Work Experience – Mentor – University of Sheffield

Contributor: Charlotte

What?  Mentor for the University of Sheffield

Why did you choose this place? I had worked with younger children and wanted experience working with teenagers.

How did you find the application process? The application process was typical of many jobs. There was an application form and then an interview, the interview was fairly informal involving working in a group which definitely helped my nerves!  Before starting my second year of mentoring I was invited to be a lead mentor responsible for the group of mentors in my assigned school.

What do you do here? I work with young people on both a 1:1 basis and in the classroom to act as a role model and mentor.  I help to raise their achievements and aspirations by targeting subject areas students are having trouble with or by helping them to research careers they’re interested in.  ‘Widening participation’  is another aspect of my role,  whereby groups who are typically underrepresented in Higher Education such as low income or single parent families are encouraged to reach their potential and attend University.

As a mentor I have worked in two very different secondary schools. First was one with a ‘satisfactory’ judgement from OFSTED whilst the second was deemed to be ‘good’.  Seeing such different teaching environments really opened my eyes to how the school which you attend as a child affects your future.

The good things: I have often found the role rewarding when you can provide answers to questions the pupils have struggled to find themselves. Whether these are questions about careers, university, or just tips for handing homework in on time- you can see the impact you’re having on a young person.

Being a linguist, my first school was particularly interesting. Many pupils were new to the country and had a limited understanding of English which proved to be a major barrier to their learning. It showed how knowledge of TESOL could prove useful to those wanting to enter teaching in the UK and not just those wanting to teach abroad.

The bad things: If the children aren’t having a good day or if it’s snowing(!) it can be difficult keeping them on task, I’ve definitely had to learn to be more patient. Also, entering the schools for the first time was daunting but the teachers were all very welcoming so my initial anxieties were quickly forgotten.
Anything else we should know: Despite not wanting to be a teacher when I graduate, the experience has made me want to work in Education or more generally in the public sector. Seeing how you can help improve people’s lives despite only seeing them once a week definitely made me eager to know what you could do with more time! I believe my linguistics degree will put me in good stead for such roles, it has taught me to be more organised and a better communicator. Additionally, what I thought was just an interest in people’s language when beginning my degree; I now see is a wider interest in people’s lives. So I’m thankful to both my Linguistics degree and experiences like mentoring which have helped me to discover the route I want to take after graduation.


Work Placement – Administrator at Sound Thinking Ltd

Contributor: Claire

What? Administrator for Sound Thinking Ltd (an Educational Psychologist and Speech Therapist Team)

Why did you choose this place? I was recommended to contact Julia (the educational psychologist) by one of the teachers where I did some work experience, who is also the sister of another employer.

How did you find the application process? I met with Julia initially intending to ask for some voluntary work, but she then said she would be able to hire me as an administrator, along with some possible voluntary work with Rebecca Hill, the predominant Speech Therapist of the company. Initially it was only 8 hours a week, but as the company has gone from strength to strength my hours have increased!

What do you do here? As Julia completes assessments, I enter the background information provided, gathering important conclusions from the given information; enter the appropriate psychometric assessment information; and Julia’s observations into the report structure. I ensure that this in the current and appropriate format. I also enter the majority of information into Access Arrangements, ready to then be approved and any other information added. Additionally I have other administrator duties such as organisation, creating files, photocopying, sending emails, posting etc. Obviously all documents I edit are approved by Julia after, but the fact that the bulk of the information is entered into the document, makes the report process quicker.

The good things: I love working here! It gives me a great insight into the other allied health professionals that often work with Speech Therapists. Julia and Rebecca are really helpful and I can borrow resources. I have an understanding of a good quality report, and using assessments and the statistics involved. As well as increased ability to examine the information in front of me and piece judgements together to make valid conclusions.

The bad things: None!

Anything else we should know: I am really grateful to have this position! I think those who want to pursue speech and language therapy should not underestimate the value of working with the other allied health professionals, because it gives you an insight into the thinking of those who may be on your future teams!

Work Placement – Peer Assisted Learning Leader for 2nd Year Linguistics Module – UWE Bristol

What? PAL Leader (Peer Assisted Learning) for Foundations in linguistics: semantics and pragmatics & syntax module at UWE, Bristol (University of the West of England)

Why did you choose this place? I wanted to get some work experience in teaching/mentoring and this seemed like a good opportunity. I also liked the fact that it was linked with my course.

How did you find the application process? I don’t remember much of it which suggests that it was probably quite easy. There was an online application to be filled out and during the summer they checked my academic results to see if I didn’t fail the module I was supposed to be mentoring.

What do you do here? I mentor a group of 3-12 second year students (depending on how many show up) who are on the same course like me but one year below (I am in my final year). I run a session per week to help them to reduce the workload and answer any questions they might have about the module and the course as a whole. I need to prepare my sessions each week and write a schedule. In the past we’ve done some reading and now towards the end of the term we’re focusing more on essay preparation. My role is not to answer their questions straight away but rather redirecting them towards the whole group and make sure that everyone is involved.

The good things: I get paid for the session which is good because we were told that it is not paid in the rest of the UK. It really challenges me in terms of time management and coming up with new ideas what to do in the sessions. I really enjoy working with the students, it is fascinating to see how everyone has a different style and pace of learning, yet how they all want to pursue the academic goals. PAL has also taken the nervous feeling off me whether I will ever be able to stand up in front of a group of people and try to transmit some knowledge to them.

The bad things: I don’t get paid for the time I spend on planning the sessions, which is about 1-2 hours per week. Even though I mentioned it as a challenge, time management is crucial and sometimes I am wondering how I am going to cope with PAL and my deadlines at the same time towards the end of the academic year. The trainings sometimes seem to be too long.

Anything else we should know? PAL is a really good experience. Even though it is not about “normal” teaching it still involves working with students and preparing a lesson plan. Don’t be put off by the trainings and how formal it all looks; at the end of the day, you will learn how to mentor and enjoy your sessions at the same time in your own way, yet being backed up by the PAL office team.

Work Placement – Vocational Mentor – UWE Volunteering

Contributor: Amy

Where? Weston College
What? Vocational Mentoring Pilot Scheme
Why did you choose this place? An opportunity came up at my university (UWE) to go into a local college and mentor students on a vocational course. I was placed at Weston College by UWE.
 How did you find the application process? Fairly straightforward. I had to fill in an online application form, stating previous relevant experience and why I wanted to apply. Then I had a group interview which involved group activities.
What do you do here? I went to Weston College for a couple of hours each week and was available for drop in sessions to the college students if they wanted advice about Higher Education or help with their coursework.
The good things: Working in a new environment and communicating with students. I also had to be organised to balance the time with my studies.
The bad things: The nature of the drop in meant that some weeks I would go to the college and not mentor any students. 
Anything else we should know: If I could do it again, I would attempt to arrange regular mentoring sessions for a small group of students. This would guarantee attendance each week and would hopefully allow me to make a notable impact with mentoring. Whilst drop in sessions are flexible for students at the college, it meant that mentoring was not a priority and sometimes forgotten. Despite this, I still think that mentoring is a valuable experience.

Graduate Teaching Assistant in Linguistics – Salford University

Contributor: Rebecca

Where? Salford University Linguistics Department

What? Graduate Teaching Assistant in Linguistics. I prepare and facilitate linguistics seminars in pragmatics and syntax for linguistics undergraduates. I do this while I study for my PhD in pragmatics. The university pays fees for GTAs doing a PhD, and pays – in some cases – a generous stipend for living costs to allow you to focus on teaching and on writing your thesis.

Why did you choose this place? I did my undergraduate degree at Salford University, and I had a very supportive and enriching experience there. I decided I’d like to stay on to pay some of that forward to the undergraduates. It’s a supportive and close-knit department that we have at Salford, and I thought it would be nice to learn to be an academic there – which is effectively what being a GTA allows you to do.

How did you find the application process? The application process was fairly straightforward. You just have to write a cover letter and do a PhD proposal, and fill out some forms, and go to an interview. I would say, though, that the point of these GTA positions is that you don’t have to work outside of academia in a fairly mundane and low-level job which is so you can focus on your PhD and learning how to teach in higher education. Therefore you have to have an excellent research proposal with good data and novel ideas because, these days, universities only give funding to original and interesting research. The interview was the hardest part of the process for me as I was very nervous but if you are just yourself and know your proposal inside out, you stand a chance!

What do you do here? I work with our undergraduate students in seminars. My department are very supportive and although they do give me preferred ‘work’ that the students should do in a seminar, I can often come up with my own work, and am always allowed to organise the seminars as I see fit. This means I can design lots of fun teaching interventions. I also do some marking and some exam invigilation and I enjoy helping out with open days so that we can attract even more students to our department. Sometimes, I meet with students for tutorials to discuss their work and offer tips and tricks about how they might improve. I feel that the GTA role is allowing me to train to be what I want to be one day – a lecturer and researcher in linguistics!

The good things? The students! I love working with undergraduates. They have great ideas and can often help you with your own research by talking to you about it from new angles. I also enjoy the ‘supported freedom’ I have in creating my own seminars and teaching materials. Plus, I get to ‘do’ linguistics all day long – what’s not to like?

The bad things? In term time, your teaching and preparation often has to come before your thesis. So excellent time management is essential. But this job is training you for what it’s like to work in academia, so this is realistic – sadly – for higher education these days. Know what you’re getting into.

Anything else we should know? If you think you would like to be a GTA to get money and experience while doing your linguistics PhD, you’ll need to see if your university has a scheme, or google other UK universities that do. For maximum chances of success, make sure your PhD proposal is convincing and well-written, and do be sure to evidence any teaching-related experience in your cover letter.

Volunteering – South Somerset First School – Teaching Assistant

Contributor: Claire

Where? First School in South Somerset

What? Working in classes ranging from Foundation year up to year 4.

Why did you choose this place? Interested in Education but didn’t really want to be a teacher.
How long for? 2 days a week, for two months.

How did you find the application process? Easy, it was my First School, I knew some of the teachers there, and my mum had worked there. I just asked if I could come and do some experience and they said yes!

What do you do here? I worked in each class, predominantly the year three and four class, in a teaching assistant role. The teacher would place me with groups, or an individual and I would aid them with their work. Additionally there was the occasional photocopying and running around, but generally was working with the children. I also took on a stewarding role during sports day too.

The good things: Personally I love working with children, which was great. They also knew I was heading towards speech and language so they showed me some resources they used when recommending students, placed me which students who had difficulties, and even let me sit in on a speech and language appointment.

The bad things: Sometimes it was a bit drastic working with the year threes and fours, and then moving to foundation year.  I also wish I had worked with foundation a little more, as I spent maybe one day in total with them. Knew I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Anything else we should know? It really made me want to be a teaching assistant! Or maybe a SEN, but then I would have to go through the teacher education process.