Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life after THE END - Week 1 AKA: The Baptism of Fire

I realize that the title of this post may be a bit dramatic - but honestly, school is the only life I've ever known. Sitting here at my 9-5 job and knowing that as of now, I will not be going back to school in the fall is a very new feeling for me. In a way, this is fresh and exciting - in a way, this is terrifying.

Now that this blog is no longer graded or part of my participation mark, I'm feeling inspired to use it for ME and my own reflection on my work (yes, I realize this was the point all along, but I can be strange about these things). So...I'm hoping to make this a weekly ritual. It'll be good for me - and the reading won't be half bad! As it turns out, working at Banting House is a LOT more dynamic and lively than I anticipated!

Week 1 Mission: complete. My first week was a bit of a whirlwind. Despite all of the hours I spent at Banting House before my internship even started proved to be useful. In fact, I don't know how I would have pulled it off if I didn't jump the gun! My boss has been referring to my first week as "The Baptism of Fire" (which is so very, very encouraging).

My first day on the job consisted of a school tour, grade 7 and 8. I was mostly in charge of crowd control, since behavior managment is actually one of those areas of teaching that I'm pretty good at. But I watched and observed the content that was being given in each room of the museum tour, hoping that one day, I'd be able to know the material well enough to lead tours myself.

The middle of the week was spent on getting the wheels turning on my first project here, which is revising the volunteer manual. I realized, in trying to learn the tour myself, that the manual was even more outdated and overwhelming than I thought. It was last revised in 2003 and since then, whole galleries have been rotated, split up, removed, added, etc. - not to mention that the way it's set up requires volunteers and tour guides to commit an entire narrative of info to memory. I know that there are more effective ways to break this information down to make it more manageable.

Friday was the second tier of my Baptism of Fire. We had 97 people come through the museum in just one day! I never realized that historic homes could get so much traffic. There was a tour of boyscouts in the morning - to whom I gave my very first group tour! The volunteer that I was stationed with misunderstood and thought that I'd been working here since August, and thus left me to give the tour on my own - but it worked out because he didn't realize that it was only my fourth day on the job until I told him afterwards (at which he was quite embarrassed and impressed). Nothing like diving in head first! Later in the day, we had a bus tour of elderly people. This was more a of a "doors open" tour, in which I kind of floated around answering questions and telling random stories to people who looked interested. Just before closing, a couple from Jamaica came in and I gave them my first private tour of the house. I felt a bit more exposed during this tour, but I figured that I should take on the challenge because I would have to be in charge of the museum on my own sooner or later.

That day turned out to be sooner rather than later! The next day was my first Saturday duty. Museum staff is off on Saturdays and the museum is only kept open when there are volunteers to run it (they often have to close down due to lack of volunteers). They no longer have to worry about this (for the summer at least). It was very quiet for hours (I felt the anxiety of being alone in a very old house during a wind storm), but then about ten people came through the doors within an hour of each other!

It was actually a really neat experience. I had two families come in at the same time by coincidence who both had children with diabetes working on projects about Dr. Banting for school. Telling them the story behind their daily insulin needles was actually quite touching and rewarding in the end. The families really appreciated it.

Also, I got to have my first contact with a cash register and debit machine - which can prove to be challenging when you have zero work experience in retail! It was a very complete and well-rounded museum experience - from the responsibility of setting security alarms to the pressure of getting your facts straight.

All in a days work, I suppose!

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