I’m becoming a huge fan of work-based learning.

This summer, in addition to teaching a more traditional summer-school class, I’m supervising and mentoring a group of fourteen students who are working as interns in various education-related business and non-profits around Oakland.

The work started in the Spring.  My Education Academy team, led by our amazing director, secured numerous hosts for our up-rising seniors to work for this summer.

Each Monday, the interns spend 2 ½ hours with me working on a professional theme: first impressions, time management, dealing with stress, and customer/client relationships.  The workshops help my students function in, what for many, is the first professional work setting of their lives.

Then, Tuesday through Friday, they are at their job sites.  Each of them helps with many of the mundane activities of their site: answering the telephone, filing, and data entry.  Additionally, each of them has a special project that they are working on over the course of their five-week placement.

Amber working at the Alameda County Office of General ServicesAmber is working at the Alameda County Office of Coordinated Services.  Two weeks ago, she was struggling to understand the significance of her work.  “I’m just entering data into a spreadsheet, Mr. Orphal,” she told me.  “I’ve got to enter in how much money the office is spending to advertize in different newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and stuff like that.”

Then, last week, she had a breakthrough. She saw how significant her work was.  “Mr. Orphal!” she exclaimed in a hushed tone, because we were in her office, “I’m helping them decide how to spend their outreach money.  You see, nobody is reading the newspapers anymore.  They spent a bunch of money for ads, but no one has contacted the offices because of a newspaper ad they had seen!”

Sonia with one of her students at Garfield Elementary

Across town, Sonia and Tracy could see the impact they were having at their site right away.  They were working atGarfield Elementary school’s summer program.  They spent time monitoring pre-schoolers, helping them with letter and number recognition, reading to them, and participating in the children’s play.  The second Tuesday of their internship, each of them was greeted by a class full of children asking, “Where were you yesterday?  We missed you!”

Irene doesn’t get to work directly with children this summer, but she does get to see some of the behind-the-scenes work that teachers do.  Working at our district’s Smart Center, Irene inventoried hundreds of science-lesson kits.  Each kit had to be restocked and replenished, in order to be ready for children in the fall.  Irene and I are planning a field-trip for her in October, so she can visit one of the classes using one of the kits to explore science.

Schulyar working at ConnectEDThe work-based learning curriculum that we use every Monday was written by a non-profit called ConnectED.  Schulyar interviewed and was selected to intern at the organization’s Berkeley offices.  She is spending the summer rewriting the work-based learning curriculum, making the language more student-friendly and updating the projects from her unique position as a student currently engaged with the very curriculum she is revamping.  Talk about a meta-cognitive experience!

Do your students get opportunities like this?  If not, would you like them to?  Check back in a couple of weeks, when I share about how my colleagues and I organized these amazing opportunities!

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