Being a home tutor is a relatively new experience for me – prior to this, I was a classroom teacher in an inner city comp, with all the standard challenges you would expect. Although my job could be stressful, intense and incredibly frustrating at times, I adored it and it was a great wrench to leave when I took a career break to raise my family.
There is undeniably something unique about the secondary school working environment and it certainly isn’t for everybody. Where else can you be breaking up fights one minute and counselling heartbroken teenagers the next, all the while trying your best to squeeze just a smidgeon of EDUCATION into their already cluttered brains? Chasing teenagers for Romeo and Juliet homework is about as fun for the teacher as it is for the student to write, whilst if you’ve ever lived with a tumultuous teenager you can appreciate the challenge of convincing a class of 30 of them to sit down, open a book and at least pretend to be engaged with your carefully crafted and appropriately pitched lesson. But it is fun. The best. And I was sad to leave.
Being a home tutor demands many of the same qualities as a classroom teacher. A genuine interest in your subject clearly helps, as does the ability to communicate concepts to people of varying abilities. Experience has taught me that writing what I consider to be clear feedback for a student doesn’t always help. Some prefer to talk things through over the phone, whereas other students find they need to read over something several times before it clicks. A one-size-fits-all approach is a simply disastrous idea in any form of education.
When tutoring, you need to be patient and open-minded, as well as self-disciplined. Just because I’m working from my living room these days, it doesn’t mean I can slack off and indeed motivating myself to mark a pile of essays can be tough, especially when I’m surrounded by my home comforts and my line-manager isn’t based in the room next door (it’s a lovely lady in her 80s, in case you were wondering)!
However, home education tutoring is rewarding, in its own way. There is no better feeling than helping someone to understand something that was really difficult for them to grasp. Seeing the gradual improvement of even the most unconfident students is just marvellous and developing that professional bond between student and tutor is a great part of the job.
Although I don’t ask, the majority of my students have specific reasons for returning to education. I’ve tutored a significant number of women, for example, who are returning to education following time out to raise a family and you can see their confidence blossom as they learn new skills and develop their understanding. It’s not just about careers to a lot of my students, it’s about taking the time to do something for themselves after spending decades being entirely focused on their families.
Students who have previous been let down by the education system, or who didn’t make the most of the opportunities presented to them, are also common. Many are surprisingly frank about how they had considered school ‘a waste of time’ and are returning to education now so as not to waste their talents. Others are working towards a specific career goal, but are lacking that essential ‘C’ grade at GCSE. But whatever the reason, I find these students are keen, motivated and have a genuine desire to learn and helping them to do so is what makes my role a joy.