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 – 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.