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Reinventing the Internship Experience

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Internship swagThe Khan Lab School internship program combines on-the-job experience with mentorship and career planning. Interns identify their strengths, work preferences, and professional goals as well as areas where they need to grow and improve. Like students and teachers at KLS, interns set goals and track them throughout the course of their time here, making connections between what they do on a daily basis and what they will do in the future. 

With support from their supervisors, interns reflect on questions such as:

  • What are my personal values?
  • Do I prefer a regular routine or an ever-changing schedule?
  • What types of tasks do I enjoy doing at work?
  • Which tasks are less fulfilling for me?
  • How do other people see me?
  • Do I prefer to work as part of a team or alone?
  • How do I plan on applying the knowledge and skills I gain during the internship?
  • What are the benefits for an organization if they hire me?

"Our teaching interns gain experience with all aspects of the teaching profession: planning, instruction, field trips, and assisting with all ages and levels," says Orly Friedman, Head of Lower School & Assistant Head of School. "In addition, having interns in the space allows our students to see the continuum of learning in college and beyond. They see that everyone's a teacher, everyone's a student, and learning continues past graduation."

Izzy Phan, a teaching intern, is a rising sophomore at Scripps College, where she is pursuing a double major in Psychology and English. She plans to pursue a career working with children, and she also volunteers with an organization that supports families affected by childhood cancer. Izzy says that interning at KLS has helped her determine her academic and career path.

"I was interested in working with kids, but I didn't know in what capacity," says Izzy. "Working directly with the students, helping with administration, and seeing how the school functions has helped me to see what's best for me. I work with one student closely on reading and writing, and I have discovered that I really enjoy working one-on-one on language to help her improve. The Advisor for the youngest students was previously an occupational therapist, and she helps me to understand children's behavior and patterns and how I can help children best. I'm researching cognitive development now and talking to my professors, and this experience is helping me choose what to study at school."

In addition to teaching interns, our school also has interns working behind the scenes with administrators. In the marketing department, interns are encouraged to pursue their certification in Google Analytics during internship hours and to prioritize other professional development opportunities that are important to them, such as publishing articles, presenting or teaching, and taking courses in search engine optimization. They are asked to search for and confront their blind spots in order to improve.

"I feel very prepared to take the next step in my career, based on both the day-to-day work experience and the focus on considering what I like, what I don't like, and what I actually really want to be doing right now and in my next job," says Shannon Cleary, a marketing intern who will be a senior at Stanford this fall and plans to pursue marketing or product development. "I enjoyed the dual nature of it being a professional environment where I had career development and also a friendly environment where I was excited to come to work each day."

The tone of the work culture is set by the school's Executive Director, Dominic Liechti, who prioritizes team outings, celebrations, and a Lifelong Learning Fund. After joining in 2016, he worked with the team to establish mutual values (TeamQ) and is establishing opportunities for employees to lead teacher training sessions.

"As an organization, we have set out to design student-centered learning experiences for adults as well as children," says Kat Clark, Head of Marketing & Community at Khan Lab School. "'Student-centered' is not synonymous with 'personalized' or 'permissive' – it means that we organize and manage the school in ways that lead to effective learning, rather than in the ways that are most convenient for us. As a team, we need this culture of lifelong learning to coexist with productivity, and I think we've made that possible by inspiring one another and emphasizing the meaningfulness of what we do here. When we designed the internship program, we were intentional about ensuring that our interns have the opportunity to learn what all of us are learning: how to take ownership, be humble, push boundaries, and treat people with compassion."


Read below for a list created by our interns: 6 Things Our Interns Did This Summer.

6 Things Our Interns Did This Summer

6 Things Our Interns Did This Summer

Written by the Khan Lab School Interns, Summer 2017

1. Formed strong mentor relationships

Interns had in-depth mentoring both for their current projects and to develop them for future careers, working closely with their supervisors on a daily basis.

2. Reimagined what a workplace looks like

While at the school, interns also felt they were a part of a startup environment. A changing workspace of offices, learning spaces, and even beanbag chairs was met with fast-paced work, teaching them project management skills and adaptability.

3. Made a strong and meaningful impact

Working in a small environment, interns were able to impact the entire school with their projects. Having such an impact, interns felt involved in their work and connected quickly to their roles.

4. Experimented with new roles

Interns were given opportunities to take on responsibilities outside of their job descriptions: chaperoning, teaching, and learning administration. They learned to be agile and got a taste of what it would be like to work in different roles.

5. Put daily work in the context of future goals

Interns thoughtfully integrated their projects with the requirements of their next career step. Like KLS students and team members, KLS interns outlined their career goals and made defined moves towards achieving them during their time here.

6. They had fun!

While working diligently, interns were still in the midst of a kid-friendly environment. They enjoyed things like joining class field trips, presenting to students, and even jamming to jazz with their boss.


Do you know a student or recent graduate who might be interested in interning at Khan Lab School? Visit for up-to-date internship postings.