Post 3: What I Learned From PEAR

The summer went by so fast! Now I am approaching the final week of my internship at PEAR. This is such a fun organization and I wish I could stay longer. Although the workplace environment is much less official and standard than I expected–locating in a house-like building at the bottom of the McLean campus–I really like the office culture here. People feel at home in the office and are close to each other. The senior staff members are easy-going and open-minded. We have brown bag lunch every Friday where people working in the office all have lunch together and chat. We shared a lot of laughter during this time. This friendly vibe helps me gain a sense of belonging and gives me the bravery to speak up and share any ideas I have that come up at the moment. Through my eight weeks working at PEAR, office culture has become one of the most important considerations when I choose my future job.

Three turkeys hanging out in front of our office.

Through my time at PEAR, I realize that funding is one of the biggest issues for most of the non-profit organization and social justice work in the world. Take educational injustice as an example. Some non-profit organizations conducting research on educational injustice have to wrap up their research project quickly as soon as they are able to create a report. They often do not get to the point of getting their research work published into the field because the budget is running. Many schools and after-school programs are not able to provide engaging social-emotional learning curricula and STEM education because of the limited educational materials and facilities. Some educational institutes have to give up sets of curricula because they cannot afford some materials required to run them. When I was designing the Clover social-emotional learning curriculum for non-profit programs, I took a lot of practical factors into consideration. I try to minimize the technology components and replace the teaching tool kit with more affordable ones without compromising the quality of the curriculum. I hope this could increase affordability of the Clover curriculum and allow more schools in low-income communities to implement the Clover curriculum set developed by PEAR.

At PEAR, I have developed a twelve session social-emotional learning curriculum manual from scratch, and now it is almost ready to be piloted. After spending seven weeks doing research, brainstorming, editing and formatting the curriculum, it seems like my baby now. I could not have achieved what I created this summer without collaboration with my supervisor, my fellow interns and other staffs in the office. I learned that collaboration is such an important piece at work. In most workplace settings, people are expected to work independently and be responsible for their own tasks. Everyone is busy working on their tasks and people don’t have the responsibility to help you. This dynamic is very different from that in a school setting. I find it harder to reach out for help at work than in a school setting where professors, mentors, and advisors are paid to help students and my fellow schoolmates get used to helping each other because we share similar goal or interest. It took me some time to learn how to appropriately reach out, speak up and get both my concerns and interesting ideas noticed in the work setting.

Another important lesson I learned was that I should build my work upon my strength. People have different personalities and working styles. Some of your colleagues might be more active or talkative, more humorous and come up with ideas faster than you, and that is OK. That doesn’t mean you are doing worse. You have your own strengths. You might be more organized, more meticulous, or better at creating things on paper. You are good as long as you are contributing in some way and always report your progress in time so that your supervisor is aware of what you have contributed. Don’t wait on presenting your progress until the last minute.

Our expressive art break after spending hours staring at the computer.

Now my internship at PEAR is coming to the end but I am not ready to say goodbye. I am grateful to everyone at PEAR and the WOW program for making this wonderful summer experience happen.

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