Street Law Trainers
Street Law has been a rewarding project for the organisers, pupils and particularly the trainers themselves. Some of the students who have been involved with Street Law agreed to feedback to us on their experience. We asked them why they chose to participate, their experience of the programme and what they feel they have gained from it.
Why did you decide to become a Street Law trainer?
While in my final year of my undergraduate degree at Glasgow, someone from the Law Society came to a lecture to talk about Street Law. I had known throughout high school that I wanted to be a lawyer but I had never had the chance in class to learn more about the profession. From the way the programme was described, I knew teenagers would love it, just as I would have. I really enjoy public speaking and working with children so it was a great chance to merge what I'd learned and what I love to do while teaching children valuable lessons in a way they would enjoy. (Also, it doesn't half look good on a CV.)
Did you enjoy the experience and what has been your highlight?
I loved doing Street Law even more than I thought I would. For one hour a week my partner and I got to have fun in school with kids who had the best personalities and wanted to join in with everything. We got the kids out their seats, pretending to be lawyers, arguing their case and coming up with really intelligent ideas and opinions about the topics we discussed. One of the girls in our class told us at the end of a lesson that she'd decided she wanted to be a lawyer, which was the highlight of the programme for me.
What do you feel you have gained from your involvement?
Standing in front of a classroom of teenagers, who were usually more concerned about snapchatting their friends than paying attention, and trying to engage them in a lesson can be terrifying....... but once you get over the initial fear it is a brilliant way to practice speaking confidently, thinking on your feet and explaining legal issues in a way that every child in the class should understand and enjoy.
Future clients are unlikely to be well versed in the minute detail of specific areas of law and it is a real skill to take a complicated topic and express it in a straightforward and accessible way. Through my involvment in Street Law I have, during each lesson, practised and honed that very skill and I believe that it will have a positive impact on my ability to communicate and connect with clients in the future. I have also learned a great deal about how the law impacts the lives of young people; what they view as important and the disconnect between their understanding and the true nature of Scotland's and the United Kingdom's laws and legal processes.
What is your advice to anyone thinking about signing up?
Do it. Don't worry about the time you'll need to put in - the training is excellent and the amount of material and information you are provided with means there is very little you will need to prepare in advance. Don't worry about the classroom of wild teenagers - this is an absolute treat compared to copying from textbooks and writing essays, and they will look forward to seeing your face every week.
Don't worry about memorising everything you need to teach them - the best lessons involved the class contributing their own thoughts and ideas, discussing alternative scenarios and asking us questions. It is a great chance to meet and work with another law student, being partnered up with someone allows you to share the work and it's always nice to have some backup. You will have fun! Some of the things the children come out with would have us killing ourselves laughing after the class and we were often suprised at how insightful and creative they were. You will learn a lot from them which can only help you in the future.
What made you sign up to Street Law?
I decided to sign up for the Street Law project because I thought it was exactly the sort of thing someone involved in the law ought to do. I feel that as someone with a legal education I am in a somewhat privileged position and that I ought to be trying to make important legal issues more well-known. I think that there are some areas of law that the general public aren’t well-informed about and it is important for people to know more about the law.
Street Law also seemed really valuable in encouraging people from schools which don't have a lot of people applying to study law to get interested and involved in the law. Additionally, I thought teaching law to other people would be a great way to consolidate my knowledge and would hopefully teach me some new and useful skills.
Did you find working in the school enjoyable?
I have really enjoyed my time as a Street Law Trainer so far. I think that a lot of this is because of the pupils I am teaching. I couldn't have dreamed of groups of pupils who were more engaged and more interested in the tasks that we set them.
The pupils really get involved in the issues and seem to really enjoy the lessons. I think this is because we design them to be very participatory, to get the pupils discussing issues in a different way from their usual lessons.
I also think that the whole process of planning a lesson and executing that lesson is very rewarding. Though the prospect of standing up and teaching a class of pupils can be a bit daunting, it's a great feeling when the lesson you've put time and energy into creating is successful and you feel that you've taught the pupils something useful.
What did you learn about teaching, which elements worked well and not so well?
I have learnt a lot about teaching in the course of Street Law. I think the most important thing to bear in mind is that the pupils should be the focus of lessons. The more they engage, the more they will take from the lesson.
I also learned that it's important to adapt to what the pupils need and the particular circumstances of the lesson. I found the best lessons were the ones which included a lot of group work, as this gives pupils the opportunity to discuss the issues amongst themselves, and share their ideas. As the Street Law Trainer I could speak to each group, hear their thoughts and sometimes challenge their ideas to see if they could justify their points of view.
The elements of lessons which worked less well were ones which involved the trainers talking in front of the class, as there is a limited amount the pupils can take from listening, rather than discussing. However, I also found that full class discussion elements, or elements which require pupils to talk in front of the class, sometimes do not work well. Particularly with large classes, as not all pupils are happy to talk in front of the class, but can still contribute effectively in a small group setting.
What do you feel you have taken from the programme?
I have taken several new skills away from the Street Law project. I think that my presentation skills have improved enormously; I used to find talking in front of a group of people quite nerve-racking but the more I do Street Law, the easier it becomes.
I think that I have gained experience from the whole process of planning and executing a lesson. When planning a lesson you have to anticipate what the pupils might think about certain issues and how different techniques, such as group work, will work in practice.
I have also been able to develop my own critical thinking skills and my involvement has changed my perspective on the law. There have been several occasions when a pupil has suggested a way of looking at an issue in a different way. The process of teaching has given me valuable knowledge and experience.
What made you want to sign up to involved in Street Law?
I decided to sign up for Street Law after I attended a Street Law information session, during which Rob Marrs from the Education and Training department at the Law Society taught a mock lesson on ‘Should it be a Crime?’.
The lesson was something which I would have loved to be involved in when I was at school and it got me thinking about other important legal issues which students can be made aware of in an uncomplicated and fun manner and so I signed up straight away.
What has been your highlight so far?
The highlight was definitely the sense of achievement felt when you realised that you made an impact. In our class, there was one student whose mum phoned up the school after our third lesson and told them that her son raved about Street Law every week and couldn’t wait until the next one! It was great to know that we were actually making a difference.
What would you say to someone who's thinking about signing up to be part of Street Law?
I would definitely recommend the Street Law programme to anybody who is thinking of signing up. There is a great level of support and training from Rob and the team at the Law Society. You will improve your teamwork, communication and presentation skills and it is really interesting to consider law in a different light. The lessons were so much fun to teach and once you’re in front of the class, it isn’t half as daunting as it seems!
Do you enjoy being involved in the Street Law Programme?
I thoroughly enjoy Street Law for several reasons. Firstly, working with students of all abilities in a variety of schools provides a challenge on top of my daily University routine. The process is also a very rewarding one in which the students that I worked with progressively became more and more involved in a legal way of thinking, to the extent that one of the schools I worked in enjoyed the programme so much that they are integrating it into their curriculum for the next academic year. Lastly, working with various people across several locations has allowed me to develop my professional connections, and have a greater appreciation for the teaching of law.
What would you say to someone who is interested in becoming a Street Law Trainer?
If you’re thinking of signing up to Street Law, you might be surprised at how much you can get out of Street Law,. I had a fixed placement in one Glasgow school, but branched out further to schools in Edinburgh which allowed me to compare these experiences, as well as further develop my teaching style.
On the whole, the Street Law experience is a great one which can open doors for anybody with a legal background. I would thoroughly recommend the programme, so much so that I have signed up again for next year!
What do you feel you get out of it?
On a personal level, I got a lot out of seeing the students I taught becoming more legally conscious than they were at the beginning of the course, as well as the progression of my understanding for handling the law in non-legal circles.
On a more professional note, Street Law enhanced my proficiency with analysis and problem-solving in real life working environments, allowing me to spot critical issues in the lessons I taught and provide logical responses to questions in the classroom. The experience has helped to develop my professional responsibility in teaching classes of up to 40 pupils, using a selection of IT equipment and sharing responsibility with my colleagues.
What made you want to become involved in Street Law?
Prior to university, I had no idea what to expect from a law degree and always felt that the decision to study law was a leap of faith. Law is not an obvious career choice for many school kids because it is something that they know very little about. So I felt it was important to get into schools and share my knowledge and experiences to encourage those who had never considered law as a career and also to better prepare and inform anyone interested in pursuing law.
Street Law is targeted towards schools in which going on to higher education, particularly to study law, is uncommon. I felt it was important to show that going on to further education or pursuing a career in law is not something that is, or should be, reserved to people from certain schools or backgrounds and to encourage the pupils to explore these options.
What has been your highlight so far?
The clear highlight for me was a mock trial which myself and my teaching partner Emily taught towards the end of our teaching time. We simulated four mini courtrooms in the class and provided court robes. The pupils really got into their roles and all argued excellent cases. In particular, those who were Judges came up with excellent reasoning for their decisions and proposed ‘sentences’ that neither myself nor Emily would have dreamt they would have come up with.
In our first week, we asked the class who was interested in studying law and there was only one pupil who showed an interest. In our last class we gave a short presentation on studying law and offered leaflets which six students decided to take. It was fantastic to see that at least a handful of students had been encouraged to consider studying law in a school in which only two people went to University the previous year.
What would your advice be to someone thinking of signing up to be part of Street Law?
Anyone considering signing up should definitely go ahead and do so. The entire Street Law experience has been great fun and I definitely feel that I developed greatly as a result. There is a great deal of support offered throughout and it only takes up a few hours of your time each week.
Not only will you benefit, but you will definitely make a difference to the pupils who take part and so it is definitely a worthwhile experience.
What made you want become a Street Law Trainer?
I signed up to Street law to dispel my knowledge of the law onto others. Being that they are of age where they will soon be entering employment, renting, and facing other contractual obligations for the first-time, it is vital that these pupils understand the nature of law and how much everyday life is effected and monitored by the law. Most people assume the law to be simply about crime and punishment but I wanted these pupils to understand that the law is more than that; it is the basis of a civilised society, which is present from family disputes to property ownership to wills and succession.
What do you feel you get out of it?
I built great relationships with the pupils and the class teacher and have expressed my absolute pleasure to work with them again. I am now helping out one of the pupils to establish a debate club at the school to benefit herself, as well as others with communication and group skills. A few pupils have expressed their desire to further their education of the law and so I have offered to help with personal statements in their applications for university.
What might you say to someone who has mentioned and interest in Street Law?
I would definitely recommend taking part! It has been a thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling experience. So much so that I have furthered my street law duties to work in another school. The pupils admire and respect your opinion, an experience I had considered rare.
How did you become involved in Street Law and why?
I got an email through my University Law School and thought the idea was extremely exciting. Having worked in schools in the past and thoroughly enjoyed it, the opportunity to combine this with my studies was perfect for me.
Did you enjoy being a trainer? If so what was the highlight of your time working within the school?
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience from the training weekend to the teaching itself. The expert insight and enthusiasm shown from the trainers and the staff at the Law Society of Scotland got me extremely excited to start taking lessons. Once Alex (my Street Law training partner) and I arrived at Lochend Secondary School we were immediately impressed by the attentiveness of the class and their excellent contributions to class discussions. The highlight for me was setting up a mock trial in the class and seeing the pupils really getting into their roles. Both sides argued great cases and it was also fun for Alex and I to step into the role of judges!
What have you gained from the experience?
I feel I gained confidence speaking in front of groups and also developed my understanding of areas of the law that I hadn’t previously studied. Teaching lessons on social media and stop & search allowed me to learn the law of an interesting topic which I hadn’t previously learned about. The feeling after taking a successful class is hard to beat!
What drew you to the Street Law programme?
I signed up to be involved in Street Law because it’s the type of program I would have enjoyed at school. Before I went to university I had very little idea of what studying law would be like and just how vast the subject is. I certainly didn’t know anyone who was studying law. Had I known someone studying the subject and been able to ask them questions I would have been far better prepared when I started the course.
I was also interested in Street Law due to the type of schools which were being targeted. I attended a school where few people go on to higher education. I believe it is important to show pupils in such schools that they are just as capable as those in higher achieving schools and that studying law is an option for them.
What would you say to encourage other students to become a Street Law Trainer?
I would encourage them to sign up. I’d love to be able to do it all over again. It is a great experience which allows you not only to feel that you have benefitted the pupils but also to develop your own knowledge and presentation skills.
It need not take up all that much of your time due to the number of lesson plans available to you. The program only takes a couple of hours a week so it is not difficult to find the time for it.
How do you feel you have benefitted from the programme?
I feel I am now more confident about my knowledge of the law. As I am still early on in my studies I felt that I did not have much knowledge, but when planning lessons and answering the pupils’ questions it was obvious that I knew more than I thought.
I am also more confident in my own presentation skills. In the first few weeks I was nervous before going to the classes but by the end I was looking forward to them more and more.