As part of our volunteer spotlight series, we interviewed one of our amazing volunteer English tutors, Claire. You can watch the full interview in the video linked above. You can also find the transcript below.
My name is Claire and I’m in HR for a large consumer goods organisation and I’m a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars.
Why did you decide to start volunteering with GT Scholars?
So I guess the key thing why I decided to become a tutor is, I was born partially deaf, and I think one of those things is because of that people didn’t have very high expectations of myself. I worked really hard and I have become, some people would say, successful.
I got an awful lot of help along the way from my family, from some key people that helped me keep on that journey and I am hugely grateful to them and as a result of that, I think I do want to help other people realise their potential. Everyone has got so much potential and if I can give something back and have other people realise their potential then that’s what I’d really love to do. So that’s how I came to look for tutoring and looking to give back in some way in the same way that people gave to me which is listening, teaching, coaching. So that’s how I started looking at tutoring.
How did you get started as a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars?
So the way I got started with GT Scholars and how I found GT Scholars was simply researching for volunteering and tutoring. So I found it through Google and what stopped me at GT Scholars was how professional it all was. The website was really professional and there were loads of information, every question I had was pretty much already answered on the website.
And then I got in touch via the email and I got really great responses, really quick responses.
So I followed through the process which was you know, intimidating at times, sometimes I felt like I am being judged for the first time, but really nice people that I met throughout the whole process.
And I got signed off to become a tutor, and then I just got started in terms of onboarding. The other thing about the onboarding, it was really impressive, so for me as an HR professional, onboarding is important, and it was a really good process, really good training and lots of support now while I’m tutoring as well.
What was the experience as a volunteer English tutor like for you?
Now how I got started with the tutoring with the very initial stages was making the arrangements with Samuel and his father for the initial session and then having that initial call. We had a telephone call initially then we moved on to Skype and we decided that was the one, we looked at Google Hangouts and Skype and there are so many great options these days but Skype worked pretty well for us.
So that first session was just getting to know Samuel, him getting to know me and really understanding what he wanted out of it because there are so many things you can cover in this session and its limited time. Then we just ran through that and really sort of clarified some specific points that he wanted to learn about. Then I had to go and do research because I haven’t done the English language for such a long time so we had an initial session and we had exam questions to help me assess where he was and then we focused in on a couple of areas. Then we just met each time each week through Skype. Having that face to face contact in the video, I think it’s actually really helpful and really convenient being able to do that from home, from this seat actually and having those conversations each week and trying to move it forward, trying to help him decide where he wanted to focus as well. I think that’s one of the really important things about being the tutor is listening. So I had loads of ideas about what I thought we could talk about and actually it was quite different. So Samuel needed quite specific things and I hope that was helpful for him and a lot of it was conversation, having good conversation about what the examiners are looking for and therefore how he can respond and this is specifically for example about managing time making sure you get to all of the questions in the exams and giving good points across each of those questions.
What have you enjoyed most about volunteer tutoring?
So I think one of the things I found really fulfilling during this process is when you see the ‘aha’ moments and you just see the ‘oh that is a different way of looking at it that I haven’t seen before’, that’s been really powerful. Other things I enjoy are that sense of imparting what I know and thinking that you can make a difference in that way.
And I guess the final thing would be making space for conversation – a safe space for someone in this case to have a really open conversation around what’s worrying him and him being able to talk about that.
What challenges have you as a volunteer tutor helped your scholar overcome?
So the kind of challenges that Samuel seems to have had help with in terms of the conversations that he and I have had, a key thing has been around timing. So managing his own time both in preparing for our sessions doing the homework and then in exams, so that has been quite a lot of our conversations. It’s how he plans for that and how he then makes that impact during the exam so that he can get better marks as he goes forward.
What challenges did you face as a volunteer tutor?
There were some challenges to being a tutor. So one of them is being organised so I have to make time to do my preparation. I had to put myself in Samuel’s shoes, think about what would be the right conversation for us to have and about the material that should help him and then really being present during the sessions and just allow that mental space for him and I to have a great conversation and let all the distractions go.
Why do you think tutoring is valuable for young people?
I think tutoring offers quite a lot to young people. A big part of that is simply dedicated time with someone who is listening to you and answering your unique questions and thinking about you and your unique scenario. So that’s a key thing just that mental space and commitment from somebody.
I think the other bit is, of course, the knowledge that they’re gaining from somebody else who has taken the time to listen to the specific challenges that they are facing and that they want help with.
What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor with us?
So if anyone is thinking about tutoring I really recommend it. GT Scholars is a really professional organisation to do it with. You get a huge amount of support at every step of the way. So GT Scholars is really good and tutoring is really fun. You get some time with a young person, the kind of people that maybe you don’t get time to interact with elsewhere in your life and you really get to make an impact on one person’s life and who knows what that leads to.
GT Scholars is a not-for-profit social enterprise and registered charity. Our after-school tutoring, mentoring and enrichment programme is designed to help young people aged 11-18 achieve their academic and career aspirations. Visit our website if you’d like to know more about the GT Scholars Programme and how you can become a volunteer tutor to make a significant difference in young people’s lives.