September 29, 2014
By: Austin Ambrose @tex_ambrose7
As a journalism major, one would expect me to have an internship working for a publication, a media company or PR position, but I took a very different opportunity. This summer, I decided to take a teaching fellow position for Breakthrough Collaborative, and teach seventh grade biology to underserved students in Birmingham, Alabama.
Breakthrough Collaborative is a national organization that recruits college-age students to teach in underserved urban schools across the country. The goal for the organization is to help fill the summer gap with an academic program that helps prepare students to succeed in high school, and on through college.
Yes, I was a teacher for two months. I made lesson plans, taught classes, had staff meetings and advised students. I learned more from this experience than any other in my life.
Making a lesson plan is a lot like putting together an agenda for a meeting
You have to know the objective of the meeting, the process it is going to take to reach this objective and having all of the proper material needed to have a successful meeting. It also requires good timing, so you can fit in everything in the allotted time. You have to be prepared to answer questions and keep control of the group. There are always unexpected bumps in the road, but you learn to roll with it and figure it out later.
These skills mirror those of a PR professional. Making agendas for meetings, planning out what needs to be accomplished at the meeting and being ready to answer questions that pop up. I feel more confident running a meeting, after standing in front of a group of seventh graders, than I ever have before.
I also learned that confidence is everything.
You have to believe that you know what you are doing, and own the experience. If you make a mistake, own up to that mistake. People are much more forgiving if you admit to a mishap as soon as it occurs. Being a teacher, you have to learn how to control emotions and work with an array of different students, and coworkers. There will be some that you work with better, and others that you have to learn to deal with. This is a skill that every professional needs to learn, because you are always going to be working with people, especially in the PR realm.
The Breakthrough organization as a whole has taught me how to set clear expectations for the people you are working with. Have a guideline that you can hold people to, so it is clear what’s expected of each member of the group.
Finally, it’s all play and a little work.
Finding a job that you are passionate about is key. If you are working a job that you love, it will make it seem like play. There will be moments it feels like work, but when the play outweighs the work, you know that you have made the right choice. Even after waking up on 5 hours of sleep most days, I was ready for the next day because I was excited about being with my students for another day of learning.
It may have been nontraditional, but the skills I learned were some that I never could have received from a journalism internship, but I feel more prepared to enter the field. Don’t always think inside the box – try something completely different. You never know what you will learn.