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Coaching pupils: Supporting young people

Puberty is a turbulent time. What do I want to do in life and how do I go about achieving it? In the project “ROCK YOUR LIFE!” you can help young people make their wishes come true while learning a lot in the process.

by Florian Schubert

Mai aus Vietnam © Privat
Mai from Vietnam . © Privat

Mai likes going to the theatre and the museum. And now she doesn't have to go by herself, because, for the last six months, she has been able to take "her" pupil with her. Her "pupil"? Yes! She's not a teacher, but she does work as a volunteer in the organisation "ROCK YOUR LIFE!" (RYL). Mai comes from Vietnam and studies Sinology at the University of Hamburg.

The association and its goals

The goal of "ROCK YOUR LIFE!" is to offer everyone an equal chance at gaining an education. This is still a common problem in Germany. Youngsters, who grow up in non-academic families (i.e. whose parents haven't studied at university), are also less likely to attend “Gymnasium” (university-track secondary school) and enroll at university than other children their age. The pupils who participate in RYL, or "coachies" as they are called, attend “Hauptschule”, a general-level secondary school. This type of school allows pupils to get their school-leaving diploma after only nine or ten years. Your job is to accompany a pupil during their last two school years.

Picknick mit Schülern © Rock Your Life
Picnic with the pupils . © Rock Your Life

In "ROCK YOUR LIFE!" you help your pupil prepare him/herself for life after graduation. You can do this, for example, by working with your partner to identify his/her personal strengths and weaknesses. You can also help him/her find an internship or write an application. There are many possibilities - it all depends on the needs and interests of your pupil.

Mai's story

"I think my pupil simply needs a big sister or somebody neutral, who she can talk to about everything. I get the feeling it's "uncool" to talk with friends at the “Hauptschule”  about one's fears or plans for the future. That's what I'm here for," Mai explains.

They discuss these subjects whenever they go to the movies, museum or Christmas market. You are free to decide between yourselves what you would like to do. RYL also organises activities, such as picnics, at which various teams can meet each other.

Mai found out about the association by chance in November 2012. After talking about the project, she put herself in the shoes of those whom RYL is trying to help. "I remembered how it was when I was in the eighth grade. I also wondered what I wanted to become and what I was interested in. But I had a lot more time to think about it," she explains. While pupils in the “Hauptschule” graduate after only nine or ten years, those in “Gymnasium” attend school until twelfth grade.

Diskussion mit Schülern © Rock Your Life
Discussing with the pupils . © Rock Your Life

Coaching for the coaches

If you'd like to be a coach, don't worry - you won't be thrown into cold water. Before you even meet your pupil, you receive an introduction to the programme. "One thing we learned, for example, is what to do at our first meeting. Naturally, you have high expectations and can't wait to meet them, but they told us not to expect too much. For example, it might be hard to start a conversation. The important thing is to find out how to relate to your pupil. Every person is different, each has their own character," Mai recalls.

The job requirements

Each association has different procedures for teaming up coaches with their pupils. Sometimes the coachies pick their coaches, and sometimes they decide for each other.

You are expected to accompany your pupil for two years, which means that you should be planning on staying in Germany for at least two years. You should also bear in mind that, because your pupil is younger than you, his/her English won't be as good as yours. Therefore, it would be good if you spoke a little German.

Learn from your pupil!

"It's just wonderful to see my pupil grow up. I have the feeling that my work here is appreciated and that I've accomplished something," Mai says. But even as a coach, you can also benefit from RYL. For example, pupils know their hometowns like the back of their hand. Together with your pupil, you can discover places you might have never found as a university student. And of course, you can be a role model! Perhaps you'll meet a pupil who comes from your home country and who you can motivate with your experiences.