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Part-time work in schools: ‘Students get to see how great teaching really is’

Given the teacher shortage, secondary schools could use an extra pair of hands. Alfrink College in Zoetermeer is glad to have students from the university helping out in class. ‘We hope students will see how great it is to work in teaching.’

Marianne van Rheenen, a cultural anthropology student, is one of the students teaching at Alfrink College secondary school. ‘I give one-on-one instruction to pupils who speak Dutch as a second language. Although the school teaches in Dutch and English, it is important that they have a really good command of Dutch because the school-leaving examination is completely in Dutch.’

In the lessons, Van Rheenen reads with the pupils, helps them prepare for exams and does a lot of talking. ‘I practise their spoken language by getting them to talk about topics that are close to them, such as what they did at the weekend and what they want to do when they grow up. I focus on the errors they make in sentence construction and grammar and then we work on these.’

Keep up in class and society

The work at the secondary school is a part-time job for Van Rheenen. She was given training through the Graduate School of Teaching (ICLON) and is also given advice by a teacher at the school. ‘I’ve previously done voluntary work at a primary school. I helped children who don’t speak much Dutch at home with their reading. It’s nice that I’m now being paid for the work but I also like learning more about teaching. If I have any questions, I can now ask ICLON or a teacher at the school.’

Van Rheenen’s decision to do this job is grounded in her ideal of being one step ahead of problems. ‘Alongside the job at the school, I work for the Humanitas volunteer organisation where I help people with a migrant background who are facing financial problems. This is often because they do not speak the Dutch language, despite sometimes having lived in the Netherlands for years. This has made me appreciate the importance of learning the Dutch language to keep up in class and society.’

Enormous workload for teachers

Van Rheenen is not the only student at Alfrink College, says Jacqueline Kadri (French and Art & Culture teacher). ‘We’ve also got a student who helps with reading comprehension and next year a student will be helping with maths. At our school everyone reads for 20 minutes every day. There’s even a special school bell for that. We do it to help overcome the language deficits that some pupils have and to encourage all of the pupils to read more.’

The school doesn’t want everything to fall on the shoulders of its Dutch teachers because they already have an enormous workload. This school year one student helped with reading in class and checking whether the pupils were reading enough. She also got them to show which books they’d read on Booktokfilms (films on TikTok about books), for instance. ‘It’s obviously much more appealing if a classmate suggests a book than if teachers do’, says Kadri.

Get students fired up about teaching

The school is really pleased with the students’ help. ‘It’s really difficult to find staff’, says Kadri. ‘We can all use an extra pair of hands. And students can explain why, for example, a good vocabulary is important if you want to go to university. What we also hope is that students will see how great it is to work in teaching.’

Van Rheenen does not yet see herself teaching a particular subject to a whole class but she does want to explore how she could be active in a supporting role in education later on. ‘That would be really interesting.’

Teaching assistant

As teaching assistants (Persoonlijk Assistent van de Leraar; PAL), students are introduced to the teaching profession by helping teachers by performing support duties and providing extra assistance to pupils who need it. For more information on working as a student at a school, see the ICLON website (in Dutch).

Text: Dagmar Aarts
Photo: Rob Dorresteijn

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