July 5, 2016
(Photo credit: Liz Orfaly)
This piece was written by Bria Stephens, a 2016 graduate of Howard University. Bria interned at Center for Inspired Teaching for more than a year and was a key part of organizing Inspired Teaching’s 2016 Chocolate Inspiration gala.
In the Spring of 2015, I was doing a summer internship search, and I came across an organization whose mission was to build a better school experience for all children. I have always had a strong interest in education and more specifically, education equality. After the first interview, I knew that I really wanted this internship, and I was thrilled when I was offered the position.
In May 2015 when I began my internship with Center for Inspired Teaching, I had little knowledge about the organization, but that quickly changed. I immediately began to understand the importance and significance of the the Inspired Teaching model and philosophies. My first major project was serving as the teaching and learning intern for the Inspired Teaching Institute for Social Studies and Science Educators. During this project, I not only worked, but also participated in the Institute alongside the Teacher Leaders. By the end of the Institute, I was able to call myself a true Inspired Teaching supporter. I was immersed in the Inspired Teaching culture and the 4 I’s – Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity – became a part of my everyday life.
As a rising senior in college, it was no surprise that Intellect was of importance to me; however, Inspired Teaching also allowed me the opportunity to apply my Intellect and the things that I learned in the classroom in new and creative ways. For example, I was exposed to different kinds of writing including grant writing, blog posts, and drafting important documents on behalf of Inspired Teaching senior executives. Even more importantly, my experience with Inspired Teaching also promoted my interest in the effectiveness of current education programs. During my last semester of college, I conducted an extensive research project about the effectiveness of online education. I wanted to find out why online education is being promoted so heavily when there are clearly great advantages to an in-person, interactive teacher/student relationship. I was able to conclude that the kind of inquiry-based, student-centered education that Inspired Teaching promotes is the type of education that students need and deserve.
According to the Inspired Teaching model, building Imagination means giving students “the courage to create, a joyful spirit, and the ability to generate ideas and devise solutions.” Interning with Inspired Teaching significantly increased my ability to imagine. Every day, I was able to see my ideas come to life. Within my first month with Inspired Teaching, I had the opportunity to design a “yearbook” for the 2014-15 Institute Teacher Leaders to reflect on their experience, and the possibilities only expanded from there. Seeing the #20YrsInspired social media campaign and creative elements for the Chocolate Inspiration gala come to life brought me so much joy. Additionally, the Inspired Teaching staff constantly encouraged me to think of new ideas and to create. If every student was able to feel the way I did working with Inspired Teaching, then the creations of our students would be limitless.
At some internships, one may be forced to compromise Integrity for the values of the company. Thankfully, I never experienced this with Inspired Teaching; in fact, it was the complete opposite. There were many times when I presented my ideas and, although they were not something that Inspired Teaching had done before, my colleagues were very willing to accept my ideas and let me try. I had the opportunity to listen to, learn from and problem solve with all staff members, interns, and Teacher Leaders. Being surrounded by supportive people made the experience so much more enjoyable, and I believe the same goes for students in school.
I believe my biggest area of growth since I began with Inspired Teaching has been in Inquiry. During the summer portion of the Institute, we spent a challenging yet playful week learning the importance of asking questions and what it takes to ask good questions. Having the opportunity to visit the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School on several occasions and ask the students questions allowed me to apply the skills I learned during Institute. In my own college classes, I found myself asking more questions, wanting my teachers to become Instigators of Thought. In my childhood development class, we were going over the answers to a test. I did not understand why I got one of the answers wrong, so I began asking the teacher questions so she could explain to me. At first, I thought she was upset with me, but after class she commended me on my ability to ask questions and told me how much she appreciated my engagement. I credited my experience with Inspired Teaching for showing me that questions are a great addition to the classroom environment.
When I applied for an internship with Inspired Teaching, I never thought that I would stay there for more than a year, nor did I think I would learn as much as I did or enjoy working as much as I did. This internship proved that work experiences can provide joy, as well as a chance to learn. I don’t plan on becoming a teacher, but I am dedicated more than ever to building a better school experience for all children, and I will forever be an Inspired Teaching supporter. Additionally, as I go on to law school this fall, I know I will be an Inspired Learner.