My Experience As An NCTL Intern

Today’s blog post is written by our summer intern, Caroline Falcone. She is going into her senior year at Bates College where she is studying Politics, Spanish, and Education. 

Nearly everyone in my family works or used to work in education, so it’s only natural that I have an interest in the field as well. Throughout my experience I have worked in many schools in my college town of Lewiston, Maine, and have felt frustrated by some of what I see in those classrooms - run down facilities with insufficient resources, failed grades on standardized tests, and projects left unfinished as teachers work hard to keep up with curriculum requirements. I know that expanded learning time could help these struggling schools.

Lewiston has a large population of African immigrants, specifically Somali war refugees. Many of these students come to school knowing little English and are unaccustomed to their new culture. I taught SAT and college prep to high school students one semester and it was challenging. Despite the challenge, it was rewarding knowing I was providing a valuable academic counseling service that these students would not have otherwise received. The class was two days a week for three hours. One Kenyan immigrant always stood out to me because of her beautiful outfits. She wore colorful, sparkling hijabs in gorgeous patterns that she made all in her spare time after school. She was a model for her peers in that she valued creativity in fashion while adhering to the Muslim dress code.

A year and a half later, a picture of this girl popped up on my Instagram news feed posted by National Geographic. I read that NatGeo had been visiting Lewiston for World Refugee Day and spoke to my former student about her fashion aspirations. I also read that she would be attending college in the fall. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. I suspect this would not have been possible without her tutoring, personal drive, and creative spirit.

How can we change our schools to provide high-quality education that fits everyone’s needs? How do we come together to provide students with outlets for their passions and prepare them for future success? The most pressing and potentially effective change that needs to be made is an increase in time for meaningful learning and instruction. More time well spent in school allows for more learning. With even more time in school, this budding fashion designer could have learned about the college process and studied for the SAT instead of having to attend an additional program outside of school. She could have fostered her passion for fashion with guidance from teachers and support from peers. With more time spent in meaningful ways comes increased opportunity to grow and learn. Children need more time in schools to become the successful and passionate individuals that we need in this world.

My experience as an intern at NCTL has helped me see more of these success stories of students, teachers, and schools that benefit from expanded learning time. I have become inspired by the progress that the movement is creating and want to continue to advocate for this crucial change. Children like my now college bound student and teachers like those in my family can only gain from having more and better learning time in schools.