Final Reflections: Iowa STEM Teacher Externship

By: Paul Mugan, Waverly-Shell Rock High School Teacher

What was the most impactful or favorite aspect of your externship?  By far my favorite part was being able to establish relationships with four quality people who are passionate about what they're doing. When one puts those two facets of work together it makes the situation a lot of fun. Certainly while we worked very hard at times, knowing that we had each other's backs made for a wonderful bonding experience.

This externship exposed me to the day-to-day activities of natural resource management work. I was impressed by the level of education required to do the work well. All three of the full-time guys had four-year degrees. The seasonal summer worker was one year away from finishing his four year degree. I could envision some of my students who are passionate about hunting and fishing and being outdoors thoroughly enjoying this kind of work.

While there were some parts of this experience in which the tasks were completely in my wheelhouse; there were others that took me well outside of my comfort zone. We had an opportunity to do a visual survey of dragonflies and as I have done a great deal of insect collecting, I was right at home with this activity. However, there were many instances where I was a completely ignorant participant. For example, mixing chemicals to spray on food plots or driving different equipment were immensely challenging for me. I appreciated that people were patient with me as I tried to learn these new tasks. It reminded me so much of what my students must feel like at times. It is quite possible that each new topic in my classroom brings my students to a new place in their ignorance. It was most impactful for me to recall what that feels like and it will give me pause to be more patient and more empathetic to their productive struggle.