Starting university can be difficult for many students. How much you enjoy your time here is often heavily influenced by your first-year experiences, and we want you to have a good transition.
For this reason we have a formal mentoring system to provide you with an environment in which you will be able to meet new people, make friends and learn about your course and the University.
The system involves current school students mentoring first-year students. The mentors follow a structured workshop schedule which will assist you in understanding the academic demands of University that are likely to be unfamiliar. You will also have plenty of opportunities to ask your mentors any questions you might have about University.
Feedback about the workshops
You will meet your mentor in a group workshop during the first eight weeks of Semester One. Here's what some students have said about the mentoring workshops:
- "I learned many things about what is expected of me, great practical advice. It was a great introduction to Uni life."
- "A comfortable, socially active environment which nurtured us through our first difficult weeks of 'big bad' University life."
- "Our mentors, being only a year or two ahead of us, were able to give us advice that was very relevant and valid to our situation. They had just been through what we were going through, so with all that experience they were able to reassure us and alley any fears that we had."
- "Being able to meet people and establish friendships helped. The mentors from the first lesson were fantastic in creating a warm and friendly environment. They made it much easier to make friends within the class."
Joining the bandwagon
Your first experience of the mentor system will probably be during Orientation Week (O-Week) as a part of the Dean's Welcome. This is a great opportunity of be formally welcomed by the dean of the school and to see the mentors at their best. There is singing, music, a BBQ, games and even a mystery guest! Don't miss it! This is one of the best times to make friends before lectures begin. Here are some of the things you can expect to gain through being mentored:
- learn how to make the most out of lectures and seminars
- get hints on seminar presentation
- learn how to use the library and educational databases
- learn about academic writing and referencing style
- learn how to develop a reflective journal (a skill widely used in the school's coursework)
- participate in competitions (and win prizes!)
- interact with other first-year students in a vibrant and friendly environment.
Who are the mentors?
Many of you will have already met some of the mentors during enrolment. The mentors wear distinctive yellow 'duck squad' T-shirts. The mentors are all students in the school. Many of them have mentored for several years, but for some this is their first year of mentoring. All of them have been trained to give valuable guidance based on their own experiences.
What can I expect from my mentor?
The mentor workshops provide an informal context in which to meet other students and settle into Uni life. Your mentors will be other students who have already completed their first year at University.
Mentors are not lecturers or seminar leaders. They are not there to help you with your homework or teach course material, they are there to answer your questions about University life and give tips and advice on how to make the most of your time at University. They are there to help you help yourself.
Mentors do not attend lectures or seminars with you and cannot be expected to provide you with a break down of the issues covered, however they will be able to discuss their own experiences.
You will be encouraged to keep a reflective journal starting from the first week of lectures. The journal combines written reflections with other forms of expression such as visual images. Its purpose is to introduce you to the practice of critical reflection about teaching and learning, which is a significant element professional preparation and practice in both social work and teaching.
Developing your journal involves:
- reflecting on your own experiences as well as those of a previous generation, enabling you to connect with, and consider, the evolution of teaching and learning
- developing a critical approach to the education-research literature
- using multiple sources for reflection
- practising writing skills
- reflecting on the experiences that led to your decision to become a teacher or social worker.
Types of journal entries
- Personal school experiences this could comprise your thoughts about yourself as a learner; the nature of teaching (the best and worst attributes of your various teachers and their impact on your learning); or other significant aspects of your schooling, for example, what was valued by your school (sport, music or academic achievement) and how this was demonstrated.
- The school experiences of someone of another generation the memories of, for example, your parents, older friends or grandparents. Be guided by the reflection of the person you have chosen and comment on the differences between their experiences and your own.
- Popular culture select a movie or television series and discuss how teaching, learning, students or teachers are portrayed. Comment critically on this portrayal, referring to your own experiences and the experiences of others.
- Newspaper articles summarise print-media coverage of a contemporary education issue and comment critically about the articles by referring to lectures, tutorials, workshops or readings.
The poster competition is the year's final reflective activity and is designed to allow students to share with one another as well as with school members their feelings about their first year at University. This is a cooperative activity and everyone in the workshop will contribute to the poster. The dean and other school representatives will judge the competition at the end of Semester Two.
Becoming a mentor
If you have enjoyed your experiences in the mentoring workshops and would like to give something back to the community that helped you, you are welcome to assist by becoming a student mentor yourself. By doing this you will be able to help other students who are just starting University and will have a unique opportunity to meet new and diverse people in a fun environment.
Many past mentors have found that as well as helping other students their experiences as a mentor helped provide them with valuable insights and practice for their future careers in teaching or social work. For more information about becoming a mentor, contact Dr Nigel Goodwin.