This week, I’ll be diving into the world of internships in our focus area of school media. Let me be clear: the internship requirements for School Media students are quite different from the internships I previously profiled. Instead of completing one 150-long internship like other LIS students, LIS: School Media students must complete two 120-hour long ‘practicums’ at school libraries. This is because they are required to fulfill strict guidelines in order to obtain their New York State Teaching Certification.
The practicums follow an apprenticeship model, in which students are observed and evaluated by seasoned library media specialists. Their time is split evenly between elementary and secondary levels. Ultimately, they are meant to prepare School Media students to be effective instructors and gain valuable experience working with students, teachers, administrators, and parents.
To find out more, I decided to reach out to Abigail Digel, a second-year LIS: School Media student. Abbie recently finished her second practicum and was able to provide incredibly helpful insight about her two experiences.
MSLIS: School Media Candidate ’17
Where did you complete your practicums?
For my elementary placement, I was at a K-8 school in a city school district. For my secondary placement, I was at a suburban high school.
I’m not 100% sure how the practicum works. Do you propose a project or lesson plan for each school library? Or do you follow their own curriculum?
School library media specialists follow a specific curriculum. This means that when we (School Media students) start our practicums, we piggyback onto what they’re already doing. Eventually, they hand off projects to us.
At the same time, we also bring our supervisors a specific list of competencies that are provided by the iSchool. We have to meet these competencies in order to graduate. This helps create a balance between what our needs are and what their needs are.
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What projects did you work on?
At the elementary level, I worked on a wide variety of projects. A typical day would involve running a storytime for kindergarteners, teaching a class how to research bugs, giving lessons on the Dewey decimal system or how to treat library books, and sitting down with the principal to talk about the library budget.
With the high schoolers, I did a project where they had to create a 1920s radio broadcast. I coordinated with their teacher to teach the students how to use a technology called WeVideo and we created the radio broadcast using this tool. From the library standpoint, we wanted to make sure that we were giving them the 21st-century technology skills while also incorporating all of the US history Common Core content that was required of them. I also taught them how to research for information for their radio projects and taught them a lot about copyright. Copyright rules are confusing when you are working with multimedia video projects- you can’t just pull a song from the internet or any photo you want to use.
What was the most challenging aspect of your practicum experience?
People still don’t understand that school librarians need to go through the same process as other student teachers to get certified. There was more work to gain people’s respect in the school and have them understand why I was there. There also aren’t as many library student teachers as there are for other subjects. It was harder to communicate what I was trying to accomplish.
“People still don’t understand that school librarians need to go through the same process as other student teachers to get certified.”
On another note, there is only so much you can learn in the 240 hours that we’re required to intern. It can be hard to gain a rapport with the students during your short time as a student teacher. Unlike subject area teachers, you’re not with them every day. They only see you for roughly 20 minutes a day.
How did your practicum experiences prepare you for your future career?
The practicums gave the practical experience and the toolkit I need to go into my own library space. Unlike other types of libraries, you’re not really working on a large team as a library media specialist. You are the manager. You have to hold yourself accountable. It was extremely helpful to see this in action.
Do you have any advice for school media students about to start their practicums?
Complete your practicums and fieldwork at different types of schools. I did one at a private independent school, one at an urban public school, and one at a suburban public school. I learned something different from each one. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
Find a challenging mentor. The last mentor I had really pushed me and had me teaching on the second day. She also pushed me to ask for feedback after I completed my lessons. This was incredibly helpful. You can’t go into a situation thinking what you did was perfect. Your lesson is only as good as how well your students learned.