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Volunteer Spotlight – Spending an hour at a time, just talking to them, working through a text, or reading a newspaper article was so enjoyable!
At GT Scholars, we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors who are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteer tutors & mentors where they have the opportunity to share more about themselves and why they decided to become a volunteer. Have a look at our latest spotlight interview with one of our tutors, Jennifer.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what got you to where you are today?
I play the orchestra for a ballet company as a classical musician. I also give one-to-one music lessons twice a week. I grew up in the North East and went to a good state school, and I had a lot of extra music lessons. Then when I was 18, I moved to Germany to attend music college. I always wanted to be a musician but was not sure I would get into any colleges, so I decided to give it a go somewhere far away. I spent four years in Germany and then did a Master’s degree in London. I started freelancing as a musician and got my job with the ballet a few years later.
What made you decide to become a volunteer tutor?
Through my work, I visit different schools doing music experience days or just working with the children. I think that the difference in provision is shocking. I spent a few days at some famous boarding schools, and I also went to some good state schools with nowhere near the same kind of facilities. During these visits, I met lovely children and young people in both settings. However, when I meet a young person in some places, and they just come across as a bit shy or a bit uncertain, I think for them, If you were going to a school that’s like a castle, would you feel differently about yourself? Would you have more confidence and maybe also feel more entitled to the higher grades? I just noticed that unfairness sometimes. I found that GT Scholars is an educational charity that wants to help ambitious children achieve higher grades. These children may need just a little bit more help than they’re getting now, and that’s why I wanted to start tutoring.
How did you get started as a volunteer tutor with GT Scholars?
I occasionally heard of GT Scholars. I found a link to their website on the Mayor of London website. From that point, I found it all very straightforward. I had to do the usual sort of application process, and then there was an interview at some stage, which is quite enjoyable and easy.
What did you enjoy most about tutoring your scholar?
English was my favourite and strongest subject at school, so it was nice to start getting into it again. I enjoyed going back to analysing poetry and delving deeply into novels. The young people I’ve met so far from the programme had different personalities and backgrounds, but engaging and lovely young people. Spending an hour at a time, just talking to them, working through a text, or reading a newspaper article was so enjoyable.
What part of this tutoring process have you found the most fulfilling?
The conversations that I’ve had with my young people have sometimes surprised me. They have a different opinion to what I was expecting or a different take on something, and that’s probably the most fulfilling thing. When they show a marked improvement on something that they’ve done before, I love that! If they show that they’ve gained understanding and jumped a great boundary, that makes me happy for them.
What goals have you helped your scholar to achieve?
I had a scholar who was very aspirational and wanted to get into a good university. I pointed out a couple of things to them that would help them make that switch and get the highest grade possible. I had another tutee who was not confident at all in her abilities in English. She struggled with it at school. I recommended that she start reading some poetry for her enjoyment because she enjoyed that aspect of what we were doing. I was pleased to hear that she had got herself a book of poetry, and she enjoyed reading it.
What challenges did you face while tutoring your scholar?
It wasn’t exactly a challenge. At the beginning of the programme, I put in some homework in my own time. I didn’t do English at University, so I did a lot of reading about the syllabus and curriculum and what they might be doing at school. I also completed some GCSE past papers. I felt that I needed to do this at my end.
Why do you think tutoring is valuable to young people?
I think that one-to-one attention is all a young person needs. If a young person has a quiet disposition and is sitting in a classroom, they might not put their hand up if they do not understand. If you sit and talk to someone online for an hour and are unsure, they can ask you, and you can chat about it until they understand. That is probably the main thing. There is value for a young person in an hour of uninterrupted attention, where they will have to accept some criticism on their work. It’s good for a young person’s confidence to explain their work and justify it to another adult.
What do you think is the most important skill to have as a volunteer tutor?
I think you need to care about and connect with your tutee from the beginning. You also need to enjoy the subject you’re tutoring and be good at it and transfer that enthusiasm for the subject to your tutee. That will help them enjoy what they are doing and feel more motivated to do their homework.
How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
Extremely important! When I started my career as a Musician, I often played alongside older and more experienced colleagues. I have always been very open to any criticism that comes my way, and I have been lucky to have had colleagues who informally mentored me. They have offered a lot of feedback on what I can do better, and I have been happy to take that feedback onboard from them.
What have you gained from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I found it very fulfilling. It is a lovely way to spend an hour or so of your time every week. I got to do some interesting reading. Even some of the GCSE past papers, in their way, are fun. If you read this with a young person who has a fresh perspective, it’s really fun.
Would you recommend becoming a tutor with GT Scholars?
Definitely! Like I was saying before, it is just an hour of your time every week. You get to make a connection with someone that you haven’t met before. It’s good, especially now when everyone has been in solitary for so long. For me, that helped, particularly over lockdown. It also gave me something to look forward to, and have an interesting conversation with and hopefully helped them in some way.
What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a tutor with GT Scholars?
Apply to GT Scholars! You’ll learn a lot about the programme through the application process. A lot of material is provided during the process so that you know exactly what to expect. I would recommend it to anyone interested in volunteer mentoring or tutoring, and would definitely say, give it a go!