All Knowledge is Useful Knowledge

Internships are supposed to give you a sense of what it’s like to work in the “real world” which, I’ve been told, frequently includes having to do jobs that you don’t necessarily want to do. Now obviously, all of us know what it’s like to have to do something we don’t want to, and if you don’t know what this is like, then you must be pretty darn privileged. Still though, I can’t tell you the number of adults who’ve given me that (fairly annoying) “knowing” smile and said something to the effect of “your internship will teach you what it’s like to really work.” (It’s as if they think that staying up for three days straight to write a paper on the Rwandan genocide that counts for 25 per cent of my final grade in a class which will be factored into my GPA and someday play a role in whether or not I get into graduate school isn’t work!).

Despite how annoying I find these people though, they’re kind of right.

My second week of Heston was in-service week. It began with a full day of meetings where we discussed a bunch of common-sense responsibilities associated with working in a school over the course of several hours. I know that it’s important to review the obvious, because it is constantly overlooked; that doesn’t make doing so any less tiresome. The real monkey wrench that finally disrupted my steady stream of giddy anticipation for school came though when the teacher that I’m working with revealed to me my responsibilities for the week.

The responsibility of an aide is to decorate the classroom, to cover all of the blank bulletin boards with crafty and thematically connected bits of art in order to make the room homier and to show our students that we care. Again, I know that this is important. It seems like it isn’t, but the reality is that everyone learns better in a positive environment, and part of what makes that atmosphere are physical surroundings. As the little girl who one day dreamed of going to high school and college where she could write essays instead of ever doing arts and crafts again however, having this responsibility was kind of repulsive. It was basically like having someone say, “Here, do all of the things that you really hate in life and that make you feel frustrated and inadequate. Also, make sure you get them done before the real work even starts.”

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Believe me, I understand that being this upset over a few art projects is kind of ridiculous, but bear with me. It’s not even that I’m bad at art. It’s that I’m not very good at it, at least not the kind that involves markers and glue and construction paper. Art is also all about creativity and imperfection and “eyeballing” things. This poses a problem for a perfectionist with poorer than average spatial reasoning skills. Still though, part of having a real job is completing tasks that are less than appealing. I put on my big girl pants, got out the scissors, butcher paper, and masking tape, and with a little help on the last day, I made a garden, a tree, a volcano, and a wind turbine.

Despite the fact that I actually had to stay late at work to tape fake lava to the wall and all of the grumbling and groaning I did to my roommates when I finally got home at the end of the day, I’ll admit that I’m quite proud of the end result, and that it’s nice to have a very colourful tangible representation of my own hard work. Furthermore, as much as I tried to resist it, my bad job did turn into an out-of-my-comfort-zone learning experience.

It’s true that if I have it my way, I won’t be making anymore construction paper gardens in my life, but this week still taught me something. It was an experience in learning how to make the best out of a bad situation and create and implement a solution to a problem that relates to a subject in which I have little practice and almost no natural talent.

As much as we try to deny it, seemingly useless information that we collect often ends up serving some kind of purpose. This is a connexion that I made at the end of the week while editing the “About” page for Surge, the blog that I’m managing as the other part of my internship. I decided that it was actually easier to reformat the HTML code of the page than it was to work with the (useless!) features given to me by WordPress. Suddenly, the knowledge that I had gained from the “totally irrelevant” computer science class that I took to fill a requirement became incredibly helpful. All knowledge is useful knowledge, even if you learn by using your own imagination and terrible art skills to conceptualise and realise your own vision of what two-dimensional representations of earth, wind, and fire (our theme this year – and no, I’m not talking about the band) should look like.

Katie Patterson ’15

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