Welcome to the third post in our Tutors of London series!
(If you missed the second post, check it out here…)
Private tutoring is a type of “gig-economy”, which basically means that it’s not a job you’re officially employed to do full time. Workers instead are paid for each “gig” they do, such as a car journey (Uber), a food delivery (Deliveroo) or a tutoring lesson (Tutorean, of course).
Definition, gig-economy: “A labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs”
Private tutoring therefore offers a degree of flexibility for both tutors and the students they serve, which is of course one of its many advantages. It also means that the vast majority of tutors take on the profession as a part-time or supplementary commitment. MyTutor, for example, recruit tutors who are predominantly undergraduate students, who are able to fit in online tutoring sessions around their busy university schedules.
There are however a handful of private tutors who do dedicate their entire lives to the profession… yet despite its flexibility and well-paid nature, it does come with its risks. For example, private tutors cannot guarantee a steady supply of students and the seasonal nature of school means that tutoring pretty much shuts down over the summer period.
That’s one reason why there are only an estimated 10,000 full-time tutors in the UK – compared to 500,000 full-time teachers (50x as many!).
So why would somebody decide to tutor full time? Why don’t they teach in a school instead? Who are the types of people who tutor full time?
These are some of the questions we wanted to answer in our Tutors of London series and will explore in this blog post, featuring one such tutor, Terry.
But first, what is Tutors of London? Why on earth would somebody even make a series called Tutors of London? And wait, is it a bit like Humans of New York?
Well, to the last question, the short answer is yes! That’s really where the inspiration for the name came from… but rather than strangers on the streets, we wanted to discover more about the DNA that makes up our nation’s private tutors. We also wanted to find out why people become private tutors in the first place, to put a “face” on the industry for the first time and take a closer look at what kind of difference it’s really making in the world (if at all?).
I personally spent 8 years as a private tutor. I remember when I’d just started out…I lived about an hour’s drive from the city, but since I was from a small village it was really the closest place I could find students. I would sometimes drive into London just for an hour’s lesson and then drive back again. With all of the lesson preparation and feedback, I would probably spent 5 hours on prep/travel for every 1 hour spent with a student. It was a huge commitment. But it was one I found well worth making.
With over a million tutors in the UK, I thought, there must be thousands upon thousands of inspiring stories of tutors dedicating their lives to improving educational outcomes – helping students reach their potential, to thrive and eventually be successful in whatever they do.
Really that’s the premise of Tutors of London. Our team has spent months giving tutors the opportunity to share their stories and discover what contribution they’ve made, for the world to see.
The series is centred around photos as well as words. To capture the authentic personality of our tutors, we met them in places in London which matter most to them. Then, after getting to know them on a more intimate level, we captured them on camera (follow the Tutors of London photographs on our Instagram page!).
In this third post, we meet Terry, a full time English and maths private tutor.
“I’m originally from Birmingham, although you probably wouldn’t have guessed from my accent…I’ve moved around a lot! From Birmingham, I moved to Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and then I moved to Germany while I was studying for my degree. I studied my masters at City University of London which is actually very recent, just about 2 years ago. I mastered in Information Science. I got myself a job, a flat..One thing led to another and I built my life here. After a while I met someone and suddenly my one bedroom flat wasn’t big enough, so we moved to Hertfordshire and that’s where I am now.
I’ve always been tutoring something… ever since I was a teenager. Actually, I started off tutoring guitar. I was really active in the music scene back then and performed a lot. It was only much later when I started tutoring other subjects like English (because it was my first language) and Maths (because I was reading an Engineering degree at university).
Since then I’ve taught all different kinds of children, from all different kinds of backgrounds and abilities – in over 40 secondary schools and universities! I’ve taught pretty much every subject you can think of but now I tend to focus on English, maths and science. Because I’ve had to adapt to so many different students (including my four kids) I’ve really learned just as much about myself as my students have in their subjects.
Every now and then, without planning to, I have had the opportunity to coach somebody. Some of the coaching I’ve done, especially when I was working in the corporate industry, was in writing. I’ve taught people how to write better and how to structure their writing. Also, inevitably, since I have my own company, I’ve coached people in business, how to create their own business and how to sustain it. I’ve also coached people in communication: i.e. how to talk to people. I simply listen, and I watch, and I notice and I communicate… and people appreciate that.
Also, because of my background in mostly Banking and IT departments, or sometimes the combinations of the two, I’ve been working amongst some very bright people and usually I’ve been hired for a certain amount of time that they needed me for. It would have been about 3 months here and 6 months there. Every contract was different, every company was different, all the people I’ve worked with were different, so for me it was like I was not only the mentor, but I was a constant student. Learning new ways and techniques of communication. I learned to be very focused.
With children on the other hand I found that the most effective way to get them focused is asking a lot of questions and making them ask me questions. One thing I’ve been trying to teach them is how to work with the source of information that is around them, so they are not totally dependent on me, but they can actually effectively search for the answers in their textbooks when I’m not around.
Personally, I don’t mind these days whether it’s an adult or whether it’s a child. I’ve taught very young children and I’ve taught people the same age as me, children from special needs schools, as well as adults that needed some guidance. I find it most enjoyable when the lesson is interactive and it is more of a conversation between the two of us. I enjoy when I see my students interested and interactive. (possible quote)
However, the main reason why I tutor is because I simply enjoy connecting with people: tutoring is one really good way of doing that.
I like books in general and that’s one reason I chose the British library for our photoshoot…
When I was in school I would read just about anything I could get my hands on. In fiction, I always preferred something that relates to reality rather than fantasy, although having said that, I quite like Tolkien. I like imagining what the Tolkien world was like. I also love Aldous Huxley and his phenomenal vocabulary. When I have to start reaching for a dictionary, that’s when I know the writer has a great vocabulary. My father was known by his colleagues as the walking dictionary, so I guess I sort of inherited that interest.
I also love music. Before I could walk or talk and certainly before I went to school, I was singing. My parents got together through music. My grandmother from my mother’s side was a music teacher. She taught choirs, piano and voice. So our house was always very musical. We would sing just about anything.”
When it comes to full time vs part time tutors, we don’t yet know yet if there’s any fundamental difference in tutoring quality. We’ve met so many amazing tutors on both sides of the fence. However, one thing we do know about full time tutors like Terry, is that:
A) They really love what they do
B) They’re very good at what they do
C) and they’re committed to helping students learn and succeed
Another thing is also clear – which is that really great teachers see themselves as students. They find enjoyment in learning – whether about a subject or themselves – and use every experience as an opportunity to improve. Our interview with Terry demonstrated that this mindset of being a student opens up the space for every tutoring session to be an adventure – with both student and tutor dancing with the content, not assuming anything, and questioning everything.
Thank you for reading our third Tutors of London story and do give our Instagram page a follow if you’d like to follow our journey!
If you would like to get in touch with Terry, you can find his profile here and contact him for free on the Tutorean platform. Terry specialises in maths, English and science tuition and also tutors business and German.