Dylan Thomas School Voluntary Literacy Mentoring Placement: A Student Perspective by Thea Baumgartner & Victoria Miller

Dylan Thomas Community School

Two of our students Thea and Victoria recently worked with the Dylan Thomas Community School’s after-school MAT (More Able and Talented) group. This co-curricular placement was in partnership with Swansea University’s Reaching Wider who work with a variety of stakeholder groups, including school pupils and families, to increase participation in HE for people from underrepresented groups in Southwest Wales. During the sessions, students worked with pupils on higher order literacy skills, with a view to building their capacity to express themselves articulately in writing. The sessions also aim to raise the pupils’ awareness of Higher Education and to boost their confidence, self-esteem, and academic motivation.  Here is what the students had to say about their experience.

Thea Baumgartner

My name is Thea and I have just finished the first year of my undergraduate degree at Swansea University. I study English Language and Literature there. Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a teacher and later in my teenager years I fell in love with the English language. After graduating, I want to be an English teacher and I was very excited about the opportunity to be in front of the class as a teacher already. When I heard about the voluntary placement at Dylan Thomas Community School during my first week at the university, I knew immediately that I wanted to take part. This internship focused on teaching a lesson on the English language with students. I decided to play games with the students around the topic of English. I always liked that best at school. My expectations of this placement were that I could give free rein to my creativity and design the lessons the way I wanted. That is exactly how it was. I was able to decide for myself how I wanted to structure my lesson and was supported by the teacher’s knowledge and experience. During the first lesson I played the well-known game, Wordle, with the children, where they were allowed to read out a word with five letters in pairs and the other players were allowed to guess it. My lesson plans worked well and the students were completely engaged in the games we played. I enjoyed it very much and it confirmed my career aspirations once again. During the second lesson, which I led, we tried to find as many words as possible that could be written with the letters of our names.

Victoria Miller

My name is Victoria, and I have just finished year 2 of English language and TESOL. I was really excited about the placement because I wanted to know more about what it is like to work with pupils. I had only worked with adults, but I’ve always wanted to try working with children/teenagers. Moreover, I wanted to try the role of a mentor and see if it is something I might be good at. 

The MAT class stands for ‘More able and talented’, and we had some children who volunteered to stay after the school. I knew that mentoring implies a lot of responsibility and preparation, and before the first session I was terrified, because I didn’t know what to expect. These feelings of terror went away as soon as I saw the pupils: they were very engaged and interested in what we were doing with them. We tried to keep our sessions more interactive rather than just giving them different information, and it worked great. We played language games to develop their writing and spelling skills. I delivered two sessions, one of which was about pre-alphabetical writing systems, and another one was dedicated to animals. The latter was more interesting for children because apart from doing a crossword and reading fun facts about animals, we also played animal-themed charades, and children enjoyed that very much.  

This placement was quite useful for my overall experience, and I gained some skills that are valuable for a teacher, such as how to establish a good atmosphere in the classroom, and how to manage a class of teenagers. I really enjoyed my time with pupils, and it was sad to say goodbye, especially when I knew how much they enjoyed our sessions. It was quite new experience for me, and I am glad I got to participate.