This is the first time I’ve been involved in a volunteer training since joining the Foundation in September. I’m absolutely delighted to have been involved and really pleased with the energy and engagement we got from attendees. The training programme was initially developed with Teach First in 2013, but it’s taken on a life of its own in the six years to now. This time, we trained seven tutors who have applied to volunteer as part of our in-school project at Oaklands School in Bethnal Green.
I found the tutors brimming over with questions; eager to lead discussions and share their ideas and experience for the benefit of everyone - including me! The group was made up of variously experienced tutors specialising in languages, maths, sciences and SEN support. We started with a discussion of the Foundation’s ethos and aims followed by tutors explaining their own reasons for wanting to volunteer. Most of the attendees had never worked in a school before, so we knew there would be a lot to learn and a lot to talk about!
Working in schools
From my own experience and others’ I know that one of the most challenging elements of tutoring in school is adapting to school life within the first few visits. We find that tutors tend to flourish after they get used to the pace of things. For that reason, we spent some time at the start of the session openly discussing expectations and exploring the ways in which tutors might struggle to adapt in the early stages of their placement. This included a fascinating discussion about the balance that tutors must strike between ‘approachable’ and ‘professional’. We also cover how to maximise engagement and build relationships with students , including how to set and maintain standards of behaviour in your sessions.
Next comes the supreme ruler of all training sessions - safeguarding! I find that most people already know something about safeguarding, but I know from experience that there are lots of rules that can be easy to break if you’re not adequately prepared. Fortunately, the Foundation team has thousands of hours’ experience working and training in and around schools, so we can always add significant value and get our volunteers ready for their roles. I saw lots of note-taking in this session, particularly around recognising the impact of smartphones and social media on safeguarding practices.
The session closed with a workshop on tutoring in classrooms. This can be a subtle art, often requiring tutors to use techniques they’re not used to. How can you use your physical position and presence in the room to manage students non-verbally so as to not distract from teaching? How do you make sure you’re not just supporting the students who know how to ask for help? How do you know your presence is enhancing the teacher’s effectiveness, not inhibiting it? Having put lots of tutors into lots of schools, I think it’s this area that I see them struggle to master most often, so it’s something I’m passionate about teaching - and teaching well!
Overall, I was extremely pleased with the session. Thank you to all of the attendees, whose energy and contributions made the morning very informative and enjoyable. I look forward to continuing to improve on the training programme and welcoming our next group of applicants soon.
The next Tutorfair Foundation training is next week on October 30th. If you want to be involved, apply to an opportunity on your profile or visit the foundation’s website here to register your interest.