Nicola Bolton has nothing but positive things to say about her change of career into a Walsall College mentor. The former secondary school head of geography is now better able to get to know individual students in class and around the campus.
“Learning mentors can work closely with specific students, so you see them improve in lots of ways academically and socially,” said Nicola.
“Best of all is when you overcome barriers with a learner who is quite shy or is fiercely independent and doesn’t like asking for help. Gradually you build a supportive relationship that brings out the best in them.
“Before you know it, they’re stopping you in the corridor to tell you their news or they’re messaging you on Teams to let you know assignment grades. Knowing you’ve made a difference to their learning and future prospects means so much.”
While Nicola has moved from one education environment to another, she believes there are many transferrable skills that individuals from other industries and sectors can bring to this role.
“If you’ve got good communication skills, are approachable and friendly and can have the interests of your learners at heart then you are a learning mentor in the making,” said Nicola.
“This is regardless of whether you’ve worked in education before.
“My colleagues have been recruited from many different backgrounds. This adds value to our team as a whole. It means we share a wealth of knowledge and understanding about learners’ needs.”
The opportunity to develop expertise and specialise in specific learning needs is also something that is available to learning mentors. Nicola herself has developed support strategies for people with dyspraxia and hypermobility syndrome. She has then delivered training sessions to her immediate colleagues and to teaching staff.
“The professional development programme provided by the college is some of the best I’ve experienced in my 25-year career,” said Nicola. “Everything is tailored to ensure I can do my job effectively.
“There’s fantastic support from managers too.”
She added: “This is the only job I’ve had where I don’t wish the day away or count down to the next holiday.”