mentoring

Mindfulness in Education: Oppidan Mentoring

Mindfulness in Education

The Building Block to a Happier Future

We were delighted to welcome Regina Zheng, a certified Mental Health Therapist & healthcare technology startup founder, to present to our mentors the strategies within mindfulness that she has developed as an Oppidan Mentor. The discussion centred on working with students in high-stress and high-pressure environments and we analysed in depth the importance of mindfulness as a concept within education and from there, the best approaches on how to incorporate mindfulness to within current mentoring relationships.

Children are increasingly worried about performance. They are highly aware of targets and ‘hoops’ they are expected to jump through. As educators, it is imperative to be aware and notice how this behaviour is displayed and how it manifests itself.

Regina argued that if students’ emotional needs are not met, then it is difficult for them to learn and to progress. Mindfulness, she says, is a tool that can help students explore both the cause of anxiety and aid in its reduction. Satisfying the need to express and let go of what is felt allows students to refocus and absorb new information better.

Regina’s main argument centred on the idea that society has deviated from the optimal state in which students are able to academically perform at their best. Many students are both over scheduled and over committed. It is important to teach mindfulness because the brain is a muscle that can be trained for optimal performance. However, when we rigorously academically  train it while negating other aspects, results will be lackluster. She quoted Bill Gates who poignantly describes his mindfulness practice as “learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in [his] head, [while establishing enough] distance from them to calm down.”

Scientific research findings support the assertion that mindfulness improves focus, reduces stress and boosts memory retention. Mindfulness is an important skill for mentor-mentee relationships, because it satisfies an emotional need that acts as a building block towards both higher academic performance and general wellness.

As educators at Oppidan, this approach is not simply paying lip service to a trendy new-age approach to pedagogy. This is the anchor for fundamental change and a cause for real development in the happiness and welfare of children.

Meet the Oppidan Team: Olivia, Felicity and Marina

Aligning ourselves with the US’ Mentoring Month, alongside our own campaign ‘We All Need A Mentor’ we wanted to introduce you to the Oppidan Team, asking them about their own mentoring experiences. This week, meet the Managers:

Olivia Buckland
Partnership Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

Aside from my parents, my rowing coach. I grew up on the water. He taught me not to be afraid of making mistakes, nor to beat myself up when trials, tests, or races didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I learnt that being part of a supportive team was better than existing in a fractured boat with people who didn’t care about the others on the same journey.                

What does mentoring mean to you?

Having someone on your team who is invested in your whole person, not a single goal. Comparison is the thief of joy - and sometimes you need a co-navigator to help steer the path that one can lose sight of in times of stress or disappointment. A mentor means you’re not singularly invested in your goals. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Enjoy learning - it’ll make school, tests, and life so much easier. Try this approach and be amazed. Your recall will be better if you put less pressure on yourself to perform for other people’s expectations. 

Olivia graduated from Cambridge University (English & Education) in 2018 and joined Oppidan in December. Olivia is Oppidan’s Partnership Manager and in charge of school and commercial partners.

Felicity McDonald
Events Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

My mentors came in the form of my performing arts teachers. Whether this was my dance teacher, singing coach or drama teachers, they guided me through some of the complexities of growing up as a teenage girl. I look back now and am truly grateful for the support they offered me throughout those years. 

What does mentoring mean to you? 

It was never formalised for me in a sense that I had an out-and-out mentor; some of the best mentoring I think can comes from friends. Mentoring, for me, is about having someone beside you who is not judgemental and helps your learn and grow. This comes in all shapes and sizes. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Live in the moment, worry less about self-image and enjoy your childhood (you only get one!)

Felicity was educated at Mayfield Girls School before studying Sociology at Bristol University. She has previously worked in Event and Marketing capacities in the financial industry.

Marina Oswald
Client Manager

Who was your mentor growing up?

I was lucky enough to have a number of mentors who supported me in different ways as I was growing up; godparents, family members, teachers. I still consider many of these people to be my mentors to this day, I am constantly inspired by them, they continue to help and support me to grow and reach my goals.

What does mentoring mean to you?

The role of a mentor is versatile and ever changing. To me mentoring means growth, ambition and support.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

On occasion I have been told a question I have asked is not relevant or 'silly', and unfortunately I allowed this to put a stop to my interest in a subject and feel as though it wasn't worth speaking up. One of the most important pieces of advice I would give to myself is - cultivate your curiosity and never stop asking questions.

Marina was educated at Moor Park and then Stowe School. She had worked in Public Relations for four years, focusing on the lifestyle and hospitality sectors before joining Oppidan Education.

The D7: Oppidan Education & a Wimbledon Champion

Mentoring exceeds tutoring.

Watch the video to find out why.

How many times have you heard your child say, “I’m bad at maths,” “I can’t revise,” “I freeze in exams”? The chances are, almost every day.

However much tuition a child gets, and I use the term tuition to describe technical, prescriptive exam help, this attitude will never change. They’ll remain frozen by the negative self image they have and they’ll forever think that being “good” or “bad” is something inherent. Their confidence and desire to learn will plateau; their technical ability may indeed improve, but there’s fundamentally a limit as to what they can achieve.

At Oppidan, we have the solution to this problem. Our mentoring provides the necessary change to the current binary approach of assessing children. By focusing on seven different areas within each lesson to help critically analyse where a child can improve, our mentors help your child throw off the fake self-image they have of themselves.

Oppidan mentors use the D7 as a resource to give structure and game plan to mentoring work. It allows the mentors to understand the dynamic of the student’s learning, offering a fresh form of gentle assessment for them to utilise. Over time, tracking the D7 realises tangible progressive results.

We have partnered with Richard de Souza, a sports psychologist and the creator of the D7 whose approach has led to winning a Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis championship. Together with Richard, we train our mentors to appreciate the nuances of each child’s learning and to follow the same techniques to allow for the same success that he has had.

Oppidan’s educational mentoring is an objectively unique product within the market and an approach, we believe, that is the future of one-on-one teaching.

Current Affairs: The Oppidan Way

Current Affairs: The Oppidan Way

As a child, I would often fancifully picture my adult self reading the morning newspaper and drinking a strong black coffee. There can be little doubt that a cup of coffee is an essentially adult image; regrettably, the same is largely true of the newspaper. 

It’s all too easy to communicate to children that politics belongs only to the adult world. Accordingly, a child will often accept from a very early age that their place in political discussion is that of a privileged outsider. As a mentor, I notice repeatedly that children are intimidated by political discussion, and I believe that this is largely a result of an unnecessary adult-ising of politics.

We’ve decided to launch a series of current affairs workshops to combat this problem.

Engagement with current affairs is becoming increasingly important within education. As the school entrance process at 11+ and 13+ is slowly revolutionised and leading schools move away from traditional exam-driven modes of examination, Oppidan’s emphasis on the roundedness of a child’s education grows more and more relevant by the year. Political stories are often used as a launch pad for discussion in interviews, but for many children this serves to reinforce the adult-child interview dynamic and makes them hesitant to think and speak freely.

We all perform at our best in interviews when we feel respected as an equal, but the problems outlined above often make this much less likely for a child who is confronted with a political topic in a school interview. As the school years tumble into the Sixth Form, a wider awareness of political issues is overtly rewarded in many humanities subjects – and the increasing emphasis on independent study, as enshrined in the mission statements of the increasingly popular Pre-U and the Extended Project Qualification, has cemented this more deeply. In short, children who can engage with current affairs and political issues with humble curiosity and confidence are rewarded in abundance. 

There is compelling evidence that increased understanding of current affairs correlates with increased academic performance across the full range of subjects. That is, even when allowing for similarities in educational and socio-economic background, there seems to be an indirect relationship between engagement with current affairs and broader academic performance that sees increased performance even in seemingly unrelated subjects such as maths!

The fundamental aim of a parent, so goes the adage, is to make themselves redundant. I try to order my mentoring according to the same maxim, and a core part of the joy of working with Oppidan has been getting the chance to talk at length with Henry, Walter, and the team about the values and skills we should strive to leave our mentees with. ‘Humble curiosity, confidence, and adaptability’ can sometimes become something of a tag-line, but in the day-to-day work of a mentor it acts as a yardstick against which progress and value can be measured.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing several children grow in their understanding of political events and relationships over a number of years. At each turn, this engenders a level of humility and confidence that empowers them throughout their daily lives; and, as they grow older and their lives become increasingly complex, a social and intellectual adaptability shines through. These are nebulous terms, of course, but in practice they allow a child to take their learning beyond the classroom, to experience themselves as a member of the community, and to nourish themselves as life-long learners. After all, in the trenches of the adult world, the newspaper often represents our great daily opportunity to learn. 

Our workshops are structured to help children engage with the pressing importance of politics and to develop their analytical skills. We believe that through group engagement and the interactive nature of the workshops, we are taking a vital first step towards providing a platform for children to engage with political discussion as equals.

By Michael Slade, Oppidan Mentor & Speaker

***

Our first current affairs workshop will be on Tuesday January 16th at 5:30pm and arrives in time for a busy few weeks of school 11+ and 13+ interviews in the latter half of January. Accordingly, it is pitched at an appropriate standard for these age groups. The bedrock of the workshop’s content will be the week’s three central stories. We will be unpacking the importance and relevance of each story, and throughout we will be considering how different media coverage can alter our view of each story. Using a variety of media, the workshop will  act  variously as a lecture, a political discussion group, and political theatre. 

To book your ticket for the event at Second Home, Holland Park, please email enquiries@oppidaneducation.com  

Oppidan's Poet Laureate 2018

Douglas - Oppidan Camp ‘Poetry Laureate.' Easter Camp 2018

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Many might think that this camp is just more work.

However really it is a big thump-on-the-knee.

Oppidan is just like doing art work.

With Dragon’s Den you can make your own company.

And with languages, history, poetry tests, capture the flag, human charades.

It is positive to make your last vocally cracking games probability like Ludo.

Oppidan is sure to make you explore the wonders of our adventurous brains.

Socially, rather than academic war and destroys our fears for our future aims.

Oppidan is a bulging chance to win. Never something you should consider and bin.

Douglas' Diary - The Evening Standard, April 2018

When I was told I was going to the Oppidan Camp, I thought it would be like school or having a tutor. It was not.

Take maths. We were taught by students who were the same age as us. This was good because they understood the way we think.  

The child teachers would write on a white board. We were encouraged to make suggestions for solving problems. What I liked is that we were in a relaxed environment. We sat on sofas. 

We managed to cover almost a whole year’s lessons in an hour — or at least that is what it felt like. What was exciting for me is I learnt all about pi, and measuring the diameter and circumference of circles.

In languages, it was impossible to hide our weaknesses. We stood up in a circle, and one of the tutors would ask us to translate Latin and French vocab. If we got it wrong, we would lose a life. And after we lost two lives, we would have to sit down.

It felt like a game.

Then we were put into teams of three people. We were lucky that a boy in my team was bilingual in French. Each was given a Latin or French word. We had to write down all the declensions. The first team to finish got a point. My team came second. 

In public speaking, we were told to research whether social media had a good or bad impact on the world. I think that social media is negative, but I had to argue the positive side of it.  

One of my team did the introduction to the debate. I did the middle part: I made six points. Then it was an open debate, and we talked in a more relaxed way.

I learnt the important thing is to stay quiet and listen to what others are saying. Because then you can make an important point and win.

Outside, we did orienteering. There was an assault course where balloons filled with water were fired at us. Twice we played “Capture the flag”. I dodged all the teachers. The team I was on always won. And I captured more flags than anyone else.

The most enjoyable session of the week was Dragons’ Den. In my team of three, we spent the first hour inventing our business, making a plan, and designing a logo. 

Our idea was an app with recipes for how to use waste food. We were each given £300,000 to create our companies.

The mistake we made was we were too loud in criticising other businesses. We did manage to raise money from one of the Dragons. But we were told that we could not win the contest, because we were not respectful enough. 

We slept in tents. Before bed we roasted S’mores and told scary stories. I loved Camp Oppidan and want to go back.

D. Paisner

https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/review-of-mentoring-school-a3815031.html

Mentoring under the Microscope

“I appreciate what Oppidan are doing, treating children like young adults, stimulating their learning whilst having fun. His confidence is through the roof as is his self-esteem and self worth – this is a godsend.”

Mr. Velez

August 2017

At the risk of self-promotion, this testimonial from an Oppidan parent encapsulates the breadth of education that mentoring allows.  The narrative of mentoring and the success it brings focuses on support, direction and guidance. It highlights the role of the mentor in promoting development and potential commensurate with a child’s ability. It advocates humble curiosity, confidence and adaptability as the soft skills associated with “slow education” at the expense of prescriptive target-based tuition. In turn, this helps foster independence at school and at home, and a sense of self-worth which goes some way to helping manage the stress for children and parents in pursuing academic challenges.

It is self-evident that the mark of a good mentor is the rapport they are able to nurture with a student. This should be obvious. If the student doesn’t trust or value the mentor, little progress is made. We often say that the difference between mentoring and tutoring is intrinsic: as the relationship develops, the shift happens organically and the mentor takes on a different role that transcends academia. Once the child is invested in you, the sky is the limit as to what can be achieved. You are as much a mentor in the enthusiasm and the personality you bring to the lesson as you are in the actual content of the lesson.

As already discussed, the ethos of mentoring stresses encouragement, empathy and creativity within learning: above all, a sense that learning is fun and to be taken advantage of. But how does that manifest itself within a lesson? This is a question Henry and I are often asked. “The narrative sounds wonderful but what will you do differently?”

Mentors differ in their approach to one-on-one teaching not only in the personality they exude within that lesson but also in the way they teach and the content and the creativity they bring to it. A child will more likely do well with a teacher they like, but there are also specific techniques that help engage and promote active learning. Through these, they take mentoring from a frilly add on to something tangible which produces results and practical progress.

1.)   Lessons must be student led: Too often tutors follow the same passive form of teacher-led teaching at schools. Instead, students of whatever age must be encouraged to take the initiative on what they want to learn and what they think would be beneficial to study.

2.)   “I teach, we teach, you teach:” Research shows that if a child has to teach the material they have learnt, the material is far better understood. A move from lecturing to discussion and then onto teaching ensures marked improvement and gives children the confidence to be able to tackle difficult material.

3.)   Active Learning:  Encourage movement during lessons. Whether that be through placing an exercise on each side of a table and moving around it completing each exercise, or simply taking the lesson outside, taking a lesson outside a classroom environment helps a child relax and feel at ease.

4.)   Focus on Self-Projection: Lessons should involve situations where children (and mentors) are asked to present, to speak about themselves, to debate, critique or question an article, passage or piece of literature. The Radio 4 game show “Just a Minute” is brilliant preparation for interviews as well as vital in learning to project.

5.)   Mentor - Child Performance Reviews Mentors and their charges should spend time focusing on how the other person is performing. A novel concept at first, barriers are broken down and it’s hugely rewarding for the child to take control of the lesson.

6.)   Demystifying the Comprehension: There is reason to suggest that the comprehension is the least popular task within the English syllabus. And rightly so – the concept is disconnected from what students take satisfaction from: real-life learning. A good tip is to practice comprehension skills on the book that child is reading – they’ll take far more interest in something they are already invested in.

7.)   Overcoming Perfectionism: Allow a child to be wrong. Often. Discussion on “thunks”, a collection of questions with no simple answers, helps children understand the process and train of thought and the need for clarity in explaining their reasoning.

8.)   Super-Curricula Studies: A brief from a parent to improve a child’s English or Maths should still involve aspects that go beyond what the curriculum dictates should be taught. 20-word summaries of books they have read, poetry analysis contextualised within what they are learning at school, art history or even situational thinking (working out the date of historical events based on clues you are given) help keep things fresh in otherwise often-dry subject matter.

9.)   Lesson-Analysis Oral plenary sessions at the end of a lesson help round off what has been learnt and negates any sense of confusion within the child. What has been learnt? What are the key points? How do you evaluate what has been learnt? How could you apply this knowledge?

These techniques are neither novel nor are they the only way to make a success of teaching one-on-one. But if in a small way, they help change expectations and make the child look forward to the lesson, then I would argue progress is being made.

By Walter Kerr 

How to Choose the Right Mentor

Children are wonderfully diverse and the way they learn best differs case by case.  As such, pairing each child with a mentor is a thoughtful and methodical process and one that requires diligence and sensitivity. The key is the fit: to find a mentor that works with your child as an impartial yet fully engaged part of their education. Once your child looks forward to their time spent with a mentor, the toughest barrier is broken and both independence and enjoyment can be found in their sessions together.

As client manager for Oppidan Education, I take the greatest care and responsibility in researching the best possible match for both the child and mentor. To do this, I find out important, fundamental details including similar personality traits, interests and hobbies, as well as looking at their respective schooling and whether that will be an added benefit to the child. The mentors we employ and those that work best with children have the requisite experience and the know-how with regards to specific teaching methods and curricula. More than this though, the match is personality based. I look for empathy, enthusiasm and their ability to engage a child fully in the process of learning.

A key element in choosing the right mentor for a child is to look at the way in which a child responds differently to male and female interaction. It’s often difficult for young boys to empathise with older girls and vice versa. With entrance procedures for co-ed schools, registrars look at how girls and boys interact for the first time at assessment day, and so for families applying to these schools, it is often in fact better to have a mentor of the opposite sex work with their child.

I establish how much the child needs motivating and encouraging; quite often one session with a mentor is enough to change their expectation or perspective of what is required of them.  A long chat on the phone or a meeting in person helps establish who best will work with your child, and once I have found the two most ideal mentors and subsequently discussed them with you, the choice is down to the client and it is on their lead that a plan is put in place. Very often trial sessions are a good way to figure out if the chemistry between the child and mentor is right.

A huge satisfaction in my job is watching the developments between a successful pairing take place. If the mentor is helping the child to be happy, fulfilled and achieving at their very best, we have done a good job. Whether working towards a tangible target such as passing Common Entrance, or perhaps focusing on the soft skills we associate with confidence and conviction, successful pairing can have a monumental influence on a child’s educational and personal development. Witnessing the all-round happy outcome it breeds gives me great satisfaction and motivates me further to help pioneer a different approach to one-on-one teaching.

By Tilly St Aubyn