The first day of my Princeternship began around at 7:45 am on January 8th when I hopped on a train to New York City and made the more than two hour commute into Soho. Taking the subways during the morning rush did little to quell my nerves about meeting Elizabeth Ward ‘85, my Princeternship host and Editorial Director for Scholastic’s Classroom and Community Group. Fortunately, I had nothing to be nervous about, since Elizabeth and her coworkers were extremely welcoming and gracious to me, and included me from the beginning in their projects and meetings.
First, Elizabeth showed me around the office, and gave me an overview of the things I would experience over the three days of my internship, which included helping with market research, reading over brainstorming charts, proofreading, and interviewing various people who worked different jobs in the office. I began by learning about the most recent programs and series of books that Scholastic already had in the classrooms; it was incredibly interesting to me to learn how many people had to work on developing the books – the creative team who initiated the idea, the people who developed the idea and thought of specific subjects for individual books, the authors who wrote them, the content editors, the teaching material creators, the marketing team, the content generators, etc. All of this came together in various programs intended to be part of a classroom curriculum, and with specific teaching goals. This, to me, was the most striking thing about Scholastic – everything that was produced, and every product that was bought, was being used to teach a child something.
I came to realize over the next few days that the recognition of the importance of children’s education gave the people working at Scholastic a real sense of purpose. Many of them told me in interviews that they felt like their work was making a difference – and as anyone who has an education knows, their work indeed does. After learning about previously created projects, I sat in on a series of meetings about a new project that was currently being developed. The idea had been pitched, and now market research was necessary to see what the demand would be in schools, especially in the context of digital reading and multimedia. While a market researcher looked at reports on technology in the classroom, and made inferences based on current programs, it was my job to go online to try and find evidence of demand for or use of this kind of product using teachers’ blogs, which was interesting, albeit tedious as I combed chat room after forum for discussion of this kind of program. However, on my third day, my research paid off as I was able to write up a report and make an evaluation of the teacher demand.
Another very interesting part of each day was the time I spent sitting in on meetings with Elizabeth and her team. The dynamic in these meetings was always very collaborative, open to brainstorming, and encouraging of new ideas and feedback. Many of these meetings were about the design of a sample book from the new series, and involved the layout of a page map, and its pacing, navigation, photo content, and element of fun. There was much interaction with (and often rejection of) prevailing concepts of design – such as the philosophy of the title page, and how many headers can go on a single spread. (I found myself always scurrying to write down new vocabulary like “ghosting” and “slug line.”)
Over the course of my three days at Scholastic, I had the chance to interview many members of the office creative team, many of whom were very young and recently graduated from college, and to learn about their varied backgrounds. They all seemed to have happened upon careers in the publishing industry in different ways, such as previous internships, or chancing to know someone in the office, and they all seemed to have majored in different fields (and not, contrary to expectation, only English or literature, but also politics and journalism). Everyone brought a slightly different skill set to the same creative table, and although almost every one of them told me not to go into publishing for the money, they all told me that they enjoyed what they were doing and saw their jobs as having an extra-monetary value.
Overall, I had an absolutely wonderful experience. The office atmosphere was open and welcoming, and although the work is often difficult, the creative element is never far away, and the ability to both brainstorm and to organize are valued. I can’t possibly include all the things I learned about how ideas are developed and presented into this one essay, but I can and do highly recommend that anyone who loves to be creative or is passionate about education seek out experiences like this one. Finally, I couldn’t have asked for a more gracious and genial host in Elizabeth, and I would like to deeply thank her and everyone in the office for accommodating me and helping me learn as much as possible!