This Week – 13th May

The sun is shining into my conservatory this morning as the sound of bird song fills the air. What a wonderful start to my Sunday. It is just a shame my laptop is being a tad temperamental so I’m writing this on my phone!

So this week has been a wonderful one, as every week tends to be! But what has really stood out?

I am at that magic point of early tutoring when children really start believing in themselves and start developing confidence. It is wonderful to see, such a privilege. Well done Mathew and Evie!

Then we have children who have been tutored a while and have the confidence and maturity to make decisions about their learning, well done Lewis and Sean!

My Wednesday night maths group was pleased to welcome 3 new children this week. They were warmly welcomed by the other children and that group is now at capacity.

In terms of the business, well I completed the 2 day paediatric first aid course. I am also starting to make plans for the new academic year, there are exciting times ahead!

My final thought this week though is a conversation I’ve had with a number of friends and tutor mums this week. When a child is young we expect them to learn to walk and talk at different ages. Why then, do we expect school learning to be different? Children learn at different rates and this is ok!

How I Began Tutoring

After my post about supply teaching last week I have had a few people contact me and ask about tutoring.  Now, I do not claim to be an expert, I have made plenty of mistakes and I am sure I will make many more.  But here are a few tips to get you started, if you want to!  It is simply what has worked for me

To begin with, you need to decide your business/ teaching ethos.  In my case it is that children learn through play and I use a play-based approach as often as possible.  I also adore outdoor learning and use this.  This is what makes me different to others and how I market myself.  Yours will be something different, something personal to you.  Use it!

Resources – do not go out and buys loads!  I have a lot of materials from being a teacher for years but there is only so much I want to and can carry.  My basic kit is a good pencil case, a decent mini white board and pens, a small dictionary, dice with various numbers of sides and games which I can print or adapt.  I also provide jotters and folders but you do not need to.

Pricing – do your homework here. Sites like Tutor Hunt, Tutorful etc can help. I started off setting my price way too low and slowly upped it as I took on new clients.  You are under selling yourself in setting your rates too low.  I strangely found that business increased when my prices did.  As the wise Mr Specter once said, you do not pay the plumber for banging the pipes, you pay him for knowing where to bang.  People may try and haggle your price but that is your professional worth, do not allow this.

Tutor Space – you need to decide whether to tutor from home (if you do then you must update your insurance policy) or from theirs (update your car insurance policy).  Both have pros and cons.  I do a mixture of both and it works for me. If you are tutoring at your home, you need a dining table or desk. If at their home, you really do not need much at all.  I would suggest that if you are tutoring at someone else’s’ home for the first time you think about safety.  Let someone know who you are meeting, where and ensure they call you are a time close to the appointment ending to make sure you are ok – almost like internet dating!

My final tip here would be not tutoring for people who are too close to you, i.e. family or close friend’s children. I found it could make things awkward and just wasn’t worth the stress.  A little distance is a good thing.

 

Once you have done all that, it is time to get the ball rolling, get out there and start letting people know who you are!

Advertising – I have found word of mouth to be my biggest form of advertising. I started by posting up on Facebook that I was starting tutoring and got my friends to share it. It really was that simple.  I also created a profile on Tutorful and whilst they do take a cut, it was a good way for me to start.

I have a Facebook page for the tutoring and find that generates some business, especially when I share it on local groups pages.  A quick search with local town names on Facebook will give you that. It is worth seeking permission from an admin of the groups to make sure you can post and know how regularly you can post.

I have a website, though it isn’t something you need early on.  It has generated minimal work for me, but it is nice to have and does give the business a professional appearance.

I have not used google/ facebook or any other forms of paid advertising as folk say they get minimal return.

I also have both Twitter and Instagram accounts but they are more about brand awareness.

You can also use sites like Tutor Hunt where the parent pays for your details or Tutorful where the site takes a cut. It really depends on your area which works best.

Timing for Advertising – I love my Facebook page as the analytics let me see when best to post as most members online. Generally, though, I find the start of a term gets some new business but just before and after parent’s nights I have got lots.
So you have found your first student, what next…
Once you find your first student you need some paper work.  I always give my Terms and Conditions beforehand but take a copy for them to sign when I am there.  I also have a contact form, so I have their details, I usually email this before my first appointment with them.

My first session is all about building a relationship with the child and the family.  I will play a few learning games with the child and chat to them about their likes and dislikes both in and out of school.  I might run a wee test to assess their abilities and then feedback to the adult.  My first appointment with a child usually takes around 1hr 30 min but I will only charge them for the hour.  That extra time is invaluable to me as the weeks progress whilst working with them.

I tend to make termly plans for each pupil, this is quick and easy and you find a format that works for you.

 

Moving forward…

Once you are tutoring regularly you need to think of a few more things.  Though, you may wish to do these before you start.

I have a great accountant who does my books for me, it means I do not need to stress about tax returns.  He is worth his weight in gold!  It doesn’t take me long each week to update my financials.

I also have an amazing insurance agent.  She has been a gem, as my business has evolved it has been very handy to have someone I can check with to ensure I am covered.  She also got me a better deal that I could have got myself – believe me I checked!

There are some great tutor groups on Facebook where you can get advice and support.  I recently set up the Scottish Private Tutors page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/440958926349136/ ) but there are others out there too.

 

My final thoughts…

Taking the leap into tutoring can be daunting but it can really be worth it.  You can make it what you want, from a single session a week for extra spending money to a full-time business.  I know it can be terrifying though and to that end I am happy to meet folks in the central belt for a cuppa and chat to those elsewhere.  I was terrified before I started and I love tutoring now.  For me, it is the best bits of teaching without the stresses!

 

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Outdoor Learning Ideas

In my weekly update last week I mentioned outdoor learning.  Today I thought I would share some of my favourite activities, across the curriculum, that are easy and quick to do!  Some of these have come from Pinterest, some from CPD courses and some from my own warped mind.  My philosophy here is that outdoor learning should compliment your teaching, it should never be an add on.

 

Splat Spelling

A part of spelling is word recognition.  Could you write the words outside in chalk and get the children to then throw water balloons?  Each time a balloon hits a word they need to read it and then use it in a sentence.

 

Jump Spelling

Write the letters of the alphabet, in whatever order you like, in chalk.  Children can then jump from one letter to the next to spell the word they are working on.  Their partner can check the spelling is correct as they go!

 

Senses Poem

I see… I feel… I smell… I taste… I hear…

Simple sentence starters which are suitable for any age group.  The children can write or draw the rest of the line.  I love to do this lesson each season and see how the poems progress.  At the end of the year you have a wonderful poem which reflects on the changing of the seasons.

 

Time Line

Sometimes it is hard for children to comprehend just how long ago, or how recently, something happened.  A while ago I was teaching a class about the stone age.  I created cards for different historical events from the stone age through to the present day.  Each step a child took represented 100 years.  They quickly understood the concept of time in a way that made it meaningful for them.

 

Around the Clock

I had a class last year that were struggling to remember their 5-minute intervals.  I had tried everything in class and nothing seemed to help.  I decided then to take the lesson outside.  The children were in groups of 4 and each drew a large clock.  I would then shout a time, i.e. 5 past or twenty-five to and the children had to jump to the appropriate number.  This really seemed to help all children begin to understand and remember!

 

I Need/ I want

With a younger class den building can be a great way to explore the difference between needs and wants.  They can design their den using basic materials, tarps, string, tent pegs etc.  They start adding things like Playstations, beds, fully functioning kitchens etc to their designs.  This helps open a discussion over what is a need and what is a want.

 

Natural Art

I love Andy Goldsworthy’s art.  It soothes my cluttered mind and children just seem to get it.  It explores colour, texture, shape and more besides.  I often use his style of art as the stimulus for the first lesson I have outside with the children each year.  The children create something beautiful but you also have the time and space within the lesson to explore some behavioural techniques and ensure the class understand that when learning outside the playground becomes the classroom.

 

One of the great strengths of outdoor learning in Scotland is how well we all share ideas.  There are 2 websites I truly love though.  The first is Juliet’s http://creativestarlearning.co.uk/ and the other is https://www.ltl.org.uk/scotland/resources.php.  Both have ideas for every age, stage and curricular area.

What are your favourite outdoor learning activities?

 

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Why I Switched to Supply Teaching

This time last year I was nervous.  I had been a teacher a long time, yes, I had tried to leave the classroom once before but only lasted 6 months until I ran back to it, missing the children and the camaraderie amongst the staff.  But I was looking to leave the school I was in come summer.  I was going to become a supply teacher.  What drove me to this and was it the right move?

People think teachers have it easy, they work 9 to 3 and have a ton of holidays.  If only that were true!  The last couple of years I had worked part time, just 3 days a week in school.  This meant 3 days of working 7.30am to 5.30 or 6pm, with a 20-minute break to quickly inhale a lunch.  This alone was roughly 30 hours a week in school.  These days were primarily filled with the children, during which a teacher makes more decisions per minute than a brain surgeon!  But, these days were also filled with marking 30+ jotters for each curricular area that day (often over 100 pieces of work, each day), tidying, updating displays, looking out resources for lessons, liaising with parents, staff and other professionals, fighting the photocopier, determined it would work for the scant sheets I was allowed to copy and a myriad of other tasks!

Then one of my “days off” was generally used to do admin and other bits there was no time for amongst the hubble and bubble of the school day.  This was when I would sit and try and plan interesting, stimulating lessons taking into a count the children’s likes and abilities.  I would write report cards, complete reports for external agencies (if they were allowed to leave school grounds) and attempt to keep abreast of ever changing schemes of work, national changes to the curriculum and changing wider government policies.  I would also complete my daily plans, weekly plans, termly plans and update the yearly overview and complete umpteen other pieces of admin all designed to prove I was doing my job to the best of my abilities, because being good at admin makes a great teacher, right?!  And lets not forget I would often try and track down resources for school which I would buy myself as budgets were non-existent but they would improve the children’s learning experience.  All of a sudden, my 21.5hour week was closer to 37hours.  Add a school show, disco, parents night, curriculum evening etc and all of a sudden my 21.5hour contract equated to over 40 hours of work a week, squeezed into just 4 days.

Unfortunately, these working hours were not due to me being a workaholic.  It is the norm within teaching in Scotland.  It is suggested that teachers here in Scotland work an extra 11 hours a week on top of their contracted 35 per week.  There are 39 weeks in an academic year.  This means the average teacher is working 1794 hours within those 39 weeks.  Compare this to your average worker, who works 37hours with 25 days holiday a year and 10 days public holiday will work roughly 1665 hours a year.  A teacher is working, on average just 129 hours extra a year, not a lot.  But when you consider this is squeezed into just 39 weeks you quickly see how teachers can become exhausted!

Added to this is management who get caught up in their roles and forget why they became teachers in the first place.  They start believing council targets, test results and the budgets are more important than the people in the school, that is the staff and the children.  Yes, they have difficult roles and are often not trained in how to manage people, but this should not mean they lose any sense of empathy, as I have unfortunately experienced first-hand.

These are some of the reasons which combine to lead up to 40% of teachers to consider leaving the profession in the next 18 months, clearly something has to change.  It certainly combined to make me determined not to work as a full-time teacher and even made me question whether being “part time” was even worth it.  My husband agreed with me and we decided it was not.  I had tried to leave the classroom once before and I missed it too much.  I decided this time to try supply teaching.

So how has this year been so far you may ask, do I miss the security and consistency of the same school?  Well, no.  I quickly ended up in a day a week contract in a school I love.  I have management who care about their staff and understand working part time means being part time.  Yes, like every teacher I will do a little extra, but it is just a little and for the benefit of my kids, my class.  It is not to complete unnecessary admin or other such tasks which make no real difference in the classroom.  I easily pick up more supply work when I want it, not a day goes by where I don’t get a text for it.  Plus, once you are in a school they tend to like to keep your details as it is difficult for them to get supply staff.

My stress levels are greatly reduced which in turn has greatly benefited my health.  I went from a vicious cycle of having caught bugs, infections and having flare ups with my hypermobility syndrome to being out this awful cycle and being healthy.  I have energy to do things.  I have recently started Korean kickboxing twice a week and Krav Maga once.  To have the time and more importantly, the energy, for this before would have been unimaginable.

I am also a happier person.  My family and friends would attest to this one.  One thing teachers are bad at is negative self-reflecting.  We often have management, the council and the media telling us we are not good enough or doing enough.  Going on supply means I ignore this most of the time which makes me happier overall.

I get to socialise now!  After a school day I was often too tired to do much with friends or family.  My socialising was kept to weekends only.  If they were going for a meal or to watch a film on a week night I simply didn’t have the energy to join them.  Now I do have the energy.  If one of my friends has a bad day I am now not too tired to pick up the phone or pop round to visit.  I can enjoy meals with my family not thinking about what else I still need to do.  It really is quite fantastic!

I also have time to do things I enjoy.  I am now running my own business and I am half way through a Masters degree.  Obviously all three things combined mean I am a very busy person who works incredibly hard.  However, I am happier, healthier and a lot less stressed.

Clearly the hours I worked as a teacher were not the issue, neither was working with the children who, for the time I had them, were always “my kids”.  The issue lay with ever changing goals and priorities forced upon us, constant change and paper work for paper works sake.  Teaching isn’t an easy profession, but it can be worth it if you find a way that works for you.  For me, that is being on supply.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-32926585 and https://inews.co.uk/news/education/scottish-teachers-working-six-days-week/

 

Learning Websites

I am often asked by parents which web sites they should steer this children towards.  Children often do not realise the amount of learning they are doing whilst playing online and how much it can improve their reading skills.  There is a myriad of sites out there and it is hard to know which sites are best, but let me help you by listing my favourite 10 free websites.

  1. Newsround 
  2. Dogo News

I find children are interested in their world.  Newsround and Dogo have news, facts, games and videos to help children begin to engage with current affairs.  Both these sites are similar but have slightly different outlooks.  Newsround is created by the BBC and Dogo by a mum in the USA.  However, both a relevant and a range of sources help children develop their questioning and critical literacy skills.

  1. How Stuff Works

Is your child a budding engineer?  Do they have a real interest in how things work?  Here’s a great website for them to explore and discover answers to their current questions and many more besides!

  1. Nasa

Is it space that captures your child’s attention?  This site is filled to the brim with information and games for them to play

  1. Fun Brain

This site has games in literacy, numeracy and more.  It also has online books and comics.

  1. Oxford Owl

This site is great as it has a range of free ebooks for children to enjoy.  It also has some maths activities and even tips for parents!

  1. Nat Geo Kids

Who doesn’t find the National Geographic captivating?!  They even have a kid friendly site!  It contains everything from animals to wildlife, science to nature, archaeology to geology, geography to history.  I am sure your child will find something which interests them.

  1. Top Marks

This is one that teachers will often suggest as homework.  Why?  Because it is brimming with free games which help support maths and literacy

  1. Teach Your Monster to Read

This is a great site for supporting your child’s reading, I find children adore it.

  1. Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is another fascinating website for kids, it has games and fact files.  This is really a great educational resource and endlessly captivating.

 

There you have it, 10 of my favourite learning websites.  Hopefully it helps you and if you have others to share please feel free!