9 Tips for Teaching an Apprenticeship

Lynne Brown is a Manager of Portfolio Lease Administration at Cassidy Turley FHO and a volunteer Citizen Teacher at Citizen Schools. Since 2010 she has taught middle school students in Boston the basics of commercial real estate and real estate development, encouraging students to develop solutions for stalled commercial real estate projects or design problems.  The newest class of Citizen Schools Teaching Fellows gathered in Massachusetts this summer to begin their two-year journey to close the achievement and opportunity gap in America. I was asked to be a part of the training program to help these bright young educators learn a few tricks of the trade.

On Saturday, July 21, I made my way to the panel discussion not quite knowing what to expect.  I was impressed by the sheer magnitude of the group.

My fellow Citizen Teacher, Dan Gonyea of Microsoft, and I talked about our experiences and fielded questions from the group. Our role as volunteers is to lead apprenticeships, which are hands-on courses focused on teaching kids about fields like robotics, web design, mural painting, business management, and more.Apprenticeships are just one part of the expanded learning time model that Teaching Fellows will lead at 31 middle schools this year. They were eager to learn from us and we were thrilled to share why we volunteer.

Between sessions, Dan and I shook hands and chatted with Teaching Fellows from across the country.  Many of them thanked us for giving up our summer Saturday to participate in the panel.

Then it occurred to me that we should have been thanking them for serving some of our nation’s most under-served children.  Instead of pursuing that MBA, JD or the job in the private sector, they have chosen to be expanded learning time leaders in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New MexicoNew York, North Carolina, Texas and for the first time in IllinoisThank You!

I hope the new Teaching Fellows and Citizen Teachers learn these lessons that will guide them in their apprenticeship classrooms and beyond:

1. Get to know your whole student; there is always something else driving the student’s behavior.

2. Learn as much as you can about your students and what motivates them.

3. The first semester is always tougher.  It does get better (most of the time).

4. It's difficult to be new at something. Remember that teamwork is important for new teachers and new volunteers.

5. Every campus, every semester and every day is different in a middle school.  You will have lots of good days, but you will have some frustrating, down-right bad days. Persevere. When you need something that will benefit your students, it may not be readily available to you.  Keep asking. Be persistent.

6. Keep the lines of communication open between you, your campus, your state headquarters and your Citizen Teachers.

7. Foster connections with your students, their families, your Citizen Teachers and your Citizen Schools peers.  Create a community that centers around your campus.

8. Challenge your students both in the moment and in their visions of the future by expecting more of them until they expect more of themselves.

9. Have fun.  WOW your students and be WOWED by them!

I have been known to say that Citizen Schools changes lives, but it is not just the lives of the students which are changed.  The same can be said of volunteer Citizen Teachers. I participated in the panel that day to help motivate the Teaching Fellows and they in turn motivated and energized me.

This amazing group of Teaching Fellows is ready and determined to make a difference in the lives of undeserved middle school students across the country, and they need help to do it. Being a Citizen Teacher is a life changing experience. Join me, the Teaching Fellow class of 2013 and the middle school students of America in closing the opportunity gap by teaching an apprenticeship this fall.