Tuition vs. Teaching

Tutoring, in my eyes, has entered a new phase in recent years. Where once it was the side plate to the main dish of regular schooling, it is now a tool to push and develop students in its own right. One only has to make a quick trip to Google to see how many tutor-specific resources exist – not just school materials that can also be used by, and be helpful to, said tutors. With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to examine just how these two worlds coexist – or clash – within the sphere of education. Are ‘teaching’ and ‘tutoring’ a match made in heaven?

Parents usually seek me out for one of two reasons – either to help their child with the school curriculum, or to push them beyond it. The existence of these two circumstances, and the nature of tutoring schoolchildren in general, helps me to make some interesting observations as to how these two types of education work together. Now, before I go any further, I would like to mention that these are just general observations, and are by no means applicable in 100% of cases. Moreover, the views stated here are personal – and open to discussion. Are we all following? You in the back? Alright, let’s continue.

Let’s take two months of the year, for example, and make a direct comparison between the mood and attention span of my students. Example 1: it’s mid-September, school’s been back in session for a few weeks, normal routine has resumed. The student? Focused, fresh, and receptive to new ideas. A tutor’s, and a teacher’s, dream. Example 2: it’s April, exams are on the horizon, Easter holidays are already a distant memory, and classrooms are getting hot and stuffy. The student? Stressed, restless, and just dreaming of summer. Not so great.

It became very clear to me, very quickly, that school life and tuition are inextricably linked, and by virtue of tuition being an add-on to everyday education, it is impacted greatly by the ebb and flow of the school year. As the demands on both students and teachers have grown greater by the year, so too has the pressure on tutors to respond to these, and to be adaptable not only to curriculum, but to a student’s mood and energy levels as well. But how can this be achieved?

If we go back to the aforementioned examples, the formula is quite simple. In September, I’ll push my students, consolidating on school curriculum, and pushing them beyond it. In April, I’ll focus on revision, and revision techniques, but my lessons will tend to have added breaks – ensuring that the combination of schooling and tutoring do not burn the student out before exams have even begun. I’ll also incorporate learning games or alternative learning methods, in order to better keep the mind focused on the task in hand. Tutoring will only make a bucket leak if it burns holes in the vessel from overuse. 

Tuition is an optional tool, so it has to be responsive and adaptive to each student in order to be worthwhile and valuable to both student and family. In addition, with teachers just as affected by rigorous government education standards as students, effective tuition can ease the burden placed on those in the schooling system. A tutor’s lessons can enhance the work of a good teacher, so this responsiveness and adaptability are crucial if the two are to work cohesively together, and thus truly benefit the student.

A teacher and tutor’s positive impact on their students also has other key component – the educator’s state of being. Just as it is crucial for the student to take breaks, have hobbies outside of school, and be active, so it is for the teacher/tutor as well. As educators, an area in which both teaching and tutoring most certainly overlap is that of setting a good example for the student. What use is a tired, stressed and frazzled teacher or, on the other end of the spectrum, a lazy, scruffy one? Both teachers and tutors must work symbiotically to show the child the importance of balance in life – work hard, but know when to play as well. This is one area that can become easily overlooked as the stresses of everyday life, and of teaching itself, take over, but it is crucial to both the student’s development and their educational success. Of late, this seems to be something the government guidelines have neglected, and it’s a massive shame – a focus solely on results and testing, will only prove to be a test of how quickly both students and teachers can exhaust themselves.

In conclusion, teaching and tuition are a knotted pair of educational tools that share many things in common. Where they diverge, however, are the demands that they must adapt to; teaching must mould to government guidelines, where tuition must bend and twist to the changes of both curriculum and yearly school life. Tuition evidently owes a lot to teaching, for schools provide us with the bright minds we teach, and an educational framework to base our lessons around. This said, I am excited to watch tuition grow beyond it’s scholarly master, and become an educational tool within it’s own right. Schools may water and nourish young minds, but tuition can fertilize the soil even more.