Math Education Pre Grad Intern Mark Townsend

Mark Townsend"In the spring of my junior year, I had the opportunity to be an intern in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate Internship. I was expecting to learn about graduate school. I was expecting to hear about how to choose a graduate program that fits your needs. I was expecting to better understand the process that leads to acceptance to graduate school. And I did learn these things. In fact, in this program I learned just how thoroughly clueless I was when it came to the world of post-post-secondary education. The speakers in the IE seminar, as well as my graduate mentor, were so informative on a subject that is hard to understand for first generation undergraduates.

I also learned about choosing a grad school. I learned about choosing a degree program. I learned about undertaking research. I learned a lot about the details of graduate school, getting into graduate school, and succeeding in graduate school. However, I learned so much more than that. The IE program was, first and foremost, a mentorship. This internship added to my life a relationship that was challenging and rewarding.

Right now, I am learning how to be a teacher. The time will come when I will begin the role of graduate student. At the end of my semester in the IE program I spent quite a bit of time processing how what I learned in IE affected me as a teacher. This was not a connection I made immediately. Over time, I realized that I was approaching my teaching differently. Digging deeper, I discovered that the difference was partly due to the knowledge I gained in IE.

I treat my students with more autonomy. My high school kids need to be intrinsically motivated in their education; this is an opinion that I gleaned from the IE program, which emphasized that we should be internally driven in order to succeed. External motivation simply isn't enough to get us through difficult challenges. Also, I set higher expectations for my students. I now believe strongly in Self-Fulfilling Prophecy; if I tell my students they are failures, then they become failures. However, if I set high expectations and tell my students that they are completely capable, then they will accomplish so much more. Just as I set high standards for myself and "dream BIG" about getting a PhD, my students benefit from high expectations. Lastly, I let my students mess up a lot more. Graduate school is all about messing up less and less over time. Math education works similarly!"