Che Applewhaite is currently studying for his A-Levels at Queen Elizabeth's School in Barnet. He tutored English with us at Winchmore school, and here writes about his Team Up experience.
Studying at school prepares us all for later life, but extra pushes along the way are often needed for us to achieve our potentials - they were for me. Throughout primary school, I often attended Maths tuition and it made my GCSE exams a whole lot easier.
I was lucky. I could afford such extra lessons, but many cannot. What made me most excited to volunteer for Team Up was the opportunity to help in addressing that reality for students of a London secondary school.
Also as a sixth form student, it seemed fitting that while my students learned skills that would help them get into university, I would be preparing to apply for university at the same time. Similarly, volunteering for Team Up was a learning experience for me as well. I learned that teachers really do a lot to make sure students do well, that keeping any number of teenagers focused on anything is bloody difficult, and help to others cannot be given with an expectation of anything in return. I did not have the ‘model’ experience of Team Up - with super engaged students - but I think I had the best one I could possibly have had.
Sometimes loud, sometimes silly, sometimes disinterested – all students are like this. On the first day, many of those on the programme were. However, after a few weeks, one of my students continued to be so. While the other children I worked with showed increasing enthusiasm and were really improving in their abilities, he did not. The situation led to him being taken off the programme.
I questioned myself on what went wrong for a while; what could I have done? But I realised that disruption occurs and when things don’t go as planned, you have to think quickly and respond as necessary. I noticed that for the sessions where I didn’t expect anything for my time, I worked harder to ensure that my students learned and, in the end, felt the most rewarded from these sessions afterwards. With the excellent support of my Programme Manager, I ended up learning more on how to keep students active and interested.
The charity provided lots of support with lesson materials and notes, and while it was a bit more effort than other volunteering opportunities, I left the programme feeling that I had somehow helped those students achieve their potential, and get them on their way to better grades and prospects.
I think sixth form students would be greatly aided by volunteering here. This is because now, after finishing the programme, I feel that I am better equipped to deal with the bumps and roadblocks that may come my way during the university application process, especially those dreaded rejections.
However, Team Up’s positivity and team-work attitude was not the only thing that rubbed off on me. They run leadership seminars free of charge, where other volunteers and I learned techniques on better time management and working practices, which have aided me both in school work and in managing my other extra-curricular commitments.
While helping others get their grades that would enable them to go onto university, I myself feel that as a sixth former volunteering for Team Up, I have gained experience that would help me in higher education and my later career. I only hope more children will be able to receive the great support that Team Up facilitates: by students, for students.
Think you can make a difference like Che? Apply to join our team of inspirational people working to address educational inequality here