Sunday, 19 May 2013

You are not on the bus!

I work as a private tutor. It is work that I really enjoy and feel passionate about. The students I work with have more going on in their lives than their study of the particular subject which I am working on with them and often this will impact their learning. I see a whole range of approaches to education and to learning, not just from the students but from their parents and, broadly, their are two main schools of thought. For some parents, they are in the driving seat, or beginning to coach their child in taking control. The education, the study, is their thing, to be undertaken, engaged in, over-viewed themselves. This is true of families using schools and of home-educating families. For some, they are out-sourcing: someone else has been brought in to deal with this subject and that person - in this case me - is responsible. This is something I have had to struggle with. Where does my responsibility start? Where does it end? And I find that the more the responsibility gets shuffled my way, the more anxious and involved I get. A parent enters their home-schooled child for a different exam board than the one they are working towards and I notice this and provide the student with the correct specification; work with her to locate which areas of the spec have not yet been covered and which have been learned but can now be left; print off past-exam papers and make sure the student knows what materials they need to take with them. Another student desires an A grade because but fails to put in the question practice necessary, telling me that it is futile or that another subject's course-work needed extra time, and then can only manage a U grade on a mock paper. What is my responsibility? What is theirs?
My own children want to go to University and I have put time in to finding out the entry requirements and have put things in place to move them towards being ready to put together a strong application but they hear contradictory messages and are told that they won't have enough GCSEs. They are unsettled and so am I, and I encourage them to access the information themselves. I will take them to another open day, but I will expect them to plan our agenda, prepare what they want to know and to ask the right questions.
Students and children: I tell them that in the end, it does not affect my life - it affects theirs. They are not on a bus towards Higher Education, they are on a guided trek. I have the experience, the subject knowledge and the motivation to journey with them, to show them the way and to model the techniques  but I cannot (not, will not, but physically cannot) move them along this path myself.  It is their journey, their effort and one that they have to engage in. The answers do not come easily, tears will be shed and huge amounts of effort must be expended.
As this academic year begins to draw to a close and young people are filling exam halls, I am filled with this conviction and seeing the necessity of stating this expectation clearly with new and old students as well as with my own children: You are not on the bus! Get up on your feet and get walking. I will walk with you, I will lead and encourage you but the steps are yours. And at the end, the satisfaction, pride and achievement will be yours too.

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