KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools, Philadelphia, PA
My supervisor, Emily Gaertner, entered my internship with a time limit: by August, we needed to write the entire English and Language Arts (ELA) curriculum for grades 3-12 across six schools. Though this is standard fare for literacy development within the Academics Team, there was a unique feel to the pressures of summer 2020. Emily was set to go on family leave at an indeterminate time, the office was entirely remote due to Covid-19, and I had to both find my bearings in my first remote internship and try my hardest to make substantive changes to the office.
Yet I think these strange times helped me make the most difference. My work consisted of producing lesson plans that would be used in real classrooms this year, writing and editing assessments to mimic Pennsylvania state testing, creating full-year syllabi for grades 3-12, and revamping previous lesson plans with cultural sensitivity and academic rigor. This delivery-focused workspace was punctuated by regular Zoom check-ins, where I learned more about Emily’s journey within teaching and curriculum development and received immensely helpful feedback about my writing. I also organized weekly coffee chats with my fellow interns and the Academics Team to network, share our interests, and ask questions about education and beyond. These meetings helped address the insularity of remote work and encouraged casual, cross-office conversation even outside the physical office. Our conversations spanned the politics of charter schools, to ethics of Teach for America, to what it feels like to teach in a classroom, and the unique personal quirks that make meeting new coworkers joyful.
My work outside of the ELA curriculum was equally rewarding. The Chief Academic Officer of KIPP Philly tasked me with reading a 70-page report written by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and writing a single-page summary for the academics team. This process was informative of the considerations in place for schools making difficult decisions on their operations this fall. I also helped with developing culturally responsive policies within KIPP Philadelphia’s teaching rubrics, comparing the existing teaching policies at KIPP with exemplar school districts for cultural responsiveness. These experiences taught me to be meticulous in my readings, yet clear in my explanations. Like drafting lesson plans and writing assessments, these tasks were also thrilling for their usefulness: I knew that these policy briefings would be used immediately within KIPP Philadelphia’s team, and being able to draft these living, active documents showed me that my work was needed and valued.
While I’m still unsure of where I’d like to work after college, I know I will take the skills from KIPP Philadelphia into my early career and beyond. I’ve learned more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the classroom, heard from many former teachers about their experiences through the educational field, and gained on-the-ground experience during an uncertain time for most businesses. I’m grateful for the time spent at KIPP Philadelphia this summer.