further their development of patience, kindness, and empathy.
In the career internship, the students brainstorm a list of occupations which they think they might like to pursue. They make lists. They update their lists. They research the assorted professions. They contemplate. They order. Their expansive lists are encouraged, supported, respected – indeed, there are so many interesting choices one can make with one’s life! Mrs. Smith, the student’s parents, and the school community work to help locate a professional – or professionals – with which the student can spend all or some portion of their internship week. With what is clearly a huge kindness and investment in the future, the professional hosts and mentors the student at their place of employment. This opportunity allows the young adolescent to see how involved and complex a grown-up job can be. Sometimes the student is able to assist by filing or completing other supportive tasks. The experience is a hybrid between job shadowing and a true internship. Sometimes the host only has a day or so to donate — that is a gift that is accepted with gratitude! In the best cases, the adolescent has the same placement from a couple of days up to five days to gain a more realistic exposure to a particular career. Other times a student has multiple placements within the same field during the week and this provides insight to the many possibilities some careers offer. Still other times, a student has multiple placements during the intern week which are not professions typically linked together. This might be the choice in order to briefly try out a variety of interests or because of the availability of the hosts. It works out and has always been such a great learning experience for the students. Sometimes a potential host worries that their day is filled with meetings or other non-flashy tasks, and that a young teen would be “bored.” The truth is that seeing a professional’s day up close is such a new experience that the students have reported nothing but amazement — sometimes even that there could be so many meetings in any given day!
We are incredibly grateful to all the fabulous hosts our student interns have had over the years! The experiences gained and the value placed on the experiences have made our students eager to seek out internships opportunities as high school and college students. These opportunities also play an important role in helping to discover interests, then to uncover the realities how to turn that interest into a real career possibility. Such focus and goals are important as adolescents embark on high school and make decisions about coursework, study habits, and other choices.