The Pillars Remain - Getting Out While Staying In

 It is getting old hearing the phrase “we are in an unprecedented time.” We all know this now and - in many ways - this is the evolution toward the new normal. Related to internships and Leaving to Learn we know today that nearly all in-person experiences are not happening.
But, this time provides incredible opportunities, particularly for laying the groundwork for expanded programs. Consider:
Young people are spending an enormous amount of time on computers right now. Their desire to be face-to-face is going to be greater than ever before.
While no one knows what the next school year may look like, it seems plausible that there will be wide variation based on many epidemiological, as well as cultural and demographic factors. Some schools may be open for business, some schools (perhaps most high schools) will have staggered schedules, and some schools will open at the end of summer only to have to quickly close when there is a spike in their community.
The orthodoxy that ‘school is where the learning happens’ has ended. The reality is we are seeing the need for ‘One Student at a Time’ like never before. Some young people learn best through virtual education. Some learn best face-to-face; but that can be peer-to-peer, instructor-led or in student-mentor connections. Traditional high schools have gone from one singular modality (instructor-led) to another (virtual). But instructor-led, in-school learning can no longer be counted on, and virtual cannot be the only other option.
Next year, it is plausible that high school students may be safer attending internships at small businesses than entering large comprehensive school buildings.
Schools with thriving internship programs have one more ‘tool in the toolbox’ for providing a diverse array of learning opportunities. If, for example, you are forced to have A days and B days next year, having an internship program enables you to provide more options besides online teacher-led instruction.
Superintendents and school leaders are looking for innovations that lead to a more distributed learning ecosystem. This could be the perfect time to start up an internship program.
This is not to downplay the current challenges to internship programs in a post-Covid19 world, including: (a) How will the business community react to having interns in a Covid and recession environment? Are interns a resource or a liability? (b) Will some business owners not want students - who may be asymptomatic carriers - to be around their workforce and customers? (c) Will there be a ‘back-to-basics’ recoil from school leaders once schools reopen?
While these challenges exist, the mitigation of these risks come back to what BPL has always emphasized - relationships. If we build trusting bonds with mentors, we will be more successful. If we know our students well, we will know which ones can attend internships (because they and their family are low risk for serious illness) and which should not.
While right now it is necessary to have virtual mentor-student experiences, we should know that forging trusting bonds between mentors and students - who traverse a wide range of age, gender, race and economic-status - can be exceedly hard to do well in a virtual world. While this is not universally true, there is certainly some evidence that the quality of relying only upon virtual internships is lower than adding at least some in-person interaction. But the inverse may also be true, also in a world reluctant to quick resume outright face-to-face contact. To that end -- through ImBlaze we are beginning work on enabling programs to add virtual components to their opportunities.
Regardless of what school will be next year, it is clear that having a more distributed model for learning has always enabled more personalization for our young people. Now we can add the possibility that at some times next year, it may also be more viable than attending the school building.