With the Covid pandemic in the UK hopefully past the peak, but with no clear return date for secondary schools, it’s time to reflect back over six weeks or so of remote tuition.
Unlike some small businesses, mine will survive. Despite losing my year 11 and 13 students overnight, I have been lucky enough to retain nearly all of my year 10 and 12 clients. I’ve also picked up a sibling or two, and taken on a small number of new tutees.
It has, however, been a steep learning curve. An hour of intense tuition staring at a screen is much more tiring than face to face, for both myself and my students. Some sessions have been shortened from my usual one hour, to forty-five or even thirty minutes. I’ve also introduced gaps between calls, which has extended my own working day considerably without increasing my teaching hours.
Marking homework is a challenge, I can’t take work in and return it a week or two later. Work is either marked quickly in the lesson – something I don’t like to do as it detracts from my teaching time, or it will need to be held over until I can meet a student in person – in which case feedback will be delayed by many weeks and isn’t going to be particularly helpful.
I’ve seen a variety of working spaces. Offices shared with parents, untidy bedrooms, children perched on the end of a sofa. Houses are busy places, mine certainly is, but children do deserve quality time to engage with on line learning, in a comfortable and quiet environment. Talking to an A level student about a difficult topic while she was sitting at the dining room table, her understanding wasn’t enhanced by two younger siblings laying out the cutlery and crockery for the evening meal!
My other frustration is that teenagers think that adults were born yesterday. I insist on my students having the camera on, so that I can watch them. I know when they are reading a model answer from a screen, I know when they are texting their mates, and I know when they are using two screens at once – one to speak to me and the other to carry on playing a game with their mate.
So, my plea to parents who are investing in on line tuition: To get the best value from the tutor, make sure that there is a quiet, comfortable place to work away from the distractions of the rest of the family. And keep an eye on your offspring, so that tutor time really is just that, and isn’t compromised by various secondary activities that wouldn’t be tolerated in a school setting.