'My Year As a Mentor'
Jai Khajuria (3rd Year Law Student at Durham University) reflects on a year of mentoring at Framwellgate Secondary School, Durham.
Around a year ago I came across a post by Mel on Facebook, excitedly announcing she had gained funding to run a State School Debate Program and was looking for Mentors. During my limited experiences judging at Schools’ competitions, there was an obvious disparity between Independent Schools and State Funded Schools, with the former often having a dedicated debate coach training students in debating. This program served to bridge that gap, to send us debaters out to these local Durham State Schools and teach these students how to become better debaters. I knew I wanted to work with this program, to use my Oracy skills and help these students, improve my own teaching skills and hopefully learn something new.
As I started out with this program, I realized the time I was committing to the program was negligible compared to what I spent procrastinating, and was actually helping bring some order to my life. I still remained a bit apprehensive, having never really taught anyone before, much less 13-year-old Year 9s. I started out my first lesson a bit unsure, struggling to get information across to the students. Luckily for me my class there to support me, and by the end of the lesson we had established a sense of mutual respect.
A few lessons in I had a bit of reality check; that Year 9 students know a surprising lot about current affairs. I remember trying a very basic commercial discussion with the class, and within 5 minutes there was flurry of loud voices discussing the economic pros and cons of the Sainsbury-Asda merger. As the lessons progressed and I grew more used to their abilities, my relationship with my class became more relaxed; we would all have group discussions on fantasy topics and crack jokes during class, all while they gradually became more skilled at forming arguments and continually expanding their knowledge. I would spend my lessons with a mix of general training to the entire class, and then specific training through games and argumentation exercises. They not only improved their debating abilities through these, but more grew more confident and ambitious. The student who at my first session hid behind his friends avoiding any form of conversation transformed into this social butterfly, always being the first to offer to speak when I gave out a motion.
Working with this program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is a mix of fun of work, with new challenges and happenings at every session, and a plethora of anecdotes to go with them. If you’re on the fence about doing it, DO IT, you won’t regret it. It gives you a chance to leave the university bubble and provide valuable help to students who really need it. There are not a lot of things which add joy to a university student’s life, but mentoring with VoiceIt and teaching those weekly session was undoubtedly one of them.
Register to volunteer here: https://voiceitoracy.org/volunteer-index-impact
Mentor positions are now closed for Durham 2018/19, but open for Newcastle, and all other positions remain open at Durham.