What I have done today –

  • Peer mentor core training 9-1
  • Blogging
  • Professional practise planning
  • Exhibition terrace house visit and planning

Thoughts –

As part of my Professional Practise Module, each student is required to complete some form of work experience. We are required to write up what we have done and the process we went through to get the work experience. As an aspiring art therapist, working with people of all ages is very important and gaining experience with all ages is high on my list when gaining experience.

In my second term of being at University, the Fine Art year group was given a brief talk about Peer Mentoring. The University employs students from all years and of varying ages to mentor students who are joining the University. When I was studying my A levels, I became a peer mentor for the year 8 students at Magdalen College School Brackley. I helped my mentee to overcome social problems he was going though, I also helped my mentee with his academic work by helping him with homework, reading with him and talking about things he struggles with. I found the experience as a mentor incredibly rewarding. Furthermore, I decided to apply to become a Peer Mentor at the University. After the Easter holidays I discovered that I had been accepted as a Peer Mentor and I booked on to a Core training course which I completed today (08/05/2017).

After the Easter Holidays, an email was sent around asking students if they would be interested in becoming a ‘Specialist Peer Mentor’. This position involves being a peer mentor for students on the Autism/ Asperger’s spectrum. In order to apply for this, we were required to write a paragraph stating why we think we would be good as a Specialist Peer Mentor. Mine read as follows:

”During the period I was studying towards my A Levels, I was a peer mentor for the new students joining the school. As a result of this I feel incredibly excited and enthusiastic about becoming a peer mentor for the new students joining in September. My previous experience was massively rewarding and I loved the feeling of helping the other students. As an aspiring Art Therapist, having the opportunity to work with students who are on the Autism spectrum/ Asperger’s spectrum is an opportunity I take very seriously. Being a specialist peer mentor would really enhance my CV and would be a great achievement. Alongside my studies, I run for the mental health charity MIND to raise money and awareness for those who need help and support. I very recently took part in a half marathon for the charity and doing this has really enhanced the way I feel. Furthermore, I have had 3 years of experience working for Waitrose, developing my communication, organisation, and time management skills in a very social environment. The company emphasised team work and going the extra mile to make customers have the best experience with the partnership as possible. I believe a lot of these skills I have developed will be transferable to the role of a specialist peer mentor. Furthermore, I hope to develop these skills further through supporting the students with a friendly and welcoming approach.”

Unfortunately, I was not accepted by the Peer Mentor team to become a Specialist Peer Mentor. However, I was offered to attend the Autism awareness training course which the Specialist Peer mentors would be required to attend. This training course would be held by the BASS (Bristol Autism Spectrum Service) http://www.awp.nhs.uk/services/specialist/autism-spectrumI signed up to attend this course on Friday at Newton Park Campus.

The Peer Mentor Core Training and what we learned about:

  • BSU (Bath Spa University) contact list- who we are advised to contact when in a difficult situation. My understanding is that as a Peer Mentor, we are required to support the student in a professional and welcoming way. However, if a student is having certain problems perhaps concerned with their mental health, their work, a disability or medical condition, we are not required to assist or advise. Furthermore, this BSU contact list, is a list of staff contacts we can forward a mentee on to in order to ensure the mentee gets the appropriate support they need. Also, the University understands that as students, we will be taking on a lot of work and if we cannot help a student, there is always someone to go to for help.
  • Questions- sometimes if a person is anxious or struggles when socialising, it may be helpful to know the best questions to ask. For instance, asking closed questions such as yes no answers, may not provoke progression and it may be best to ask open questions, to understand how the mentee is really feeling. However, closed questions are useful for checking or establishing facts, clarification or checking information. Where as open questions are best for gaining more detail and understand so that when an issue arises, the issue is understood better. Some examples of closed questions are:

Could you describe your feelings? How will you make it happen? How will that help you to…? Tell me about… In what way does…? What is on your mind?

  • How to approach a mentee for the first time- The point was raised that sometimes it may be difficult for us Mentors to know how to approach our Mentee’s. It was advised that email is the best way to reach a student and further means of communication can be introduced if this works better for us and the Mentee (Facebook/ text/ calling/ face to face meetings). A copy of some example emails were given to us on a hand out sheet. This is incredibly helpful because I will be able to send a Mentee an email in confidence.
  • Who are we? Sophie Batchelor= Peer Mentor Scheme Co-ordinator/ helen Fisher= Student Engagement Advisor
  • About the Mentee= When mentoring a student, it is important to understand their individual backgrounds. For instance, someone who doesn’t live in bath, may find the transition to living in Bath and going to University a lot harder from someone who already lives in Bath because they will not know how to use buses, where everything is etc. Other things to understand about someone is their culture, ethnic background, if they are a care leaver, disabled, mentally or socially challenged, if they have an illness etc.- we did a group task on this point where we were split into groups of 3/4 and we had to discuss different groups of people and how we could help them as an individual. For instance, a care leaver may not have somewhere to go home over the holidays, so as a Mentor, we could contact them regularly to make them aware that we are here for them if they need us. Another example was that if you were on a gap year, most people spend a lot of time working and earning money, transitioning back home and without a job might be difficult for some people. Furthermore we could offer the mentee advise on how to get a job etc.
  • General Mentor tips
  • Meeting up- we are advised to meet up with a mentee in a University setting/ somewhere they feel comfortable/ Allow the mentee to do the talking and to discuss what they need help with. One point which was discussed was that many new starters worry that they will not know anyone at University. They get worried about making friends and connecting with people. Furthermore, meeting with or contacting the mentee early on is highly advised because then the mentee knows that they already have that one friend or person they can go to for advise. (Contact via our bath spa emails)
  • Group Task = A group task we were asked to take part in involved getting into groups of 4/5 and writing on to a sheet things that we found hard over the University year. The sheet said either first, second or third term on it. After we had done this, it was advised that we use these points as a timeline to refer to. It was advised that we contact our mentee during these times when it is most difficult at University to ensure they get the most support they can.
  • Discussion topics= Settling in / Course matters/ Freshers/ University Information/ Housing/ Local information including travel, shops and Bath in general/ Signposting/ Personal issues/ Financial matters/ Relationships/ Disability and learning support/ Language barriers/ Mental health/ Budgeting/ Recipes/ using the facilities/ How to book dr appointments/ Student loans/ jobs
  • Confidentiality = Respecting privacy and respecting the mentee/ they come to us in trust
  • Volunteering as a peer mentor