Posted by: robbedlyric | July 1, 2012

Intern Interview with Rona Macaulay

Name: Rona Macaulay

Specialisation: Education

Education: M.A. Social Anthropology (Uni. Edinburgh), M.A. Museum Studies (Uni. Leicester, ongoing)

How did you find out about the internship? What made you decide to apply?

I had been on holiday in the Lake District at around the same time as I was working on my dissertation which was set in the National Museum of Scotland. I had realised that working in museums, and in particular museum education was something I wanted to do. So I just googled museum job and Lake District and this was one of the results. I was too late to apply for that year but I kept it in the back of my mind. It just seemed to me the most idyllic place as well as being somewhere which would nurture my skills.

Was the interview and application process easy?

The interview itself was a brilliant way of interviewing because often you give the most insightful answers when you are not in the interview “hotseat”. By giving us a chance to just chat and be ourselves I think that Jeff and Adrian got a better sense of who we were and how the internship would be right for us. I suppose the only downside was that by the time you left you already felt like part of the Trust and I would have been upset if I hadn’t got onto the scheme. Oh, and I left my suitcase on the bus, that was a bad moment!

What made you decide to focus on the Education program as your special project?

Ever since I was around 14 people have been telling me I’d make a good teacher and I’ve always liked working with young people. The day I realised I could teach kids outside of a classroom setting was a revelation! I could engage with kids about my passion for social history and maybe make a difference. I might even get to dress up on occasion!

What sort of projects have you been involved with so far? Tell us more about your day to day work.

I’ve worked with the Readers & Writers workshops that we run for school groups. We take the children round Dove Cottage and encourage them to use all their senses to explore the experience of living in a house like this. Hopefully they then become inspired enough to have a go at writing their own poems. I’ve also been involved with the family activities that we organise for Easter and half-term which this year have included families writing about their holiday’s on a giant wall map of the Lake District and making birthday cards for Wordsworth. One of the other things we’ve been doing has involved teachers. We ran a day-long workshop to develop resources to help children engage more with manuscripts which have included loan boxes and in the future will include online resources. Oh and Museums at Night which was great fun. I dressed up as Dorothy Wordsworth and we had food by candlelight in the Cottage and a treasure hunt for Dorothy’s postbag.

What’s your preferred age group to work with?

I really enjoy working with older primary school children, Years 5 and 6 because they can be extremely enthusiastic. Only the other day a girl around 10 asked me if she could include me in her poem, then she told me she wanted to be a poet and have my job as well! I think that they’re at a key age where you could either inspire them about a subject or ruin it for them so its extra important to make a good impression with them.

 Do you think the Wordsworth Trust is a good place to train in museum education?

Well its one of the few places where you’d get a training bursary to help you out. Often it’s impossible to get the experience you need if the only option is to move to say Central London and attempt to work for free. Plus this is a tailor made program, its structure so that you get the skills you need. I find it particularly challenging, in a good way because the collection is manuscripts  and you really have to push yourself to find ways to engage kids with them. I mean it’s easy to work with kids in say a science museum because there are so many ways for kids to get hands on. This I think is more worthwhile because of the challenge. It forces you to think in different ways which is all good experience.

What are the positives of the internship as a whole? Any negatives?

Positives would be that the internship comes with inbuilt housing, job and circle of friends. You immediately have all the key components. I would have been really worried moving to such a new place and trying to find somewhere to live and people to hang out with but here you are with enough people in the same position as yourself. Also the Trust has been running this internship for long enough that it’s the real deal. It’s all about making sure you get the skills not just them getting free labour. You are treated as a proper staff member here.

In terms of negatives well it is remote and yes it can be tough living with the people you work with. Issues get amplified and it can be like a little Town End bubble.


What do you hope to go on to achieve after this year is over?

I’d like to work with a more hands-on collection. I’d love to work in the National Museum in Edinburgh, especially after their refurbishment that would be amazing. I’ve considered maybe Canada and museums that would tie in with my degree. However my focus will always be on working with young people. If I couldn’t get work in a museum I’ve even considered tutoring perhaps.

What has been the biggest highlight of your internship so far?

Well meeting Prince Charles was a definite highlight however in terms of work I think it was back in February when I did my very first Readers & Writers workshop. At the end Catherine Kay [the Trust’s Education Officer] stood up and asked the class to give particular thanks to Rona as it was my first workshop. The class were really positive and all the teachers came up to me afterwards and said that they’d never have guessed that I’d never done one before! It was the proof that I’d made the right choice.


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