It’s taken me a while to wrap my head around the Scottish education system – I’m still getting used to meeting 1st year Uni students that are not (as is standard in England) 18 or 19, but that are actually barely 17. In England we take our major exams in 5th, 6th and 7th year – up in the north though it turns out to be 4th, 5th and (optionally) 6th years that have them to worry about. Which is how I came to be transferred to a 4th year group, reasoning being they might need a bit of extra support in the build up to their Standard Grades.
I’m really excited for next year now – this first couple of months has been mostly training and trying to find a place when I can actually be useful. From my brief sessions with the students so far I’ve learnt two main things: firstly, that it is absolutely terrifying the first time someone actually asks you a question; secondly, that students are not going to automatically want to ask for your help. Realising that someone actually expects you to have some authority in your subject area is incredibly disconcerting. There was a horrible moment when I really thought I wouldn’t be able to explain a 4th year level problem – I seem to have a knack for mind-blanking everything I know at the worst possible moments. That said, the main thing that I’ve realised is that it’s much, much harder when they don’t ask questions. It’s very hard to know what to do when you know that someone needs a bit of help, but they won’t ask. That’s what I’m looking forward to most next year – knowing the class well enough that they feel that they can ask me stuff.
In fairness to them, if I’d had a stranger barely 5 years older than myself dropped in front of me and told to ask them for help during my GCSEs, I’d probably have been a bit disconcerted too. This is something I’ve definitely adjusted to at Uni though – a major feature of Edinburgh is that almost all of our tutors are postgraduates. I’ve long since adjusted to the fact that people literally less than 5 years older than myself are more than capable of dealing with pretty much any of my problems on my course. I probably would not have thought that way whilst I was at school though – there teachers are teachers, and students are students, and there’s a pretty vast chasm between the two.
I suppose that the entire ethos of Pro Science is about straddling that divide, but I think it’s going to take a bit more time for me to get that balance right.