Pete Schirripa ’15 (Lexington, MA) just landed a paid summer internship at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts. Since a number of students in the secondary education program are History majors, we thought we would share his experiences. Such opportunities are out there, and it would be great if our majors could take advantage of them more frequently.
One Thing after Another had the following exchange with Pete.
Q: What’s the name of the program you applied to, and what will you have to do?
A: For the upcoming summer, I have been accepted to the Teaching Intern Program at Northfield Mount Hermon School, a preparatory high school in Gill, Massachusetts. During my six weeks at NHM, I will be working as the College Prep Program U.S. history teaching intern. In addition to planning curriculum, teaching lessons, facilitating extra-help sessions, and designing assessments, I will be coaching soccer and serving as an advisor for 6-8 students. Finally, I will supervise evening activities in the residence halls and organize nightly study halls as well as recreational activities.
Q: How did you find out about this program? What was the application process like?
A: I knew I wanted to acquire more teaching experience this summer. That being said, I looked online to see which preparatory schools hired teaching interns for the summer. Though most of the local prep schools offered teaching positions, NMH was one of the few that allowed interns to teach U.S. history. I was excited by this opportunity and decided to begin the application process.
In order to be considered for the position at NHM, I had to fill out an application, send in an official transcript, submit two faculty recommendations, and write an essay explaining why I am interested in teaching and what my career goals are in secondary education. After completing this initial application process, I had a thirty-minute phone interview with the program director. During the interview, I was asked to expand on my résumé and define my teaching philosophy.
Q: How did you get interested in teaching high school history? Ideally, what kind of career would like in secondary education?
A: To be honest, I really disliked my first couple of years of high school and didn’t perform particularly well. Throughout this period, I also despised history. In fact, I found it pointless to memorize dates, study wars that pre-date my deceased great-grandfather, and write dreadfully boring DBQs. Much to my surprise, my sophomore-year world history teacher totally changed my opinion of history. Unlike my previous teachers, Mr. Lingley was an amazing storyteller. I still remember him standing at the front of the room explaining how Rasputin just would not die. Incorporating suspenseful pauses throughout his lecture, Mr. Lingley had the ability to keep the class entertained at 8:00 AM every morning. In addition to telling interesting stories, Mr. Lingley made his students question why we even bother to study history. In other words, Mr. Lingley would expect his students to connect the material from his class to current events. After taking this course, I became very interested in the study of history. More important, I decided I wanted to help future students have the same experience I had. With inspiration from Mr. Lingley, I became interested in teaching and knew I wanted to pursue this ambition in college.
Though I am excited to be a history teacher, I eventually want to be a school principal. Through my education classes at Saint Anselm and my extracurricular activities, I have become interested in educational policy and would someday like to oversee curriculum decisions and school policy.
Q: If you had to give once piece of advice to a roomful of freshman history majors who wanted to teach, what would it be?
A: To any freshman who is interested in teaching history, I recommend that you start by taking a variety of history classes that cover topics with which you are not particularly familiar. I say this for two reasons. First off, it is important to develop a strong content knowledge. After all, you are teaching students about world history, European history, U.S. history etc, so you should not be limited to a specific subject area. Secondly, it is important to take classes that you are not familiar with because it allows you to practice overcoming challenges. Without question, an important part of educating is motivating students to overcome obstacles and pushing them to reach your high expectations. If you do not have practice doing this yourself, it is going to be very difficult to teach kids how to do it. Finally, I would tell you that it is important to enjoy learning. Without having a zeal for learning, it is difficult to instill a passion for learning in your future students. After all, turning your students into life-long learners is your ultimate aim. A good place to start is developing this passion in your history classes at Saint Anselm.
In short, I would say focus on your courses and try to learn as much as you can through reading, taking challenging classes, talking to professors, attending events with guest speakers, and observing the world around you. If you can acquire this desire to learn, everything else will certainly fall into place.