Name: Frank Wang
Type of Project: Internship
1. I was an intern at KIPP Columbus Primary, a local Kindergarten to First Grade charter school, over the summer. I managed and updated data on students’ test scores and participated in teacher training sessions.
2. I learned that people come from different places and it’s not your place to judge. I didn’t personally experience this anecdote, but I heard it from a teacher at the middle school. The kid acting out the most in his 7th grade class was homeless, couch-surfing, and a young father of a baby. Almost instantly, the “troublemaker” is seen as a child desperately calling out for help, who understandably couldn’t care less about algebra or American history. Another thing I learned is that, in general, worthwhile projects are composed of individuals doing their best, but no one individual is above the team. The work isn’t about you or your giant ego. Be present and be humble.
3. I had a very positive relationship with my boss, who I feel like really embodies the idea of being present and being humble. Quite literally, I never saw him eat lunch before 2pm. Until he had to eat, he just didn’t. He was constantly rushing back and forth, going to meetings or typing emails or meeting with coworkers. His work ethic was truly something else. I’ve received emails from him at both five in the morning and eleven at night. Yet, he also found a balance. He would take weekends off and just take a break from work. He is an definite role model and somebody I seek to emulate moving forward in my own career.
Near the end of my internship, I had the chance to attend some teacher training sessions during teacher orientation, which basically amounted to the first teacher in-service. Here, I again learned the lesson of just being present. When I just closed my mouth and payed attention, I learned so much. From how to manage a classroom to how to speak to misbehaving students to how to take criticism from coworkers, I feel like I emerged as a much better teacher, but also as a much better person, as cliche as that sounds. I also had a lot of positive role models here, especially with some of the younger teaching fellows, many of which were near my age and recent college graduates.
I also definitely became more professional. One very noticeable change is that I’m much more comfortable now wearing more formal outfits, be it business casual or business formal. Having to wear business clothes every day just made it a regular thing, and not something to be uncomfortable about, which I definitely was at the beginning of the summer. Furthermore, my coworkers and superiors drilled into my head the importance of being accountable for yourself and your actions. Be on time (or early if you can), do your work, and don’t make excuses for things you messed up on. A lot of this I knew, but there is a stark difference between being on time to lecture versus being on time to a work meeting.
4. Before this internship, I was very uncertain about the shape of my professional or academic career after my time at Ohio State. I came into undergraduate thinking that I was going to attend graduate school. In retrospect, I was quite naive. My disillusionment with the academy, poor work ethic, and diminishing lack of interest in my areas of study all contributed to rejecting graduate school/academia as a viable option. The summer at KIPP was my way of exploring a very different option, teaching K-12. While I didn’t find K-1 teaching to be the thing I wanted to do after undergrad, I came away with a lot of important lessons. First, all jobs require hard work and pain and sweat. Teachers and administrators who love what they do still have bad days, when their chosen careers feel like a burden. And, more importantly, I learned that, in the correct work environment, that is totally okay. Second, I learned about the important of company culture. Happy hours (where I drank water!) were some of the best times I had this summer, learning more about the sort of people who willingly teach five and six year olds. I felt welcome and a part of the team. This summer could have been a lot different and a lot worse if my coworkers weren’t willing to be friendly and open to the young intern. Finally, I realized or finally came to appreciate the importance of a healthy work-life balance. In college, it’s very easy to constantly be “on” and constantly working, from extracurriculars to work to classes. You don’t get to be lazy on Sunday without regretting it later during another all-nighter. But, talking to my coworkers, I learned that sometimes you have to take weekends off to, quite frankly, make it through the challenging work week. I’m still not sure what my future holds, but the lessons I learned from KIPP will helpfully guide me as I apply to internships and jobs this fall.