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Guest blog from volunteer Jonathan Gilbert

2 July 2015
Medieval session
Melissa Julian Jones running the medieval session with Fitzalan

Jonathan Gilbert

As a Third Year Archaeology and Ancient History BA student I felt I needed to get some serious work experience under my belt before I graduated and joined the struggle of the job hunt. I was always told that I work well with children, and I have always had an interest in teaching, so SHARE with Schools sounded like a great opportunity for me. I must admit that, at first, my reasons for joining the project were selfishly orientated to building up my CV, but this soon changed when I went on my first workshop.

The workshops that I volunteered for included ‘Archaeological Skills’ with pupils in Year 7 – 9 at Fitzalan School, and ‘Romans in Wales’ for a variety of student year groups at Woodlands High School. The idea of working with children in a school environment was not an entirely new concept for me; I have previously worked at an after school club and holiday play scheme, at my local school, working with small groups of children. But this was far less formal than a classroom environment. SHARE with Schools on the other hand gives you the opportunity to work in the classroom, in a variety of challenging yet exciting situations.

In each of the workshops, I worked with a team to deliver a presentation, which was followed by fun educational activities and an examination of artefacts relevant to the topic. The workshops themselves were well planned out by more experienced members of the project which made it easier to learn my role in the workshop. This and working in a team was certainly reassuring, especially in the first few hours of the workshops when nerves were making my hands shaky.

Having studied the topics at university gave me the confidence to answer questions and provide more of my own knowledge to children who were interested in the topic. But that is not to say it’s easy to keep all children focused on the work. I recall one example from Fitzalan School when we were teaching archaeological skills to Year 9 pupils; several children were not very engaged in the activity. As it was part of a school fun day, where the students had the opportunity to try a variety of activities and archaeology was an unfamiliar subject, it was understandable that not all of them would find it interesting. So I had to try different techniques to involve those children. I challenged them and added my own questions with the activities and puzzles, all while making it fun. The response from the previously bored students was amazing and they proceeded to ask their own questions about archaeology and my university degree.

That was when I realised that inspiring pupils to become enthusiastic about learning is the true reward of this project. I found that I enjoyed the workshops so much more when the children were engaged in the activities and that made me want to pursue a career of teaching.