The reason I haven’t posted for quite some time is that I have been inundated by work!
Obviously I’m not complaining. Last year, in particular, was crazy and I ended up teaching every day of the week!
This year I have tried to be more sensible but it’s very hard to turn people away when I know that it’s not easy to find tutors in this area. This year I have quite a variety of students from the age of 8 up to 17 studying English Language and Literature, French and Latin. Proof reading hasn’t been quite so busy but I have spent any spare moments still working on the joint novel.
This is so true. One of the reasons private tuition can produce such good results is that the tutor has to treat the pupil as an individual and match material to their needs.
So many people wait until school starts in September to think about starting or restarting tuition.
Things are usually fairly hectic at this point and it’s only too easy to keep putting it off for another week. The end result can be, that your son or daughter is already playing catch up and to make matters worse the tutor of your choice can’t fit you in on the only evening that Kevin or Tracey doesn’t have football or drama.
Why not get ahead of the game and start tuition in mid to late August? You will have a good choice of teaching slots and your offspring will start school with a real advantage. Some of the entrance exams are in October/November which doesn’t leave much time for tuition to work its magic, if you delay starting until mid September.
Making a plan is vital. Not only does it help give structure and organisation to the revision process but the very act of putting pen to paper makes a commitment. That plan will pull them back to revision more effectively than any nagging parent!
Another useful tip is to get a friend/teacher/parent to help mentor this plan. Once the plan has been drawn up it’s so much easier to hold pupils to a timetable already agreed upon.
Prioritise your subjects – find out the dates of your exams and plan your revision accordingly. Don’t forget that oral exams for French will be early on so the work for those needs to be covered NOW.
Identify the subjects that give you most trouble and give them priority. It’s always tempting to spend hours on the subjects you enjoy and avoid the tricky ones. Be honest about your abilities and spend time on those subjects and topics that need the work.
Revision can be broken into 3 main stages: learning the material, practising on past exam papers and lastly fine-tuning your exam techniques. Practising past papers will help with time management and working under pressure.
Revision sessions can either be time related or goal related. Most experts seem to favour goals such as learning 5 vocabulary topics or reading through 2 acts of a Shakespeare play.
Don’t forget to schedule in breaks too – they’re very important. Breaks help you absorb and process the information so plan in plenty of them. Lots of short revision sessions (30 mins) plus short breaks (10 mins) works best. This is especially true when you are trying to take in new information. Nearer the exams when you are going over topics you are familiar with you can extend your work sessions to about an hour, possibly 2.
Don’t forget to stay healthy – see my last blog Keep fit ! for tips on this too.
And lastly if you’re struggling with your revision plan why not book a lesson or two with a tutor to give you some guidance.
For an amusing account of the trials and tribulations of a private tutor, why not take a look at the link below? The column appears regularly in the Daily Telegraph and although obviously written to entertain and amuse it does contain insights useful for both parents of tutees and tutors. This particular article is rather sad, concentrating as it does on lack of parental encouragement. Many of this tutor’s pupils come from extremely privileged and moneyed backgrounds and he makes the point that all the lessons in the world can not substitute for parental support and encouragement.
We live in such a competitive world where the difference between an A and an A* can be crucial at university entrance. We all want our children to work hard and achieve and it’s sometimes easy to get the balance wrong.
It’s all too easy as a parent to get caught up in a cycle of constant nagging and criticism as you try to get your offspring to achieve their educational potential. I once tore a strip off my son, aged about 9, for having failed to turn over a school exam paper thus coming bottom in his French exam. A fellow teacher pointed out that the page he had completed was faultless and that was what I should have focussed on. The disappointment he felt was probably enough to prevent him ever repeating that mistake again! So I do speak from experience!
As a teacher and tutor it’s important to praise as well as criticise – it’s finding the balance that’s the tricky thing! Some pupils can take harsh criticism; others need confidence building and lashes of encouragement. With certain pupils in the past I have torn up work in front of them when I felt that they were not putting in the effort and were seriously underachieving – and it worked. However, there are many students where that approach would be totally counter-productive.
All we can ask of our youngsters is that they try their best and reach their potential. Then we must celebrate that success – even if their achievements don’t match our hopes and dreams.
Obviously I believe in the value of private tuition or I wouldn’t be doing it, but I also believe that you can have too much of a good thing.
There are lots of situations in which extra help can be valuable. It can help to build self-confidence. It can help with a subject that a pupil finds particularly tricky or has fallen behind for some reason, or where they don’t get on with their teacher. It can give an extra focus to exam revision or course work preparation. It can help boost exam grades – first time round or retakes. What it shouldn’t be, is a substitute for childminding during the holidays – keeping children occupied when their parents are busy or working (and, yes, it does happen!). Nor do I believe that children should be regularly tutored in more than 2 or 3 subjects, as a general rule. There may be the odd exception such a change in school which involves a temporary need to catch up. All parents want to help their children succeed in education but sometimes excessive tuition can result in huge pressure on a child. If they can’t get into that school, or gain that scholarship, without a huge amount of outside help, it may be that it’s not the right school for them. No-one wants to see a child struggling in a school that’s too academic for them, their confidence eroded as they perceive themselves as failure.
Some children do need a bit of a push; some just need some gentle encouragement and a good tutor should recognise which approach is appropriate.
Competition to get into a top class university is so high these days that it’s vital to take every step you can to stand out as a potential candidate. Obviously the most important thing is to have good grades. Universities will look at your GCSE grades as well as your AS and predicted A level grades. However, these days there are so many students with straight A grades that universities also place great emphasis on the personal statement.
Your statement should include evidence of your interest in the subject you are hoping to study- for example work experience and courses you’ve attended. Try to explain just why this particular subject and course is the one you want to pursue. You should also try to convey a strong sense of you as a person – remember many universities don’t interview these days and this may be your only chance to impress. Tell them about your hobbies and extra-curricular activities at school such as D of E, music or drama. Explain what you’ve gained from these activities, for example the ability to work as part of a team.
There are various websites with sample statements that you can look at for inspiration but DON’T copy them. This is your personal statement and it will be very evident if it’s a rehashed version of something you’ve found online.
Get your statement checked. Apart from the obvious spelling and grammar checks, the statement should read well and have the correct content. Your teacher at school may very well do this for you but it doesn’t hurt to have second opinion and many tutors offer this service for a small fee.
Don’t leave it too late to organise tuition for your son or daughter.
Now is a good time to start contacting prospective tutors as their availability soon fills up. Many tutors like myself have several pupils who continue lessons for a couple of years – to cover their GCSE or A level courses, for example. So some slots are already taken before the beginning of the school year. This means that matching up diaries can be tricky and it’s first come, first served! English and Maths tutors tend to be particularly in demand and many have waiting lists later in the year.
So don’t risk a last minute panic – start phoning/emailing around now!