After leaving teaching in pursuit of an alternative career, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the education profession altogether. My passion for teaching English and inspiring young people to love reading hadn’t disappeared as I closed the door on my classroom, so I decided to become a tutor. Alongside my full-time job, I began home tutoring GCSE students, helping them to create good study habits and improve their individual learning skills in preparation to sit their exams.
I had only a few in my cohort, choosing to create a positive work/life balance with a blended and flexible approach to my career. My availability to tutor spread through recommendations from my previous teaching colleagues, as well as word of mouth at my new workplace. Lockdown meant moving to online tutoring, but it was a challenge we took in our stride. Whatever way my tutees and I approached a session, it was a joy to share my skills, knowledge and fervour for learning with students again. There are plenty of benefits to becoming a tutor, but here’s just a few that were really important to me.
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#1 Creating confidence
The biggest impact I felt my time as a tutor had on students was the ability to build their confidence. The know-how was there, it was in the implementation where they struggled. Putting pen to paper and having the self-confidence to believe they were doing the right thing. One-to-one tuition allows students to ask questions on their own terms, to repeat the question if needs be, without the fear of looking ‘foolish’. It was the opportunity for me to say, ‘See, you can do this’ and to see them smile and realise they in fact can which was the real highlight of a session.
#2 Sharing my passion
Not everyone loves literature. I know adults that haven’t picked up a book since secondary school, and that’s okay. It’s not for everyone, but the opportunity to fall in love with words should be. Once again confidence comes into play, but tutoring meant time to explore a novel, to discover new words and take a chance at creative writing. I had a tutee who really disliked the writing element of English. She just couldn’t find the inspiration. ‘Write about something you know. Something you love.’ She wrote about music and her grandmother. The next week she opened the door grinning from ear to ear, her mum beside her beaming as well. Her short story had been read out to the class as an exemplar piece of work. ‘I’d never looked at it that way before,’ she said. That was enough for me.
#3 Adapting to the individual
Of course, I stuck to the curriculum they were learning at school, but I could explore alternative ways of delivering the session. Let loose on the creative side to planning and preparing lessons, I could differentiate to the individual, consider what they enjoyed and engaged with and design it around them. I had an environmentalist, passionate about climate change and taking care of the planet, so we wrote a persuasive speech on climate activism. I had another who was a keen fisherman, so we read articles on fishing and wildlife to work on his comprehension. This is the privilege, freedom and flexibility that comes with tutoring, and it was a refreshing approach to individual learning.
#4 Results day
A nail-biting, nerve-wracking day for all involved, the nervous energy I felt waiting for a phone call or a text when they collected their results was palpable. However, hearing they’d received the results they wanted, or even better, that they were ‘higher than expected’ was wonderful. To be able to celebrate their win with them, and the satisfaction of knowing you helped in one way or another is something all teachers and tutors alike can rejoice in.
#5 Making a difference
All educators want to make a difference, tutors share the same common goal. For me, it was the small victories. Hearing from a teacher that a tutee had answered a question in class, something they hadn’t done before. A parent beaming because their son was reading instead of playing on his Xbox before bed. The one that stands out for me is the girl who hated writing. I’d recommended she read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, a book I’d loved and felt she’d enjoy too. On our last session she turned to me and said, ‘I’ve fallen in love with reading again, and that’s because of you.’
Nothing compares to the immense pride and joy I felt that day. Pretty sure I cried on the way home. I was that happy.
About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Tammy now works for Eteach as Content Marketing Executive, where she can combine her passion for education and writing.