Updated: Feb 10
A private tutor occupies a unique space in the world of education. Tutors occupy a position that is unlike those of teachers, parents or sports coaches. Tutors are not authority figures or institutions - our only role is to assist students, push them and oversee their progress. Students are not obligated to attend tuition sessions, they attend of their own volition. This is the ideal position from which to approach the learning process.
Academic development and intellectual skills:
The number one role for a tutor is to ensure that students develop the academic and intellectual skills that will provide a platform for their future life. Naturally all of the basic mathematical, linguistic and reasoning skills are fundamental tools that tutors will help to develop. One of the reasons that I decided to put such a focus on English and Maths in my own tuition practice is that these are the foundations upon which all other intellectual and academic disciplines are founded. Beyond this, verbal expression and mathematical reasoning are tools that allow people to function effectively in their work and in general life. Developing these skills will be one of the best investments in their future that a young person can make.
One of the main reasons that students seek out private tuition is that they want to improve their marks in public exams such as the GCSE, IB or A-level exams. Preparing students for public exams is of paramount importance in my work as a tutor. I take an active and direct approach with students, ensuring that they are writing and problem solving from the very first lesson. Having a weekly booking with a student allows me to monitor their progress and continually test and check their knowledge on a week-to-week basis. We begin to layer in revision exercises and quizzes into classes long before students ever sit exams so that the process of knowledge acquisition is organic rather than crammed. We also work to ensure that students have a very clear understanding of the papers they are sitting, their format and the requirements of the syllabus. I usually take some time to look through mark schemes and examiners' reports in tutorials so that students have a clear idea of how to achieve highest marks possible. Getting good exam results in public exams can open many doors for further study and further training so it's only natural that this is an area that tutors will place a significant amount of attention on. In my view, exams are best approached in with a neutral, problem-solving mindset. Students should feel balanced, calm and focused in their approach to public exams.
Depth of knowledge and context:
One of the greatest benefits of working with students in such a focused one-to-one manner is that we have the opportunity to go into a greater level of depth on any given topic than is possible in a busier classroom setting. This greater depth can often allow students to see underlying patterns and resonances in material that previously seemed disparate and unrelatable. I also find that placing topics in context, be that historical or contemporary helps students to gain a deeper appreciation of the reasons that we study certain topics across subjects. For example most students I work with on English and Maths will come away from the tutorials with a deeper understanding of the relevance of the subjects in their day-to-day lives as well as an appreciation of the historical contexts in which our understanding of mathematics, language and literature developed.
Challenging students to think independently:
One of the most important things that a tutor can do for a student is to challenge them to go further in their understanding and analysis. Learning is a highly active process. Over a period of time, the enormous transformation that a student’s work will undergo through the process of guidance, challenge and feedback is wonderful to oversee. Even after eleven years of working with students on a one-to-one basis, there are still occasions on which I’m truly awed by the process that we are engaging in. To see the flourishing of a young mind over a period of months and years, is something I continue to value in my work and something that continues to motivate me to push and develop my own practice as a tutor.
Showing students their own potential:
Beyond the above priorities, one of the processes that I have seen time and time again with the most engaged students, regardless of their starting point, is that after the intellectual foundations have been built and academic work begins to improve students will begin to re-evaluate their own potential. I have watched students go from F grades to A grades in certain cases and it's routine for students to jumps by two grade through the process of private tuition. The impact such transformations can have on a student’s concept of their own ability is tremendous. If a student can begin to expand their concept of what their potential might be through the process of private tuition, this understanding will stay with them long after exams have finished.
If I had to summarise my own practice as a tutor in a few short sentences, I would say the following:
'I specialise in academic development and exam preparation. Academic learning and exam success are fantastic challenges to work towards as they give young people clear goals and milestones. Beyond this, my deeper ambition as a tutor is to help students begin to see the potential that lies inside their own mind.'