As a volunteer mentor, my role involved me making sure I am engaging with the pupils at the school I served at. This involved: morning greetings, in-class support, break/lunchtime duties, class support, one-on-one support, behavioural support. I had the responsibility to set a high standard and be a role model at all times, and most importantly be someone the pupils can come to if they needed any help, or simply just someone to talk to.
The CY experience taught me a lot about myself, professionally and personally. Professionally, it made me realise the importance professionalism and taking initiative in difficult moments. Whist working in a school, everyday is full of new challenges, it taught me a a lot about resilience and determination, over time I adjusted and I was able to use these challenges as a form of motivation to spur myself on. Personally, it taught me a lot about gratitude. Working with unprivileged children made me put things in perspective and made me appreciate the things I have more ultimately highlighting the importance of my role as a volunteer mentor.
I was given responsibility everyday of my placement. Whether it'd be taking lead on a school project, a CY project, or being able to lead my own initiatives, CY wants their volunteers to have some sort of responsibility so they can grow and develop their skills, but at the same time, have fun. The good thing about responsibility is that CY won't force anything on you, you can take it at your own pace. In my personal experience I was worried about project management, my journey of development began with collaborating with my colleagues on small school projects, and then gradually moving to being a team leader for the week, leading creative projects etc.
Having a very supportive line manager was useful because there were times during my service where I felt lost and directionless. They were very approachable and made me comfortable from day one. They recognised the intensity of working in a school, especially at the hight of a global pandemic. The never made unreasonable demands and they were understanding about anything I wanted to communicate. Most importantly my line manager pushed me to being the best version of myself, for myself and the children I was helping.
The CY culture and atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Right from the beginning of my journey when I met CY representatives at a careers fair, right to the very end. They communicate their message effectively and make sure that the people who signed up for the programme, understand the deeper meaning of their role. This was highlighted throughout the year through Social Action Day initiatives where as a team we were able to give back to our community through a day dedicated to make some sort of impact outside of our schools.
I really enjoyed my experience as a VM. It was a good learning experience and it taught me a lot about how I work, but also the things I need to work on. It was also a good chance to take a break from my studies and do something other than study. My line manager was great, my team was fun to be a part of, and the school I served at was inclusive and made me feel like I'm part of their school from day one. Whatever expectations I had at the beginning of this placement, were fulfilled. I would definitely come back to a more senior role.
Most importantly, make the most out of the year you have. Be part of initiatives, start your own clubs and activities you want people to engage with. Don't give up when things don't go your way, things will go wrong, take those moments as a lesson and learn from them to get better. Don't be selfless, there are people out there who will appreciate even the smallest of things and gestures. Make friends and connections, make sure your LinkedIn profile is set up.
Placement Year (10 Months+)