Since November Tas has been a volunteer at Central Foundation Girls School. She tells us how much she values tutoring though juggling many things. Tas’ responsibilities include, “studying at Birkbeck, doing a Masters in Business Innovation and running Abacus - a business teaching mental mathematics. I have also tutored maths, business and accounting since last April and I am a Programme Manager.” This busy bee had masses of life experience in her subject areas of maths and business studies, but no experience teaching in schools.
Starting Volunteer Work
Tas was, “very excited about my first experience in a classroom as it’s very different from one-to-one tutoring. I will be starting a Business Studies PGCE soon so I wanted a classroom experience to see what the challenges for the teacher are like and to learn about managing students expectations. I have the practical experience from my business but I wanted to see the academic side.”
Going into the classroom can initially be intimidating. For Tas, “it was fun and it was daunting, very different to running business workshops for adults. My first session was meant to be an observation but I ended up getting involved myself! I was lucky to work with a great teacher, Mr Whitfield, who is very cool and very supportive. We chat about both the academic and practical side of teaching business.”
So what does it feel like to go into a classroom with no previous experience? Tas tell us, “it was fabulous, it was wonderful… I was nervous. When you’re teaching you have to mask your emotions and show that you are confident and ensure you are getting their attention so it’s really challenging but very enjoyable. Now working in a school is a doddle for Tas, “put me in a class of 40 students and it wouldn’t make a difference! I have the confidence now. I had the experience before from business and now I can apply it in a classroom.”
The Value of a Volunteer
Tas found that once she was in the school, her value became clear, “I started with business studies then thought, okay I can do more. I wanted to contribute more so I did maths too and worked with those who are doing their GCSE resists. My objective is to get them out of the group as soon as possible, to help them gain a grade C. It's about stretching them and building their confidence. I had a student who thought she couldn’t do a piece of work. Then I asked her if she had read the question and she said no. So I got her to read it out. When she did she could do it! To many of these students maths seems daunting because they’ve had difficulties before, it’s a question of tearing down the barriers.”
Tas found a role in supporting the work that class teachers do when she noticed they, “really try but can’t give the one to one attention to every students, so as volunteers we play a crucial role. It’s not just subject knowledge but understanding the individual and giving them the confidence they need to apply what they know.”
It's all about confidence
Building confidence in teenagers sounds like expert work! Tas tells us it is all about connection and understanding, “the first few sessions are very nerve wrecking for them too. Once you get the relationship going then everything falls into place. I found they love to ask me questions. They ask, ‘Miss what’s your background? Why are you here? What's your religion?’ So I get them to finish an exercise then I answer one of the questions and that seems to motivate them!”
Now that she feels at home in the classroom, Tas loves volunteering. So much so that she couldn't pick a favourite single moment, saying “it sounds cheesy but everyday has its best moments!” We wanted an example and she shared, “recently I asked them to do an exercise, they said ‘you don't know us, we can't do it’ I simply said, ‘I have faith in you.’ They did the task, turned around and said thank you miss. That was a great moment. It’s good when you see them putting in that effort.”
Innovating as a Volunteer
Tas has grown close to her students and enjoys finding novel ways to challenge them, “the fact that you can get them to think is excellent! We recently had a session on marketing and when you encourage them to think from a different perspective, and you see the ideas they have, it is fascinating!
They marketed an artisan ice cream for a dairy farm and had to think about whether it would just be local advertising or whether they would go national through Tesco. They thought about the branding and made the USP that it was quality ice cream, not the cheap stuff. During the lesson I divided them into three groups to do a mini dragons den and pitch for money - we had a marketing team, a sales team, Human Resources and even a board of directors to decide if they were approved for finance! They loved it.”
A lack of classroom experience didn't hold Tas back. She applied her unique skills and knowledge to her placement and focused on what she could give to the students - the gift of confidence. As she helped the students believe in themselves, her confidence in the classroom grew too. If you're thinking of joining the Tutorfair Foundation volunteer team, take Tas’ advice: “Absolutely go for it! Don’t even think twice. The rewards that you get when you see the students really putting in the effort, and succeeding, nothing can beat that!”
You can book Tas as a private tutor on Tutorfair.com.