Our program at UConn requires all fifth-year Education Master’s students to participate in an internship. CHS is the only offered internship in the entire program that does not take place in a school. So when I found out I was assigned to CHS, I was excited about the chance to work in a museum and increase my historical knowledge base. However, I was also wary about what I would gain from the experience. As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry because not only did I learn the story behind the Charter Oak and how to tell the difference between a real nutmeg and a fake one sold by Yankee Peddlers, I also learned how to be a better teacher.
Leading museum programs, though incredibly different from teaching in a middle or high school classroom, helped me develop necessary adaptation skills. I might never again have students who consistently raise their hand then forget what they were going to say or want an explanation of a Native American mortar and pestle when the program is on nineteenth-century immigration. But I undoubtedly will have students who want to talk about their weekends when the class is focused on something else, and I will have to deal with countless unforeseeable distractions. The skill and experience of handling unpredictable situations are so important to teachers, and teaching CHS programs has been the best, unexpected boot camp for that.
Before interning here, my interest in Connecticut history was, frankly, low, and my knowledge of it was pretty abysmal. For most of my life, my passion for history was concentrated on the “Big Picture” of it all- looking for patterns and themes in sources, studying cause and effect of major events. But my time at CHS, along with classes I’ve taken this year, have emphasized the need for acknowledging, understanding, and teaching smaller stories. I’ve learned so much Connecticut history here and have learned to value these local narratives not only because they are interesting but because they are important. They help elaborate on and humanize larger world events and history that can often seem irrelevant or even fictional, especially to students.
I’ve truly enjoyed my year here at CHS, and I am ready and excited to take these skills I’ve gained into a classroom of my own.
Sara Griffith is an intern in the Education Department at the Connecticut Historical Society