Sania's Volunteering Experience (Zoom)
As part of our Volunteer Experience Series, we have Sania, our Saturday Zoom Session IC to share her experiences with us!
Why did you join Rental Hearts as a volunteer?
Singapore’s private education industry is about literally everything but education, that’s a known fact. It’s a money mill at the expense of children of rich, helicopter parents. There is very little additional affordable educational support out there, and that is a direct threat to the fundamental human right of access to education the country has been trying so hard to cultivate. And I feel that schools can only do so much as they are understaffed and heavily underpaid. Many children slip through the cracks of our education system. I know it to be true because I’ve seen it time and time again - wasted potential.
Joining Rental Hearts seemed like the first step in the right direction towards making a difference for this cause. My grandfather’s biggest lesson to me was the importance of education- not in the way that everybody had to be invent the next Facebook, but in the way that everybody should be given a chance to do what they are capable of doing. Whilst hard work is a big determining factor of success, I believe that one has to have the adequate opportunities in the first place and I think Rental Hearts ensures that this opportunity isn’t strapped away from another child because of circumstances entirely out of his/her control.
Why do you want to continue volunteering with us?
It’s a common assumption that teaching is one of the jobs with the least immediate gratification, that you can’t get to see the difference you’re making as soon as you’re making it. I disagree- I think that you can see it immediately, as long as you know exactly what you’re looking for. What keeps me going every week after the other, even when I may have too many things on my plate, is the knowledge that these 2 hours will matter, and I will be able to see that it mattered. Their little "thank you"s at the end of the session, the appreciation you can hear in the students’ voices when you’re patient and kind with them, the guarantee that every week I’ll learn just as much from them as they will from me - about the world, and about myself- is why I’m there every week :)
What are some of your most memorable experiences while volunteering?
“Ohhhh thats not that complicated”. Being able to explain something to them is my favourite memory. I’ve noticed that a big reason studying can be difficult for some kids is not because they don’t like learning or that they don’t want to learn - it’s that they feel stupid whenever they do it. And it’s more of a feeling than it is a fact. Even the children that seemingly fit society’s definition of ‘smart’ or ‘gifted’ feel this way often. And nobody likes doing something that makes them feel horrible about themselves. My main goal for every session is that at the end of it, they don’t feel stupid. Reminding them that something is complicated for everybody when they are unable to grasp a concept, (positive reinforcements) for their efforts, and not the work- is how I try to achieve that goal. When I see that goal achieved through their words or expressions- the little glow of confidence - that is my favourite part of each week.
“Sorry im a little slow, thank you for being so patient, most of my teachers are not this patient with me”
How do you handle volunteering with your work/life schedule?
I don't volunteer as and when i feel like, its a commitment i have made and a commitment I intend to follow through, my Saturday 2pm-4pm every week is blocked out. I will never schedule anything at that time as far as possible.
What are some barriers you faced and how did you overcome them?
Connecting with the students is difficult. There's an age gap, a background gap, differences in learning speed, we only have 2 hours with each student and every week its usually a different student. As I cannot slowly build rapport over the weeks, I had to figure out a way to build a connection within the first hour of the session. What I've found works best for me is finding a common topic. Based on gender and age, I scout a few rough ideas of what they might be interested in before the session and I spend the first 5 mins or so talking to them about how things are going or what they’ve learnt recently. Once I’ve found a common topic, we usually build on that for a while. Establishing similarities is the most important step towards building a connection, especially when time is a limiting factor. That way they see me less as a stuck up know-it-all older kid and more as a friend, they’re more comfortable telling me their strengths and weaknesses in the subject, they’re less shy to ask me to repeat or clarify something, they’re more likely to ask extension questions. These, I find, helps them learn better throughout the session!
Done By: Sania