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News & Insights 22 September 2021

Becoming a volunteer tutor: How to utilise your skills, whilst learning new skills, in retirement

Action Tutoring volunteer, Lisetta Lovett, describes her experience tutoring on programme and the skills it has allowed her to develop during retirement.

When I first heard about Action Tutoring, I was attracted to the idea of helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds catch-up with their peers. This appealed for several reasons, not least as an opportunity in retirement to apply my own skills to help those facing socio-economic disadvantage. Most of us like to feel we are being altruistic; what I had not realised was that tutoring would benefit me too.

Tutoring maths meant developing a new skill set

I have been retired for a few years from a busy medical NHS career. I was looking forward to supporting a young person with their maths at GCSE as my first degree included the subject. I anticipated that the maths would be different, but had not appreciated that I would develop new skills as a result. Namely, although I could, to my delight and relief, answer most of the questions in the workbook that we used, I had to learn how to explain the concepts simply. The process brought me a deeper appreciation of a much-loved subject of my youth.

The Covid pandemic brought its difficulties

The last year has been, for obvious reasons, particularly difficult. Attendance from some of the pupils was patchy. This was often because the ‘bubble’ system meant that they were sent home.

At one point the sessions were allowed to take place from the pupil’s home rather than school. This revealed the challenges these pupils face with respect to inadequate IT facilities. On one occasion a pupil had to use her phone and another was competing for time on their only computer with several other siblings. 

Building up confidence amongst the pupils

Some of the pupils I supported had low self-esteem, and their panic at the sight of algebra was palpable. I heaped them with praise when I could, used humour liberally and, with the help of YouTube, found imaginative ways of explaining how to tackle the maths problems. Seeing them develop their confidence was hugely rewarding.

Learning new IT skills

Another challenge was learning to use the Vedamo platform that Action Tutoring uses as their online classroom. This was new to the pupils as well, so the challenge of a new way of learning was shared. The use of IT for teaching is rather less intuitive to people of my generation, but I learnt and became adequately competent, thereby clocking up another skill and some confidence. Some of the tools on their platform can be a little tricky to use, and drawing them freehand produces figures that one might expect a three-year-old to write. At least the pupils had a good laugh at my attempts.

Continuing on for another year

By the end of the year, I was growing in confidence and I agreed to continue with a further five sessions with Year 10s. This went well as I continued to become more experienced with tutoring. 

It would be a pity to waste what I have learnt, so I have signed up for another year. Tutoring with young people is great as the process is an intergenerational one. It has put me back in touch with young people today and given me some insight into the challenges they face.

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