Tuition’s Many Talents - by Natasha Saednejad MTA (May '17)

Natasha Saednejad MTA highlights how tutors support a wide range of students, from children to adults, and explains the challenges of adapting to their individual needs.

Mention to anyone that you work as a tutor, and nine times out of ten the image that will pop up in their head is that of an after-school teacher helping youngsters through exams, and the general stresses and strains of school life. Whilst often true, an under-explored and rarely highlighted aspect of tuition is adult education and support that reaches far beyond a student’s school years. In this article I will try to redress the balance by shining a little more light on this neglected corner of tuition.

A year ago, I had a big decision to make: do my teacher training at my old high school, or continue tutoring and turn it into my full-time career. After some deliberation, the decision was fairly easy – I wanted to be a tutor. In no other educational setting could I meet such a wide range of students, of different ages, and from such varying backgrounds. When I first began tutoring, I, too, envisaged myself teaching children of school age exclusively, but this soon proved not to be the case. The demand for adult education, especially in the area of languages, is ever-present, whether it be for work, or simply pleasure. Moreover, with many recent studies showing that learning a new language can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s, the benefits can go far beyond purely those of education.

With such a wide age range of students, however, comes the challenges of adapting your tutoring style to fit your clients’ needs. Whilst there are certain obvious differences – for younger students, tuition is focused on preparing them for rigorous exams, whereas for adults it is more usually conversational language learning – I have been surprised by how many of my teaching techniques can cross the age boundaries. Above all, I have found that successful tutoring relies on the three ‘E’s’: encouragement, enjoyment and end goals. The last of these is even more important for adult learners, as they are voluntarily learning a new skill, and therefore want to know that their time and money is being invested wisely. For both adults and kids alike, however, education needs to enjoyable and engaging, rather than repetitive and done by rote; that way lies another ‘E’ – ennui.

Another under-reported aspect of tutoring is the support we provide to youngsters beyond their formative school years. For those moving on to further education and university, tutors can provide a support for the change in pace and learning style that this new stage of their lives can throw at them. For many students that I have taught, the amount of self-starting motivation and self-study needed to pass modules can be daunting, having become used to years of ‘model answers’ and past papers during secondary school. Through regular lessons with a tutor, however, the transition into further education can prove less challenging - and all the more so if you already have an established relationship with that student. For me, seeing my tutee flourish in their chosen subject provides boundless recompense for the hard work that both of us have put in over the months.

Tuition is a multi-faceted profession, with much greater breadth and depth than many people at first perceive. Tutors not only provide support and guidance to children facing the stress of school exams, but they also allow adults to discover new passions, and learn new skills that they often thought would have to be left unlearnt after their school years. By being adaptable, talented and knowledgeable educators, tutors prove that they have more in their bag of tricks than the key to A*s and A-levels.

Natasha Saednejad MTA

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