Gaining Confidence and Finding Balance

Internship Blog Posts

Gaining Confidence and Finding Balance

Justine Boeker, 2017 AAPT Teacher Professional Development Intern

I can’t believe I made it to this point. Friday was my last day of student teaching, Saturday I graduated, Sunday I packed, and Monday morning I left for DC. I had orientation on Tuesday and finally, my first day at the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) on Wednesday. I am not even sure I have breathed the past week. Even though it was busy, I have found myself learning and experiencing things I didn’t even realize I would. It has been a week of perspective switches.

My intern placement is at AAPT, working on teacher professional development programs. My first two days of work consisted mostly of getting to know my mentor, Rebecca Vieyra. The more I get to know her, the more I feel honored and blessed to be learning from her. As I started work, I learned about several initiatives that I will get to be a part of that address a range of issues in physics and physics education. Some, like the lack of women in physics, the lack of quality physics education in elementary education, and the negative perceptions of teaching, are issues I have experience with myself.

For example, I am designing a workshop for K-8 teachers to present at the AAPT conference in Cincinnati that includes lesson plans, light activities, and bio/physics interdisciplinary lessons. This workshop will provide elementary teachers with the necessary equipment and innovative methods and activities aligned with best practices and the science standards for their students to effectively explore sound.

I also am going to have the opportunity to work on a project that has affected me personally. Have you ever heard the phrase, “You’re too smart to be a teacher?” I have. But teaching physics is just as intellectually stimulating as an engineering job. Being a good teacher is just as difficult, if not more, than being a good physicist. The group I will be working with aims to change negative perspectives on teachers and teaching.

One of the main myths we are discussing is the belief that teachers are poor when, in fact, teachers make a livable income. According to a report by the American Physical Society, most people believed that an average secondary teacher makes around $40,000. In reality, the average secondary teacher salary is $52,000 (although salaries vary depending on geographic location). Additionally, the benefits and retirement plans of a teacher are notably better than those of other STEM professionals, in general.

I am also working with Rebecca to advocate for a nationally funded program (the Albert Einstein Fellowship) that she passionately believes in. It is being eliminated after this coming year. This has been an interesting process. I took Government and Citizenship in ninth grade with Mr. Hartzberg, but that was a long time ago, so there are a lot of gaps in my understanding of my own government. I am learning more about government and policy than I did before. Additionally, and more importantly, through this process, I am developing even more respect and admiration for my mentor as I watch her take initiative on something she believes in. She is a strong and passionate woman who has the skills to initiate change.

When I look at the week as a whole, I have one last major insight. I am turning around to Rachel to say “I have no idea what I am doing!” a lot less. (Rachel is the high school student intern who works next to me a couple days a week.) If I were to have honestly spoken about those first couple of weeks here, you would have heard how vastly underqualified I felt for this job. What does a politically conservative, 22-year-old recent college graduate have any business doing in an experienced, adult-driven, and generally liberal environment? However, I am slowly gaining confidence. I am developing a healthy balance of seeing the value I bring and accepting that I am not supposed to know what I am doing. I am here primarily to learn and develop as an educator and an individual. It is okay for me to ask questions and process new information. It is okay for me to not know what I am doing, and because I don’t have all the answers (and I probably never will when it comes to teaching), I have endless potential for growth.

This article was originally published as a series of blog posts. They have been lightly edited and condensed for publication. Read the originals at: