We interviewed Anna, an English student in London, who has been volunteering with us since her first year of university. Here is how the conversation went:
Hi Anna, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you spend your time?
I’m currently in my second year of an English Literature degree at King’s College London. In my spare time I help run the King’s College choir, work with the King’s Hot Chocolate Society (homeless outreach in Central London), spend way too much time in the library, and write an awful lot of essays.
In the past I’ve volunteered as a teacher in a Tanzanian school (The East African School for Street Children and Orphans), and worked in a Barnardo’s Charity Shop in my hometown, Birmingham.
How did you discover Action Tutoring and what made you get involved?
I met Action Tutoring at the King’s Freshers’ Fair in 2015 and was immediately interested in working with Action Tutoring. The charity has an ethos and agenda close to my heart; my parents could never afford private tutoring or extra help and, although ultimately it didn’t detriment my GCSE/A-level results, I struggled whilst those around me were able to pay for the help and attention they needed. I passionately believe that the private tutoring culture that exists around the 11+, and all exams beyond it, is unhealthy and only serves to perpetuate deep socio-economic inequalities. The work that Action Tutoring does goes some way to addressing these things in the education system, and I wanted to be part of it, having known what it was like to struggle without the help I needed.
What has been your most memorable moment while volunteering?
There have been too many! Last week, one of my students hadn’t turned up and I was disappointed not to be able to give him the resources I’d prepared. 15 minutes later, he burst in, very out of breath, and cried ‘Miss! I’m so sorry! I got all the way home and then realised I had tutoring! So I ran back!’. I laughed. I was very touched that he’d run all the way back to school for our session.
What advice would you give to people who were considering volunteering?
If you have an hour a week to spare, and care about helping students to achieve all that they are capable of (whether or not they know what that is, just yet), then do apply. The resources that Action Tutoring provide are adequate if you don’t feel confident to lead a session that departs from them.
What advice would you give someone who was about to starting tutoring?
Emanate the warmth that you wish all your teachers had done, when you were at school. These students have had a long day, and are probably rather hungry – the last thing they want to see is a stern face!
What is your favourite thing about volunteering?
I find it deeply humbling, and richly rewarding. The students’ attitude, enthusiasm, and gratitude both amazes and thrills me, and I always leave the sessions with a spring in my step.
What are these postcards (pictured at the top of the page)?
I’m planning on giving them to my latest students to wish them good luck in their exams.
That’s a really nice touch! We’re sure your students will appreciate them. Tell us, what do you think you have learnt from your experience of volunteering?
More important to a child than having someone help them to get the answers right, is having someone that believes in them and tells them exactly that. The times I have told a student that they are capable, resourceful, imaginative, creative, and that I have confidence in them, have had a far deeper impact than the practicalities of the work we are doing.
Thanks Anna, we’ve loved having you as a tutor and hope you will continue for a long time! Do you have any final words?
Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the work you do. I find it deeply humbling, and richly rewarding; the students have taught me more than I’ve taught them.
If you feel inspired then why not apply here or get your friends involved and tutor together?