Abbey Warren is a second year Bachelor of Biotechnology and Bachelor of Business student who leads in Cell Biology and Genetics as a U:PASS leader. U:PASS Leaders are high achieving students who facilitate study classes in a range of first and second year subjects.
I’ve never been as nervous as I was for my first U:PASS session. Leading U:PASS can seem extremely daunting for new leaders, so I’m going to share some knowledge that I would love to have had myself a year ago.
Learning the ropes
First of all, the U:PASS method is not an easy skill to master! It took me a while to completely understand how different being a U:PASS leader is to being a tutor. Giving a student the answers is so much easier than directing them to find the answers on their own, which is why being a U:PASS leader is so hard. It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of reteaching the content like a tutor when students aren’t cooperating. But do persevere! It is so much more rewarding for your students (and for you) to be able to work together to come to an answer.
Leading the conversation
That brings me to my second point; don’t be afraid of silence. Our generation’s fundamental fear of awkward silences are the bane of U:PASS leader’s existence! There will be times during sessions where it will be quiet and there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t be afraid to hold the silence rather than trying to fill it with tutor-like teaching. If your students are excessively quiet, try starting conversation to make them feel more comfortable to speak up. The more confident and friendly you are, the more they will be.
Public speaking can be downright horrifying, so I’m sharing some great ways I have overcome my fears over the past year. Firstly, sitting down with your students in a group setting is far easier than standing up in front of a screen and talking. It also makes it less intimidating for students to speak up and start the conversation, so it’s a win-win!
Similarly, when preparing for your session, design activities that take the attention off you. Group activities and games not only encourage students to learn from each other, but it also takes the eyes off you.
Creating a welcoming environment
Finally, get to know your regular students. It is so much easier to stand up and speak in front of a group of friends than a group of strangers. From your first U:PASS session try to be open and friendly by telling stories about your experiences in the subject, telling jokes or asking how your students’ last assignment went. It will make your sessions more enjoyable for both you and your students.
While being a U:PASS leader is extremely challenging, it is by far the most rewarding experience I’ve had at UTS. Every week gets better and I’ve developed life skills that have arguably helped me just as much as my degree has. Good luck to all the present and future leaders!