Do you ever wonder how people decide to follow a particular career path? What makes some students choose to pursue engineering degrees and others education degrees? Some of the decision-making process is influenced by external factors, like parental expectations, job prospects, and location. Much of it, though, is internal. Do you like working with your hands? Choose a vocation. Do you like working with children? Think about teaching.
Some organizations, though, have programs that exist to give students a trial run of particular careers, so to speak. One such organization is Breakthrough Providence. Breakthrough Providence is part of a national collaborative, called the Breakthrough Collaborative (which also has locations in Miami, Central Texas, Greater Boston, Denver, and Silicon Valley, among others) whose mission is to:
- Increase academic opportunity for highly motivated, underserved students and get them into college ready to succeed; and
- Inspire and develop the next generation of teachers and educational leaders.
In Providence, these two missions come together in the Summerbridge Program. The Summerbridge Program serves local middle school students and helps them grow their personal identity while also providing academic enrichment. Students are taught by teaching fellows: current high school and college students who are mentored by public school teachers (with at least three years of teaching experience) from within the local community.
About one-third of Summerbridge teaching fellows (there are 24 each year) are students who previously participated in the program as middle schoolers, graduated, and came back. Fellows typically apply to work for the program for one of three reasons:
- They’re interested in pursuing a teaching career and want to get a feel for teaching without having to commit to a certain major or take any prerequisites.
- They know they want to pursue a teaching career and want to get practical experience before or during college.
- They may not necessarily start out thinking of education as a career option, but love the Summerbridge Program and want to give back to and interact with the community. Of course, gaining this practical experience may change their minds; some fellows who come into the summer thinking they didn’t want to teach leave with a different mindset.
But what exactly does a teaching fellow do?
The job of teaching fellows is twofold. Academically, they are assigned to teach either English or math, and to work with either seventh graders or eighth graders. There are six classrooms total, three for each grade, and each classroom has two math teachers and two English teachers so that fellows aren’t entirely on their own. They are required to create lesson plans in their subject, teach as a team, and respond to student’s questions.
Outside of academics, teaching fellows are assigned to one of four clusters: art, spirit, athletics, or academics. The main jobs within clusters is to create and oversee events and to create activities for students to perform during structured recess each day. Event-wise, the athletics cluster puts on Olympics Day, while the academic cluster hosts a career exploration day. The spirit cluster is in charge of running Spirit Week, which occurs the first week of summer and lets students start to build a community. Structured recess activities may include building projects, games, or storytelling.
It sounds like a lot of work just to figure out whether students are interested in pursuing teaching as a career, but there’s more to being a teaching fellow than experience and a résumé boost. Being assigned a current teacher as a mentor is valuable and teaching fellows can learn more practical skills from current teachers than they would in a classroom setting. Mentors may help teaching fellows learn how to work with middle school students and to see beyond behaviors or how to adjust lesson plans so that they’re appropriate for the time and audience. Furthermore, teaching fellows will get advice about maintaining a work-life balance and how to focus on self-care. As an added bonus, summer teaching fellows also get paid!
If you or someone you know is interesting in teaching, thinks they might be interested in teaching, or is looking for a summer position, working as a teaching fellow for Breakthrough Providence is an awesome opportunity. While some fellows are from Providence, you don’t have to be from the Providence area to apply; teaching fellows can apply from anywhere in the country provided they can find housing for the summer (limited housing is available). Summerbridge always starts the first week of July and lasts for six weeks for students. For teaching fellows, the program runs from late June to mid-August for a total of eight weeks.
The application typically opens in December, and you may start seeing advertisements for it online in January or February. It closes in early March. Follow Breakthrough Providence on Twitter or Facebook, or reach out through their website for more information.