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.
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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!

 

How I became an English tutor in York

I’m one of those people who was always going to be a teacher.  Just on my mother’s side of the family alone, my mother works in higher education, my aunt is a primary school teacher and my grandmother taught EAL.  When I did ‘what should I be when I grow up?’ tests, the answer was always teacher.  If you’d asked me when I was 16, I’d have turned my nose up and told you I was going to be a writer, a lawyer or a vet, depending on the week, but in my heart of hearts I think I always knew.

Teaching English is brilliant for two reasons:  I get to talk about books and I get to talk to teenagers who, in almost all cases, are funny, brilliant people.  Put simply, books make me happy and teenagers make me smile.  The combination is exhilarating.

When I moved to York it was for university.  Like lots of York graduates I then decided to stay, because, well, why wouldn’t you?  York and North Yorkshire are beautiful.  I may not officially be a northerner but this is definitely where I belong.  I married my northern boyfriend and we settled in to our respective schools.  (He was a History teacher for a while but now he does things with computers.  Apparently this is also fun, but I suspect not as fun as tutoring English.)  I loved teaching in schools with a passion – I loved boarding, I loved English, I loved Drama, I loved school plays, I loved being a form tutor, I loved UCAS (I know!), I loved my students, I loved my colleagues and I loved, loved, loved talking about books all day.

Bearing in mind how much I loved teaching in schools, it was a slow move to becoming a private tutor.  I took on a couple of students to whom I was recommended by other teachers and gradually I decided that as a tutor I would be able to make more of a difference than I could as a school teacher.  When tutoring English and Drama I and my students can achieve so much more in an hour than we can in a classroom environment.  With no distractions, an hour of tuition can be like a week’s worth of classroom lessons; we can focus entirely and precisely on what that particular student needs and we can make enormous progress extremely quickly.  This is brilliant for students who can suddenly see that they have ability they didn’t realise they had and can get an almost instant confidence boost.  I can plan schemes of work but I’m also not tied to a school’s deadlines so if it becomes apparent that we really need to spend 20 minutes on structuring complex sentences right now, we can do it and the student can get immediate feedback.  I can work really carefully with my students’ needs and, importantly, they can tell me exactly what they want without worrying that they’re taking up too much of my time or that I won’t have the spare hours to dedicate to helping them when they need it.  They get an instant level up – and, in a way, so do I.  I see that glow of confidence, that smile as a particular skill clicks into place, that laugh as a previously impenetrable text suddenly makes sense.

Teaching English and Drama in York was brilliant but tutoring English and Drama in York is even better because the same things are still true – York is beautiful, books make me happy and teenagers make me smile – and now, to top it all off, I get to teach every lesson with a freshly made cup of tea and a slice of Yorkshire parkin.  It doesn’t get better than that.

Favouritism

047d039e0bdfdda1503c03154f3b8966It’s no secret that teachers don’t have favourite pupils.  It’s unprofessional, cruel to the other children in the class and generally not fair as, of course, all children have the right to be treated equally,  But what I – and I suspect most teachers – do have, are pupils that stick in the memory, even ten or twenty years down the line.

In my first job I had a Theatre Studies class with one particular student who was so incredibly talented that he made me cry during his examined performance.  I taught a boy in an A level English class who used to bring me poems and bits of novels he was working on.  I had a girl in one GCSE class who struggled a great deal but worked so hard that she got an A* through sheer force of will – and she did AS English a year early, at the same time as her GCSEs, and got an A.

All of these pupils from ten years ago, and many from more recent schools that I’ve worked in, stand out for me from the hundreds – thousands? – that I’ve taught.  But what I absolutely love about tutoring is that now, all my pupils are memorable, and for all the right reasons.  Every tutee that I see is here because they want to learn.  They want to improve.  They’ve taken the brave step of acknowledging that they need help with some particular aspect of their learning – even if they’re not completely sure what that is and they need me to help them figure it out – and they’ve arrived, pen in hand, ready to go.  Some of them are very shy, some are confident, some seem confident but are actually incredibly nervous.  I’ve tutored pupils whom schools have refused to teach – who have all turned out, by the way, to be bright, sparky, impressive young people.  I’ve tutored pupils with SEN who are floundering in classes of 30 at school, and who have sat with me, drunk copious amounts of tea, given it their all and done the unthinkable – passed a GCSE that ‘everybody’ said they would fail.  I absolutely love tutoring because every student that comes through my door leaves again more confident and motivated, better equipped to face their difficulties and feeling ready for the next step.  So no, I don’t have favourites.  It wouldn’t be fair.  They’re all brilliant and I remember them all with a fierce pride.