Volunteering at Pimlico Academy - Jessica's Story

Pete Kirby

March 12, 2015

I noticed tutor training being advertised on Tutorfair’s website, and as I wanted to gain more experience within the English school system I decided to attend the event.

The training day was a full 8 hour long day. I learnt lots of different things throughout the day, but my main takeaways were the session on how to organize a lesson, and advice on the what to do if there was a case of child abuse, how to spot it, and my role as a childcare protector – which is different to the Spanish Education system.

After I sorted out my DBS, I started at Pimlico Academy at the end of November, volunteering as a Spanish teaching assistant. I was warmly welcomed into the class as they were thankful to have some extra help, especially as I am Spanish! I soon grew very close to my students, I recognized where they were struggling and I helped push them to try their best as I could see their potential.

The class teacher asked me to focus on helping the class improve fluency when speaking Spanish. A few of the students were a bit anxious at the beginning, I often heard “But I can’t speak Spanish” “I’m no good at Spanish!” when I heard this I told those students “I understand what you are going through as it’s hard for me too! I’m still learning English and picking up new things every day. It just takes time and lots of practice.” As I empathized with my students, and related to their daunting experience, it encouraged them to take more risks and they began speaking with more fluency. If they didn’t know a particular word or got a bit stuck, they knew they could just ask me!

There was a particular student who caught my attention. She never wanted to participate in lessons and often complained of having a headache. I recognized that she was just feeling unsure of herself and her ability. I soon won her over, her confidence grew and she now actively takes part in Spanish lessons and looks as though she is enjoying herself.

Another of my students confided that although she was great at Spanish last year, she felt as though she had forgotten everything over the summer and felt behind. With this little bit of one on one time in class, I was able to refresh her knowledge and get her up to speed. In my opinion her level is now much higher than the previous year.

Most of the questions I was asked were based around vocabulary and grammar, and for this reason I tried to teach them lots of new verbs and new words in a fun and easy way!

The Tutorfair volunteer experience was well worth while. I learnt more about the British school system, and I have walked away feeling more confident about my ability as a teacher and my teaching style. If you take part in the volunteer program you’ll receive an observation when teaching. Thanks to Felicity (my observer) who pointed out a few areas in which I could improve. Her advice has been invaluable to me, especially as I am just starting my career.

The school and class teachers really appreciate the help I offered. They recognize how valuable it is for their students to be able to ask questions in class without holding up the rest of their peers.

By Christmas I felt as though my class and I had developed a really close relationship. I am sure our bond will only grow stronger as we all get to know each other more over the next term.

I really enjoy volunteering at Pimlico Academy, my favorite moment with my students was when they asked me where I had bought my jumper (which features a little dog on the front!). Even though this was a brief and possibly a trivial moment, it is these instances when you feel accepted and it showed me that they were interested in me as a person not just seeing me as their teaching assistant.