My Mentoring Placement – and why you should do one too!
Over the past 12 weeks, I had the opportunity to visit five Year 10 students at Bournville School on a weekly basis, to mentor them. Through this opportunity offered by Aimhigher West Midlands, a partnership of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), schools and colleges, I was able to learn more about mentoring and myself.
Before I started my placement, I was incredibly nervous about what to expect. I had previous experience of working with primary school children at an after-school club I volunteered at. I also had experience of mentoring my peers with GCSE’s in Year 11 through the Leaders of the Future scheme at my school. However, this was my first-time mentoring one-on-one with students I had never met.
The goal of my placement was to engage the students and provide advice and guidance about higher education. Over the 12 weeks, I covered a wide range of topics with my students such as GCSE’s, revision techniques, A-Level choices, how to pick a college, apprenticeships, University courses, student finance, personal statements and cover letters. I tailored my sessions to each students requirements and learning style. Some students preferred completing activities, whereas others preferred conversing about the topic. The most crucial point was to engage the student, so they can make the most of the information given to them.
The biggest challenge I faced during my placement was related to myself. At the beginning of the placement, I felt an enormous pressure to give the best advice possible and to make a positive difference in each students life. I feared to give the wrong advice, not covering enough options and not being a good enough role model. I overcame my fear by speaking to other mentors about their experiences and asking my mentees for feedback constantly since this was a learning process not only for them but for me too. Over time, I saw positive progress from the students. One student would attend our sessions showing new revision material she created based on a previous session about revision techniques. Another student would attend showing personal research she did on a course that interested her at a University. Some students would write down questions in their spare time to ask me for their next mentoring session. The students were engaging in the sessions.
During my last session on Tuesday, speaking to my mentees, I had seen a massive improvement in their confidence and determination to tackle any task set ahead of them. Some students decided University was something they definitely wanted to do, others decided an apprenticeship was better suited for them, some still don’t know what they want to do but are aware of the options they have. My job wasn’t to force every student to attend University like me. My job was to guide students, so they can research and make decisions independently. Every student is unique and they all want to follow different paths.
Overall, my mentoring placement was an opportunity I am glad I took. Guiding and motivating other students was an incredibly humbling experience which also developed my own skills of mentoring and leadership. I recommend anyone studying at any university in Birmingham to look into the Aimhigher scheme as you can also make a difference in your local community and guide younger students who may have limited knowledge about higher education. If you attend the University of Birmingham, you can personally speak to a member of the Outreach program in Aston Webb. Or drop me a message on LinkedIn and I’ll be happy to tell you more.