Dr Matthew Eliot Ripley discusses his experience of RIS training and reflects on his own educational journey and the role inspiring teachers played.
Having only recently graduated from my PhD studies, and with little classroom experience since leaving school, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from RIS Summer Training. In all honesty, I was a little anxious, being aware that I would be one of the younger and less experienced new participants. Thankfully all my potential worries were swiftly put to bed upon actually arriving at the accommodation at the University of West London, where I was met with a friendly greeting from the RIS team.
Throughout the entire week a strong emphasis was placed on meeting new people and sharing our collective experiences with each other, and this really helped me to feel like I was being welcomed into a community of dedicated and passionate professionals. From inspirational keynote talks on The Brilliant Club and widening participation, to thought-provoking group discussions and team activities, an atmosphere of supportiveness and shared enthusiasm was quickly generated.
The keynotes in particular resonated with me. As a first-generation university student, and as the first doctorate in my family, I am immensely grateful to the teachers at my school for developing my love of learning and my aspirations to attend a competitive university. Widening participation for under-represented young people is at the heart of The Brilliant Club and the Researchers in Schools programme, and the statistics we were shown at Summer Training confirmed my reasons for applying to the course: as Researchers in School participants we have an opportunity to make a real, tangible difference.
The most concrete example of this is probably the Uni Pathways course that we have developed in the first week of Summer Training: a series of five tutorials aimed at introducing selected Year 10 students to ideas and skills from our PhDs. This was daunting to say the least, especially since it was concentrated over only two days, but the RIS team were on hand to provide support and encourage us to share our ideas with each other. Extra time on the final day was even set aside to give extra support to participants who were especially worried about their course design. We will be meeting the 2016 and 2015 cohorts next week, who will be putting their Uni Pathways courses on display, and I am looking forward to being able to discuss my ideas and their experiences with them.
My main takeaway from Summer Training will probably be the sense of community I have gained. I have had an opportunity to make friends with RIS participants from all over the country, as well as specific participants at my school and SCITT, and the sense of shared values and passion has been invaluable to me. I particularly enjoyed the introduction to our Learning Circles: a group of six or so participants in a space for listening and reflection. Although some of us joked about these Learning Circles as being “group therapy sessions”, I found them very insightful, and my Learning Circle has already set up a Whatsapp group so we can stay in touch after the end of Summer Training.
To summarise, my experience of RIS Summer Training has been both challenging and rewarding, and I am looking forward to meeting even more members of the RIS community next week.