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Tutoring rural students offers rewarding experience

02/03/2021 |
4 mins

Third-year Population Health and Marketing student Jess Rudd shares her experiences tutoring in outback WA with the volunteer program Teach Learn Grow.

Figures at sunset

I heard about Teach Learn Grow (TLG) during my first year of university, however I only became involved in my third year. Created by two friends in 2011 – one of whom graduated from UWA – TLG provides free, one-on-one tuition and mentoring to rural and remote Australian students, with the aim of empowering students to reach their full potential. The program works by sending volunteers (predominantly university students) to rural and remote communities during a week-long visit to a school.

In my first few years at UWA, I was a bit hesitant to apply but decided to in my final year as I didn’t want to have any regrets. I’m so glad I did, as it was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding weeks of my life. You don’t have to be studying teaching to go on the rural program – it suits any degree, as everyone contributes a range of skills and knowledge relevant to their specific degree. My background in health was useful though, as I understood the socioeconomic factors that influence children’s school attendance rates and ways to engage more thoroughly with certain students. My country upbringing also allowed me to relate to the students I tutored.

“University students from all different backgrounds and study areas are welcomed. Giving back to your community is so fulfilling. This is a life-changing opportunity you won’t regret.”

Jess Rudd

TLG groupThe application process is super simple. You can apply for either the winter or summer program via the TLG website. Successful applicants are then invited to attend an interview with one of the TLG recruitment officers. This interview is quite chill and is more of a general chat about why you’re interested in participating and what you would do in certain situations. Following the interview stage, the TLG executive team runs two training days for tutors, which is then followed up with an interactive training day at a school in Perth. This ensures all tutors are equipped with the necessary skills and are well prepared for their first rural program.

On Saturday 21 November, an eager bunch of young adults met at East Perth station to start the journey to Laverton, a remote town of 350 people. Having grown up in a country town and moving to Perth for high school, I knew what to expect; however, going to a town 12 hours from Perth with a group of people you barely know is a bit daunting at first. Little did I know the experience would surpass all my expectations.

“Pushing yourself that little bit out of your comfort zone is all worth it. The like-minded people you get to know on the journey are both memorable and meaningful.”

Jess Rudd
Chalk writing on the ground, TLG are the best

Upon arriving in Laverton, we were greeted by the school principal who kindly showed us around the school, even though it was 8pm on a Saturday night. Laverton School consisted of around 100 students catering for K-12. The following day was very hot, which called for a trip to the local swimming pool. The community was so welcoming and we got to meet and play with some of the children at the pool. The week consisted of early wake ups, playing handball with the students before school, tutoring students throughout the school day, going to the youth centre or pool after school, lesson planning, making dinner, playing many games and then crashing in the school library to repeat everything the following day.

The teachers in rural towns really do an incredible job. As tutors, we were there to support what the teachers were doing by providing personalised tutoring to students. The students eagerly await the arrival of TLG and look forward to their return. Building relationships with your student and tutoring them based on their preferred way of learning often meant sessions occurred outside the classroom, which significantly benefited the student as it was more engaging for them. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. We were constantly adapting our approach to suit the needs of different individuals. The thing that makes it all worthwhile is seeing your student grasp a new concept and how ecstatic they are when they do.

Students learning an activityOn the final day of the program, we spent some time with the high school students explaining what their study options were and what their future plans could look like. Some of the key messages many of us touched on was that it’s okay to not know what you want to do – it takes time to figure it out and even when you think you have it all figured out, life can throw you a curveball. Keeping your options open by studying ATAR or a combination of ATAR and general is recommended if you plan on going to university. Changing courses is completely fine if you realise it isn’t the best fit or don’t enjoy it.

The key points I took away from my week in Laverton was increased confidence in my ability to tutor as well as my ability to relate to students. It goes without saying that TLG benefits both students and tutors. I’d highly recommend other students look at volunteering while studying. It’s a great way to gain experience out in the real world and has the potential to advance your career. Most importantly, volunteering makes you feel good and connects you to others. You can visit the Guild Volunteering team to see what’s available or get involved in volunteering opportunities on campus.

My biggest takeaway from TLG was that a bunch of small things makes a big difference; even if it isn’t blindly obvious, the domino effect it has benefits so many individuals.

“All it takes is one week of tutoring and mentoring to maybe change the way a student sees the world, and all it takes is a bunch of enthusiastic young people donating a week of their time to help bridge the education gap.”

Amitabh Jeganathan (fellow tutor)

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