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Click here for Prep in York’s December Newsletter

And on that note, have a very Merry Christmas.  Family Pywell is off to London tomorrow.  Father Christmas knows where to find us, the presents are wrapped and we’ve got our Christmas reading ready to go.  Have a wonderful holiday one and all.

English tuition in York and online

I posted this the other day on its own page, but thought it worth reminding people with a blog post too.  I’m getting more and more busy with online tuition requests and am delighted at how much it’s taking off!  Get in touch if you want to discuss any practicalities.

Online tuition is an increasingly popular way of seeing a tutor; it is convenient for the student, who doesn’t have to leave the comfort of their sitting room or kitchen table, easy to set up with Skype or FaceTime and document sharing through Google Drive or Scribbler and, above all, just as effective and efficient a way of learning as meeting in person. You are still face to face, you still receive instant feedback on your work and you still make excellent, measurable progress.

If online tuition might be fore you, then please get in touch and we can arrange to ‘meet’ at your convenience!  I offer a 10 minute introduction to show you how it works first.

A York English tutor’s collection of literary, Christmassy quotations. Merry Christmas!

“The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.”
–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
–Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Fine old Christmas, with the snowy hair and ruddy face, had done his duty that year in the noblest fashion, and had set off his rich gifts of warmth and color with all the heightening contrast of frost and snow.”
–George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
–Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!”
–Hamilton Wright Mabie

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”
–Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”
–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Oh I absolutely love Christmas!”
-Kay Thompson, Eloise

An English teacher on her high horse: ‘Academic’ vs ‘Creative’ subjects.

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I re-read this article today and got very, very annoyed.  It’s about the government’s EBacc, about ‘academic’ and ‘creative’ subjects and about how a ‘rigorous’ education is more important than an artistic one.

To me it’s funny that English is considered one of the ‘hard’ subjects that makes for a ‘rigorous’ education, as opposed to one of the ‘creative’ subjects that the government doesn’t seem to value anywhere near as much. Obviously I think it’s a vital subject, but I think its importance lies in that it teaches us to think. I also think that it’s not necessarily ‘English’, the language, that’s important. In English lessons, in English speaking countries, we’re teaching three fundamentally important things, and only one of them is to do with the language specifically. Yes, we’re teaching communication in the English language, and that is necessary for both English speakers and those who want to be English speakers. In that sense, English is on a par with any other language, and it’s this element that the government seems to consider makes it ‘hard’ and therefore ‘worthy’.

The other aspects of the subject that make it so freaking wonderful though, are nothing to do with being able to recognise bias in journalism, or punctuate a sign, or write a letter to an employer.

0dac601965da5c8f440ae7c642eb81faThrough Literature we learn how other people think the world works, and we learn how to tell the world what we think about that. There is nothing more creative than exploring and analysing other people’s dreams and views, and showing your own to them. Literature is inextricably linked to ‘the creative subjects’, to Drama, to Art, to Music, and it is also linked to ‘the academic subjects’, to History, and even to Maths and Science, subjects which some people mistakenly think it is impossible to be simultaneously interested in if you are a ‘bookish’ sort of person. Reading, understanding, exploring and responding to a poem is not a ‘hard’ skill that children need to learn so they can get jobs as lawyers and accountants and doctors and all the other jobs that we aspire for our children to have. It is the very essence of creativity. It is a skill, for sure, that can help children get those jobs, but it is also a skill that can help children make sense of the world in which they live, can make them emotionally mature and secure people, and can give them the tools to make a difference where they want to, whether as lawyers or mothers or binmen.

quote-Boris-Pasternak-literature-is-the-art-of-discovering-something-137109_2It is saying, ‘why was Wordsworth ‘wandering’? Why wasn’t he striding purposefully? Why wasn’t he running? What was he thinking? Who was he with? Why? What was I thinking about the last time I took a walk? What is the point of exploring the field over there, or the world? What might I discover? What do I want to say about it? Why is it important to say whatever that is? Or why should I not say it at the moment?  What can I learn from other people who think the same thing, or the opposite thing, or a thing somewhere in the middle? What can we learn from each other?’

It is clear that these questions (and the hundreds of others we could ask) easily lend themselves to further exploration in other subjects-Arts, Sciences, Humanities…the world is multifaceted and so is a good education. What a waste of time and energy if a child who is a talented musician isn’t able to explore some of these ideas through writing harmonies or exploring how to convey the poem’s emotion on the piano, or a child who is interested in science and drama (yes! they coexist!) can’t be inspired to examine things like human psychology through devising, or the vital crossover between personal growth, scientific discovery and morality through plays like Copenhagenmg22730380.800-1_800

So yes, English is important, and indeed, in my biased view, it is one of the most important subjects we teach. But to split subjects into ‘academic’ and ‘creative’ and to assign more value to one group than to the other, is to completely miss the point.

York Press, Gazette & Herald’s Careers Guide 2015 – Prep in York is in there!

I’ve learned this week that there is something pretty terrifying about seeing your face in ink…  I was contacted by the Press recently to see if I wanted to have an advert put into their 2015 Careers Guide, and of course I said yes, but my goodness what a weird sensation it is to open up a magazine and see your own mug staring back at you!

Photo on 16-10-2015 at 20.36I am rather proud, however, and I hope that all the young people that receive a copy of the Guide find it a very useful and informative publication.  Hello, if you’re one of those people!  If you’re studying English A level (and considering it for a degree…) and wondering what career path to follow, the hundreds of jobs out there can be a little overwhelming to sort through but rest assured that your options will not be limited.  Teaching, journalism, marketing, advertising, law, publishing, copy writing, PR, market research, sales, politics, editing, planning and theatre/tv are just some of the careers that require you to be able to read and write with style and insight.  And don’t think, ‘I’ve been in school for a million years so why would I want to go into teaching?’…it really is the best job in the world!  (Even if very occasionally it means smiling a little gormlessly from the pages of a magazine.)

 

Books of the Weeks and laughs a minute with Ernest at York’s Grand Opera House

So last week’s book was The Picture of Dorian Gray and this week’s will be Heart of Darkness.  I seem to have a bit of a gothic (or even Gothic) theme going on – it must be that time of year!

With Halloween just around the corner, how better to stop the frightfest than to come on a Prep in York trip to the theatre to see The Importance of Being Ernest?  We’ll be heading to the Grand Opera House in York on the evening of Wednesday 18th November so if you’d like to join us then get in touch asap as tickets are extremely limited and there are only a handful left!  I earnestly hope you can make it…

Sorry!

Do you really need a tutor?

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This might seem like an odd post for a tutor to write.  After all, I’m a tutor, I’m self employed and I rely on my work to keep my children in biscuits and me in books!  (As well as all the boring stuff like heat, light and a roof.)

But it’s a question that is worth asking.  After all, people have all sorts of reasons for deciding to find a tutor.  Here are a few of the reasons I’ve been presented with in the past, and my thoughts on them…

  • My mum wants me to get an A.
    • This might be a really good reason, or it might be a terrible one.  If your parents want you to get an A but you’re currently a D grade student, then it might be worth having a chat about expectations.  But if you’re getting Bs and you can’t figure out how to move up a few marks, and YOU also care and want to get an A, then that’s a different matter.  Ultimately though, your parents wanting you to get certain grades is only a good enough reason if you are on the same page as them.  If you don’t personally care, then no matter how good your tutor is, you won’t make the improvements you need.  You’ve got to be willing to put in the hard work yourself, and you’ve got to want it.
  • I’m bored in my English lessons at school.
    • Ask yourself why you’re bored.  Honestly.  Are you focusing as well as you need to do?  If you’re bored because you’re messing around then try getting on with your lessons and you might begin to find them more interesting!  But if you’re bored because you find the lessons either too easy or too difficult, then a tutor could be just what you need.
  • My dad thinks I don’t read enough.
    • See the first bullet point.  While I generally think that everyone could and should always read more than they are doing (though make sure you get some sleep and food too!), if you want to be inspired to read more and to get more out of what you read, it’s got to come mainly from you.  I am very happy to help but you’ll need to be positive and proactive about it too.
  • My older brother did really well at school and I’m doing badly compared to him.
    • First of all, you’re not your brother.  You don’t need to compare yourself to him, your parents, your school friends or anyone else.  Remember what I said about the desire to improve needing to come from within?  That’s called real motivation.  You need to be aiming to improve yourself, not to improve yourself compared to your mates.  We don’t publish grades in the corridors anymore – what you achieve is noone’s business but yours.
  • I’m getting Ds and I need a C to get into college.
    • Come and see me.  Bring all your files, a good attitude and a pen.
  • I failed my GCSE and need to retake it.
    • As above.  Let’s get going.
  • My parents think it’s a good idea.
    • Do you?  As a tutor my ideal client is someone who wants to learn, whose parents want him or her to learn, and who has a family and school atmosphere that is conducive to learning.  But if all we’ve got is that you want to learn, then that’s good enough for me.

Book of the Week – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Have you read this?  It’s one of the most challenging and disturbing novels of our time.  Is it nature or nurture that creates a monster?  And who is responsible if that monster is a child?

‘Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.’

Warning:  This isn’t in any sense a children’s book, and is probably best suited to older teens +.  It’s graphic and frightening – but don’t let that put you off!

 

We need to talk about kevin

Tutoring trips in York, books books books and excitement at PREP HQ!

OK, so PREP HQ is my little house in Heworth, but nonetheless, excitement abounds!

English trips for tutees (and their families)

You may have seen my previous post about the trips I’ll be running this year. Kicking us off on Sunday 10th October will be a visit to York’s newly reopened, beautiful Art Gallery, where we’ll get inspired and creative and write some wonderful verse to complement the paintings and sculptures we see!  All tutees are welcome – please remember that there is a small charge for entering the Gallery, and that Year 7-11 tutees will need to be accompanied by a parent.  Do get in touch if you’d like to join us!

Books, books, books

I’m a little ridiculously excited by my ‘Book of the Week’ campaign.  I’ve got to say that I had a really hard time whittling down my enormous list of ‘books everyone really must read’ to 52, but I got there in the end!  Week 1’s is Year of Wonders and it’s an absolute corker – historical fiction that goes way beyond the usual kings/bodices/beheadings that are popular at the moment.  It tells the true story of ‘the plague village’, Eyam, and is utterly compelling.

In other exciting book-y news, I’ve been asking tutees this week to tell me about their favourite books, and I’ll soon have a board of recommendations up for them all to peruse.  Parents are welcome to make contributions too of course!

 

Literary Events 2015-2016 – PREP in York trips and visits!

I am really delighted and excited to share with you that I am planning a whole host of literary trips and visits for my tutees this year!  Read on for all the details, and please do get in touch if you have any questions.  literature_1_large_by_james1191

Parents are welcome to all events and must accompany tutees in Years 7-11.  Please note that where there is an entrance fee, you will need to make the necessary arrangements yourself.  You will also need to provide a packed lunch where appropriate.

You are welcome to bring friends and family; please let me know in advance how many of you there will be.

Other than entrance fees and theatre tickets, I am running all of these events and trips for free – I hope that lots of you will get involved and I look forward to seeing you!

Saturday October 10th, 10am

  • Visit to York Art Gallery – get creative and write poetry using paintings and scuptures as inspiration.

Wednesday November 18th, 7.30pm

  • Visit to the Grand Opera House for a performance of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ – 5 tickets available – please contact me asap to confirm your place!  I have prepaid so the cost will be £12.50 each, to be paid to me in advance please.

Saturday December 5th, 10am

  • Visit to the Museum Gardens – discover the remains of the Roman Fortress and learn what the Romans have to teach us about rhetoric.

Saturday January 16th, 10am

  • Visit to York Minster – explore some of Shakespeare’s most famous Kings through text and history.

Saturday February 13th, 10am

  • Visit to the National Railway Museum – indulge yourself in your favourite children’s literature and turn your hand to writing some of your own.

Saturday March 12th, 10am

  • Visit to Fountains Abbey – walk in the shadows of the monks and discover some of the oldest religious texts in existence.

Saturday April 9th, 11am

  • Visit to Castle Howard – explore the house in the context of Brideshead Revisited and read extracts over a civilsed picnic!

Saturday May 14th, 11am

  •  Visit to York Art Gallery – a more advanced poetry class that will use the art work to inspire you while you learn how to write using complex forms.

Saturday June 11th, 10am

  • Visit to Rowntree Park for a morning of drama culminating in a short performance.  Open to amateurs and professionals alike!

Saturday July 9th

  • Visit to the Minster Gardens for an end of year celebration in the form of a miniature lit-fest.  Bring an extract of your favourite piece of literature to read.  There will be cake…