Many of you are probably familiar with our Visitor Experience Associates (VEAs, for short) here at Boston Children’s Museum. These are the green-shirted floor staff you encounter at admissions, the information desk, and in many exhibits throughout the Museum. They are, without a doubt, the face of the Museum. Many of them are students so there is a natural ebb and flow to their time at Boston Children’s Museum—many only work for the school year or just for the summer. As a result, we have certain times of the year that we are busy hiring and training new staff.
I have been the Science Educator here for 14 years and in that time I have trained many, many floor staff (who, over my time here have been called Program Assistants, Program Interpreters, Exhibit Interpreters and Visitor Experience Associates). I have my training spiel down to…well….a science, after all this time. But that does not mean it is boring for me. Not at all. Because even though I present the same information each time, the diversity of our staff means it is always a different experience for me.
Our VEAs are: Boston natives, newcomers who just moved to the area last month, students, 30-somethings changing careers, recent graduates of high school, undergraduate or graduate school with degrees in Anthropology, Theater, English, Education and Business. They are single, married, gay, straight, women and men. Some have kids of their own. They sing, dance, juggle, sew, speak many languages, paint, write and cook. Just about the only thing they all have in common is that they enjoy working with kids and enjoy learning new things themselves.
It is this last quality that is the reason I am never bored when training new people, no matter how many times I do it. I also love learning new things, and that includes getting to know our new staff. As we play and experiment together, I find out about them (one of our new VEAs has webbed toes! fascinating!) and I get really excited about working with the new crew. It’s like watching a favorite movie with a friend who has never seen it: you fall in love with it all over again, watching your friend experience it for the first time.
Given the nature of the VEA position, people tend to move on after a year or two. I am always sad to see them go, but it means a regular injection of new blood, new energy, and new experiences. For the educators and other “regular” staff, the constant flow of personalities keeps things fresh, fun and exciting for all of us. I have learned so much from the hundreds (?) of floor staff I have had the good fortune to work with, and I look forward to continuing to learn from them. And best of all, when you visit the Museum, YOU get to learn from them too.