1 or 2 weekly entries about the worksite for the duration of your internship
The purpose of this assignment is to record descriptions, reflections, and analysis of your internship experience. You should plan on writing one or two entries per week. The overall length of journals will vary; what's important is that you work toward both a close and specific record of your experience and an analysis of the broader context of the worksite. Use the list of Big Questions below to prompt your thinking.
Writing about the site
In writing about your internship, think of yourself as a participant-observer. You're both immersed in the scene and watching what goes on. Your job is not to pass judgment, but to perceive what is going on around you as clearly as you can. At the same time, you're not expected to be completely detached or "objective," in the sense of having no emotional reaction to what you're observing; after all, you are immersed in the scene. Instead, use the journal writing to gain insight into your reactions, your perspective as a participant, and how it affects what you notice.
The best participant-observation writing includes concrete information and specific examples: conversations, observations, sights, sounds, smells, and critical questions about issues, people, and yourself. Describe what you do at the site and how your role connects with other aspects of the site. Describe people, how they interact, what they say, how they interpret events; the place, the way time is organized, and tell stories about how specific events unfold (their beginnings, middles, ends).
Analyze your observations, using concepts from your coursework in women's and gender studies (including this course). Read the organization's website and any literature the organization publishes about itself. Talk with people at the site; have conversations or even conduct interviews. Ask for their insight into the experience of identity at the work place, or in the field as a whole.Some weeks there will be a lot to record. During other weeks, you'll have more time to reflect on previous entries and use the questions below to analyze your experience so far. The first entries might be unfocused as you get to know your organization. Don't worry too much about this early on in the internship; as you develop a topic for your report or essay, your entries will become more purposeful.
Big Questions (see special questions for WGS/Ed majors below)
Every internship is different and provides unique circumstances upon which to reflect. Some examples of things to look for and write about are listed below.
- What can you find out about the history, structure, funding sources, and purpose of the organization for which you work? How does your position fit within the structure of the organization? What are the titles and responsibilities of those employees with whom you work?
- How diverse is the workplace? How are gender, race, class, sexuality, nationality, religion, ability, age (any categories of identity that pertain to social status) evident in your internship experience?
- What are you learning about yourself? Do you find yourself responding to co-workers or to circumstances in ways that are related to gender, race, sexuality, and/or class? How are you treated because of your gender, race, sexuality, class?
- Are women in positions of authority? Are employees in jobs related to traditional gender-roles?
- Is the work environment comfortable and supportive of women? Is sexual harassment ever a problem? How is it handled?
- How are women who are clients or customers of your organization treated? Are their interests discussed when policy decisions are made? How do the policies of the agency affect women in the wider community?
- What attitudes do you see about differences of race, sexual orientation, class, or physical or mental ability? How diverse and supportive of diversity is your site?
- Does your organization support or challenge existing systems of race, gender, class, or sexuality?
- Are ethical questions openly discussed at the worksite? Or would questioning practices and policies be risky for an employee?
- Do the people working at your site work for the paycheck or because they love what they do?
- Can you imagine working as a paid employee at your site for the next 10 years? Why or why not?
- What would you change about this site if you were in charge?
- What themes emerge in your descriptive writing? What details seem most significant to you?
- Have you made judgments in the way you recorded your observations? If not, how can you tell? If so, why do you think you did so? Is there another understanding you could infer from the situation you described if you withheld judgment?
- How do the readings, discussions, and other assignments (reading reviews, your research project) for this course apply to your internship? How do your observations connect to discussions or readings you have had in other courses?
If you're in a classroom, also consider the following "big questions":
What do you notice about how boys and girls participate? about how instructional materials handle gender? about how the cooperating teacher differentiates instruction or assessment by gender? What would you want to do differently (or the same way) in your own classroom?
(You are welcome to copy or paraphrase your journal entries for WGS 399 on your blog for the parallel education course.)