07 Jun 2018

Mentor Blogs: Emily

avatar Lucy Jenkins

Our mentor Emily from Aberystwyth University writes about her experience as an MFL Student Mentor.

Week One

This week I had my first class and I was worried no one would listen or I would make a mistake. However, it was such a positive experience! Knowing that you are helping these students choose to study a subject which can benefit them in the future, is a rewarding feeling.

I am currently mentoring three classes a week, with around 10 students. It’s not always easy, especially if the session is at the end of the day. Nonetheless, it’s amazing when you see them become interested. It may be a fact about languages or even a Kahoot game – but that enthusiasm is 100% worth it. During my first mentoring session, I remember walking in to the classroom and having flashbacks of when I was at school and sitting behind a desk.

When I was younger, I wish someone could have come in and helped me to become more interested in languages. Although, as fate would have it, I ended up studying Spanish and English Literature– the year abroad sold it! Nonetheless, it’s a shame knowing I wasted so many years not putting as much effort in to learning languages, especially when I look at all the opportunities they have given me now I’m older.

During my first class, I introduced myself and talked about how learning languages does not always mean you’re going to be sitting behind a desk. Sometimes it can take you to

places where you’re involved in surfing lessons. Other times it can take you on amazing journeys, such as attending the 2017 COBIS Sport games. Every time it will lead you to wonderful people and experiences. After my pep talk (which seemed to capture their enthusiasm), we played a game of truth or false, which I created.

This really got them involved and thinking about languages in a bigger context.  For example, the Pope has tweeted in nine different languages. I was as surprised as the students, as I had no idea until then that the Pope even knew what Twitter was.  The students had fun discussing the fact that there is a language spoken by the San people, which consists of only five clicks.

This was followed by a much appreciated game of Kahoot.  All of the students were surprised and disappointed to realise that croissants are not actually French but said to have originated from Austria. At the end of the class, the students filled in the feedback forms and every single one was positive. Hopefully by the end of the sessions there will be a few more people signing up for French. I’ll let you know how it goes next week – wish me luck!

Week Two

This week I’ll be sharing my five top tips to help you during your own mentoring sessions.

  1. Plan. Plan. Plan. Planning is your best friend. Especially over-planning, as you never know if your students could race through an activity which you thought would take double the time, or maybe they take ages on an activity you thought would take five minutes. Either way, it is always best to over-prepare, as this reduces pre-class nerves and allows you to have a back-up plan if your students seem to lose interest during an activity.
  2. Be engaging – become interested in what your students are interested in. Be open to including some of the students’ interests in your lessons. If they are really interested in football, maybe create a language game which revolves around that theme, or if they are really interested in music, maybe trying incorporating a few songs. This will be a great help to capture your mentees’ attention and hopefully encourage them to see learning languages as a fun process.
  3. Following on from the last point, if your students seem really interested in a specific topic during your class, include it in your next session. A couple of my mentees are interested in learning other languages such as Spanish, so I recommended a few Spanish YouTubers (as a lot of students nowadays watch YouTube vloggers more than TV).
  4. Stay positive and don’t worry if your lesson didn’t go to plan or you feel as if you’re not getting through to the students, especially if it is at the end of the school day. Take a deep breath, relax and know that everyone has days when they question if they are actually doing a good job or making an impression on their students. It’s always great to have back up activities planned just in case you feel like you need to recapture their enthusiasm.
  5. Enjoy the experience!

    Week Three

    It is important to understand as a mentor that things will not always go as planned and that’s okay. Ultimately, it’s about whether your students enjoyed the mentoring sessions and learnt something new. Recently, I had a mentoring session that was quite challenging.

    Firstly, I could not log in to the school’s computers due to technical issues. This meant I was not able to access any of the information and lesson plans I had saved for the session. Secondly, after logging in, all the YouTube videos I had saved were automatically blocked by the school. After deciding I would have to improvise the lesson and ask them to watch a few French YouTubers on their phones, I realised that the key to a successful lesson was actually listening to the students. Although it was the week where I had to talk about technology, ironically by not using technology, it allowed me to listen to my students and find out what they wanted to learn from the mentoring sessions.

    I discovered they were interested in learning other languages like Spanish and German, so I decided to find a few German film trailers with English subtitles and taught them a phrase in Spanish. It was during this lesson where I saw how genuinely excited the kids were to learn languages and how much of an impact these mentoring sessions have. Since that fateful lesson which didn’t go to plan, I’ve incorporated my students more into the planning stages, asking them what they liked about the class and also asking if there were any topics they wanted me to cover in the next week.

    I have included languages other than French, and have found resources such as music, films, and YouTube clips to capture the students’ interest. This helps the sessions become more enjoyable for the students. Don’t despair if you feel you haven’t followed through with your lesson plan.  Sometimes when that happens, you can end up learning more about what truly interests your students.