Tuesday, 31 December 2013

In defence of tutoring

For some reason, every few months, the press bring up the private tuition industry. Some proclaim that it is divisive, some accept it, some just monitor its growth (often in the same article of course).

What's the big deal?

Private tutors have existed since the beginning of formal education. Having a mentor, a coach, a master to teach you a trade is nothing new. Indeed, as an apprentice, a pupil often gave up wages in order to learn: i.e., they paid the master with their time and energy while they were apprenticed for usually seven years.

Today, there are thousands of ex-teachers, enthusiastic postgraduates and undergraduates - indeed, some sixth formers too - who earn money from tutoring.

For myself, it's not a hobby or a way to top up my pension or other earnings, but a profession.

I see the position as one of great responsibility and privilege. I work with those who voluntarily want to purchase my services - sometimes it's for content, sometimes it's for content, direction, and confidence.

It is a privilege in the sense that working with a young person one-to-one is highly rewarding - it's not teaching in the sense of broadcasting the information and hoping that some of the pupils get the ideas (some of the time); it's a matter of working with the pupil and learning with him or her. To be adaptable and sensitive is critical.

Sometimes I spot a need for a change in lifestyle - diet or environment, or even a change in school: discussing such issues requires enormous tact and timing of course, but it has been wonderful to open a door to a young person and say to them that they don't have to struggle so much!

Behind every great business leader is a mentor, by the way. If you don't have a mentor in your life, someone to turn to and discuss ideas or who can point out what you need to be doing then you're walking blind. Mentors can come in the form of books - the great motivators and leaders of our world whose words can enthuse - but they can also be met in person, which is much better!

I've got several mentors I can ask or explain things to, including my personal trainer, Guy Baker in Nottingham, whose holistic approach to training reflects our own view of education; my wife and I have wealth and business mentors who we can discuss ideas with.

Now imagine being a young person and having an academic coach and mentor - what a difference that would have made to my life is incalculable! I would not have made so many errors in my youth and early education - my grades would have reflected my mental potential rather than being a little haphazard, and I would not have struggled for so long thinking that "only I can do it and I can do it alone" selfish philosophy. The wisdom of the years has taught me to delegate to others but also to listen to those who have created paths in academia and wealth.

I don't understand why some may oppose tuition - it's like saying, don't get extra golfing lessons, don't go for football coaching, don't have a business mentor...perhaps they've not experienced the benefits of one-to-one? Whatever their reasons, it's nothing to do with 'the rich will pay for the tutors and the poor won't and the poor will suffer lower grades.' It's all to do with attitude. If you're a teacher, you should be open to teaching from all quarters and you should be instilling an attitude of life long learning as a matter of course, and to encourage people to take that learning from all areas that are available. After all, we all buy hair cuts on the free market (at varying prices) so we are free to buy extra learning.

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