Category Archives: Volunteer

You think teaching is easy? Think again!

People who say teaching is the easy option need to come and do their placement in a school and have their eyes opened. As a placement student in school I’ve assumed the role of a teaching assistant, helping out in lessons with either less able or disruptive students. Unlike most teaching assistants I have specialist subject knowledge and can really challenge some of the students to learn more than ‘just enough to get them a pass’ which is what many students seem to aim for.
I’ve been on placement 3 months now, and have already learnt a great deal about teaching in general, and these are the things I would share with anyone looking at doing teaching after they graduate like I am.
1. Never show weakness – I’m pretty sure the students can smell fear on you. In my first week I was told that I have full teaching rights and to give out detentions if I feel they are needed. But I was not confident enough to do this and discipline properly, and they could tell I was new. As the weeks went on and I grew in confidence and learnt how to speak to the kids they learnt that I meant business! Now, they do listen to me, and if I set a detention, I’m not bluffing but mean it.
2. Children are nosey – No matter how many times I’ve told them I’m a university student, they always ask if I’m a real teacher. They ask how old I am, if I have children and if I’m married. Most of the time, they’re asking these questions because they’re bored or they just don’t want to learn. Don’t fall into the trap of answering these questions, as they’ll always find more to ask. I did like making them guess my age until one year 11 student said I looked 30… being 21, this was NOT what I wanted to hear.
3. They will not do as much work with a cover teacher – FACT, and I remember this from when I was at school. To even the best behaved students, cover teacher = easy lesson. Sometimes, just getting certain students through a lesson with a cover teacher without any other teachers having to remove them is an achievement, even if all they write is the date and the title.
4. Small arguments will be the end of the world for year 7s – In year 7, there is a huge difference in maturity, and it’s very obvious. Some students still think that, like in primary school, arguments will be sorted by the teacher, but most teachers don’t have time to monitor every small friendship issue. They will sort it in the end. They will learn.
5. You will not just be a teacher – As a teacher and especially as a form tutor (Which I am to a year 7 group) you assume the role of many other people. You’re a parent figure to some children with difficult home lives. You give advice and guide them in things that happen outside school. You council students who are struggling with friendships or find school life difficult. You’re a doctor, trying to decipher when a student is ill or ‘ill’ because they don’t want to do a test. And alongside teaching your main job is that you are a role model, teaching students not only the curriculum, but how to be a good person and how to grow into a good adult.

Applying for My Placement

For a long time I had considered continuing my education and qualifying as a Speech and Language therapist, but as it is specialised I was not sure whether it would be the right path for me. So, I decided to try my best efforts to secure a placement within the NHS under a Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) department.

Finding a placement in SLT and not being on the course was difficult, I must have contacted every SLT department, in every city, from Leicester to York and none would take me on. I attended one of the placement fairs at Aston’s Student Union and there is where I made my first contact with a Speech and Language assistant from Birmingham Community Healthcare (BCHC). She gave me a brief overview of the role and this coincided with the research I had done pushed me into applying for a student placement with BCHC.

The time between contact and receiving an interview was just under a few months and I considered this opportunity as my last shot so, it was pretty nerve wrecking. The nerves did not by any means end there, as there was little information about competencies and previous student interviews with SLT, there was only so much I could prepare for the interview.

I was interviewed by a therapist and an assistant who were really friendly and the first few questions were generic interview ones focusing on skills such as communication and team working. There were a few scenario based questions that did catch me off guard but it was just a case of applying the skills I had to the role I was applying for.  When I left the interview I felt that I had babbled on too much and did not do well, so it was to my surprise when I got a phone call later from my interviewer saying I had secured a placement!

Goodbye Birmingham, Hello, um, Home?

So when I started applying for placements, I didn’t really think about the reality of it all. I knew I wanted to come back home, to save some money and be closer to my friends, boyfriend and family. Throughout my time at Aston, I’ve always struggled with homesickness, so this seemed like the obvious choice. The easy option; how hard could it be?
Well, the answer is quite. And now I’m homesick for Birmingham – here are the top 10 things I miss about my 2nd home and favourite city!

  1. Uber – this sounds like a strange one, but my town doesn’t have Uber, and every time I use a regular taxi I now complain about the fact it isn’t Uber. I miss its convenience and its safety and hoping soon that my town finds its way into the 21st century.
  2. New Street – I miss being connected. From my local station (which only has one line) I can get to either Birmingham or London. From New Street, I can get anywhere. I’ve had so many tearful goodbyes there and seen it rebuilt into the architectural beauty it is now.
  3. Shopping – alongside our beautiful station we also got some new shops to compliment The Bullring. Forgetting a birthday is never an issue when I have pretty much any shop I could ask for just a 10 minute walk away.
  4. Not needing a car – don’t get me wrong, having my own car is a lifesaver and I need it to get to and from my placement every day. But I really don’t like the fact I have to pay for it. I now 100% understand why people moan about paying for parking, the cost of petrol and rush hour. I also really miss walking everywhere!
  5. Independence – Living on my own for 2 years has made me so much more confident, and now that I live with my parents again there are certain things I really miss. As a family we’ve always tried to eat dinner together, but I do really miss cooking for myself and having whatever I like to eat. (But I’m so glad I can enjoy Mum’s roast dinners again!)
  6. Flatmates – I learnt a huge amount from my flatmates. I learnt so much about different cultures, religions and ways of life. I also learnt to negotiate who was taking out the bins out, a really useful life skill.
  7. Learning – As much as I’m learning skills on my placement, I’m not learning academically. I miss lectures that really made me think and want to do my own research.
  8. Concerts – Birmingham has a really good music venues, my home town has, well, none. Being able to go to gigs and concerts and not have to rush to catch the train home was one of the best things about living in a city.
  9. Friends – although I’m at home, and have my friends here, I also really miss all my friends I made at university. Some are also on placement and some have carried on into their final year, but I know I really have made some friends for life at Aston.
  10. Coming home – I miss getting excited to visit home. I miss packing a suitcase, trying to find a seat on the train and being picked up from the station. But now I get to be excited to go and visit Birmingham, my favourite city!

7 Transferable skills that you can learn as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist

Hello again! How is everyone getting on? it’s been a while since my last post, truth be told I have been slacking slightly on keeping up with the regular posts… but that is no excuse to keep my readers waiting in anticipation! Gosh what month are we in now… APRIL! That means that I am already two-thirds into my placement, by July I’ll be finished.. where has the time gone!

Now I can understand that some of you will be at a point where you are still trying to secure a placement. Now rest assured if that is the case then you do not have to be worried about a thing! It is often the case that you might not be finding the luck in getting the placement of your choice, but with persistent determination you’ll be bound to find one! In all honestly I think Aston students fail to acknowledge just how many placement opportunities are available, enough to go around for everyone (though of course some placements differ in quality than others)

The thought of trying to focus on your academic studies whilst applying for your placement simultaneously can be such a stressful task at times, hence why I highly recommend that you guys book yourself into a spa of some sort.

Cheezburger cat animals dog cute

Regardless, don’t get discouraged if you keep failing to secure a placement, chin up and keep hitting that apply button! 

However if you are one of those students who have already secured your placement, then I can certainly imagine you will be doing something like this…

office chill relaxing chilling

Upon securing your placement, you will have the desire to know what your new placement year will bring you, the challenges that you will encounter but most importantly the transferable skills that you will be able to take back with you into your final year studies.

Below I have nicely (tried to!) summarised the transferable skills that I have picked up on so far  whilst on my placement as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist. For those interested in the field of clinical psychology, these might be of relevance to you!

1)  In this placement, you will get many opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of psychology. You need to make sure you take as much back as you can from this placement. Make notes and learn the different therapy models (the three most relevant: Biological ,Social and Psychological) Use this time to gather ideas for your final year dissertation!

2)  This placement will guarantee you a strong insight into the field of clinical psychology. Throughout my own placement as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist in the Community Mental Health Team, I have learnt to appreciate clinical psychologists and their commitment to the field of mental health.

3)  In your placement, you will start to build up a good rapport of psychosis. There are different diagnosis levels which vary from least severe to extremely incapacitated. This diagnosis assessment helps clinical psychologists assess who requires therapy and which type in particular, whereas less severe patients are recommended to other services of which could be NHS owned or third-party.

4)  Your placement supervisors will offer you many opportunities to shadow in clinical settings and even allow you to sit in large groups where you can administer questionnaires and build up an understanding with service users. Through experience you will start to gain confidence in speaking with service users and listening to their past history whilst adjusting your behaviour and appropriateness.

5)  You will be making a good use of your IT skills throughout the year. You will be expected to have basic admin knowledge and have worked on databases using MS Excel as well as MS Word. Expect to be a pro at taking minutes in a meeting by the end of the year! 🙂

6)  As an Honorary Assistant Psychologist, you will be sitting in on Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meetings. This is where service user referrals are discussed and different professionals ranging from Psychiatrists, Junior Doctors, Support workers, Community Psychiatric Nurses and Clinical Psychologists all give their input on how to deal with this service user best. You will get to understand how team work and sharing perspectives helps make decisions especially in the Community Mental Health Team setting.

7)  Overall this placement is very relevant to clinical psychology and will benefit you and your personal growth. You will strive to be proactive, show self-initiative in your work and demonstrate confidence in your own ability.

Hope that helps!

What would you want to take back from your placement year? Let me know what you guys think in the comments section below!

Until next time!

8 Tips For Being A Successful Applicant And Securing A Psychology Placement Interview

Welcome back. Hope everyone has survived the bleak January blues. Trust me I know… the feeling of starting your day in pitch darkness and ending it in pitch darkness alongside the pleasantries of the English weather. This is by far the most depressing feeling that one should never endure.. but alas spring is nearly here. So, enough faffing about and lets crack on shall we?

Hope you are all doing well, especially with the exam season coming to an end, I bet some of you are making the most of these weeks to have a breather and prepare for the second term! Literally I can still recall sitting in one of my exams during second year half way through an essay feeling like my arm was going to fall off because I was writing too fast! Thought I’d take short break and…

reaction celebs jimmy fallon fallontonight tonight show

Now I know that the super duper highly organised students (and that doesn’t include me)  have most likely accepted and secured their placement offer by now.. however for those who haven’t… do not worry, for atlas help has arrived! In the form of a…. blog post! 🙂

Lol okok I’m just going to cut to the chase, I thought I’d dish out some simple yet helpful tips that can often be overlooked. I’m sure you lot will benefit from this in the long run especially when it comes down to your very own applications and interviews!

1)  You should aim to start early and keep yourself organised. Make it a weekly routine to check the Aston placements website for newly added placements.

2)  Make sure your CV is up-to-date and has been thoroughly checked over for any grammatical errors. This also applies for your cover letter. If you need support with this, it is highly recommended that you try the Aston Royal Literary Fellow service.

3)  Show your passion through interests and your dedication through experiences. An employer loves to see candidates who have a variety of experiences in different work settings.

4)  As a candidate during the interview process, you need to demonstrate a professional and confident outlook. Take pride in your achievements and don’t be afraid to talk about them even if they aren’t relevant to the placement.

5)  Be yourself! The placement employers won’t expect you to know it all. Remain calm at all times and don’t let your nerves get the better of you. When giving responses do not rush to answer, take time if you need to think of a well thought answer.

6)  Throughout the interview, remain positive, that is the key! If you ever feel at any point during the interview that you’ve given a poor response or ruined your chances, then simply “Keep Calm And Carry On”. Most interviewees experience this feeling but later it turns out that the interview went better than expected!

7)  Keep your options open, apply for as many placements as possible. The more interviews the better. Not only will this be good for your experience and confidence, but it will also show you how competent you are. Once you feel that you have enough options in the bag, start to deduce your placement offers by making comparisons taking different factors into consideration such as travel distance, job specifications, perks etc.

8)  DISCLAMIER: Please make sure you thoroughly read the job specification for the placement you are applying for. Often students miss out on the crucial details which make a huge difference in what they actually do during their placement year. For example, in terms of responsibilities and experiences, this is a significant difference between Assertive Outreach and Community Mental Health. Try researching each role carefully and try finding past placement students who have worked in either role to see their perspective on it!

Hope that helps!

Let me know what you guys think makes an interview successful in the comments section below!

Until next time!

Welcome to the working world of psychology in the NHS

Hi everyone, welcome to my first post of the month! My name is Ali and as an Aston placement year student I haven’t really had the opportunity to introduce myself, I think now is the chance! I’m originally from Worcester (home to the famous Worcestershire sauce!).

For those who don’t know me, I study BSc Psychology at Aston and will be going into my fourth and final year studies come October 2016. So.. what am I doing in my placement year? Since the start of early September 2015, I officially became an honorary assistant psychologist! Now for those who don’t know, an Honorary is the unpaid equivalent of an Assistant psychologist who on the other hand, may bear extra responsibilities and most of all…gets paid! However when one looks at the benefits and experiences that an honorary assistant post has to offer, the dilemma of working for free doesn’t sound that bad after all! Now you might be asking yourself.. what are exactly these responsibilities?  

  1. As an honorary assistant, you will have plenty of opportunities to observe assessments and/or therapeutic work with service users reporting psychological difficulties.
  2. To be able to develop and practice skills in psychological assessments and interpretation, making good use of formulations and honing your listening ability.
  3. To support clinicians in everyday tasks such as analysing service user notes to find specific information or divulging into past histories searching for life events that could have been potential triggers contributing to mental health disorder.
  4. To be able to observe multidisciplinary discussions about a service users diagnosis, treatment, risk assessment and care plan issues whilst having opportunities to interact with other professionals.

Now what I mentioned above is just the tip of the ice berg, as there is always something new to encounter and things to pick up as an honorary assistant. The service users that you come across each portray their own unique diagnoses alongside the relevant therapies given. As I progress through my placement year, every month my post will cover certain aspects of my honorary assistant post and the key highlights of my experiences.  Mind you, it’s quite interesting to listen to our experiences as the leap from University life (theoretical) to a fixed routine working life (practical hands on) can be quite difficult at first to adjust to.

I’m guessing you are eager to ask me right now, what is the work placement world like? It’s actually what you would expect, working your socks off 9am till 5pm 4 days a week. It’s really not that bad when compared to working a full 5 days a week! I guess that’s the benefits of being a psychology placement student.  Up till now the most I’ve really struggled with is commuting. As I live in Worcester, a standard train journey to Birmingham can take up to an hour and this is not including the walking distance between the station and the placement location. Therefore in order to be punctual and on time, I’ve often found myself waking up much earlier (6am wakies) than friends in similar psychology placements, only because I’m geographically situated further away from Birmingham than they are. However for me that’s no excuse for being late! Unfortunately the down side for me is that because of other commitments i.e. part time work and extra curricular activities, I often find myself either jogging or running around most of the time!

Overall, I’ve found myself  having a very compact and structured day in which I would find myself waking up early and sleeping late. Even till now I’m still trying to find ways to balance my activities and sleep routine, as I feel I don’t have enough time to get most of my tasks done. To address this issue, I’ve came up with a time management plan in which I prioritise my workload effectively. This allows me to get the most important tasks completed for the week, leaving the weekend free to have a break in the evenings after my part time job in the mornings! I think the only thing that I’m constantly worried about is falling asleep in the train especially in the mornings! The feeling of waking up in the train realising that you’ve completely missed your station and have to spend hours getting back isn’t a pleasant one!

cat train whatever lazy idgaf

I hope you’ve found my introduction post useful,  I’m certain it will provide an insight that will be useful for anyone with an interest in a clinical psych placement like this or something similar. Please stay tuned for my second post, see you all!