Christmas break of last year: I was a postgraduate student, research assistant, and transcriptionist/proofreader. I had caring responsibilities that prevented me from for having a rigid 9-5 schedule but I found I had some time to spare in my weeks, which I wanted to use to give back to my London community. Because of my love for English and belief in what it can do for people’s lives, I figured I might do something that played to both my strengths and my passion. I had heard of different charitable programs, so I typed up something like ‘reading charity at schools’ into Google and stumbled upon Action Tutoring. I can honestly say this was a turning point in my life.
I began tutoring almost immediately, and found Action Tutoring’s introductory training course to be an amazing example of how a great deal of useful information can be efficiently packed into a short amount of time. The team were organised, extremely supportive, and offered great materials and clear guidelines to work with. I ended up tutoring at three different schools per week: working with Year 6 pupils about to sit their SATs, in two primary schools, and Year 11 pupils about to sit their GCSEs, in a secondary school. For this, I had two amazing coordinators – Ben and Michaela – who were encouraging and inspiring beyond words. I also loved meeting all of my fellow tutors: people of all ages and backgrounds, who shared a goal of helping disadvantaged pupils to reach their potential.
More than anything, though, I loved working with the pupils. Each and every one of them! I worked with small groups, and there are too many great memories to list. To give you an idea though, some things that made my day were: seeing their eyes light up during sessions; watching them work through the exercises and make improvements; hearing them discuss their opinions and ideas; and playing educational games together (more genuine laughter and smiles than I had had in a long time). I can honestly say that my Action Tutoring sessions with them were hands down the highlights of my weeks. It was a wonderful experience, from start to finish.
And the only reason I am not still able to keep it up is: the experience was so inspiring, it led me to decide to become a secondary school teacher and apply for a PGCE, which I am now doing. I don’t know if I would ever have realised this dream if it wasn’t for this experience. It was hard for me to leave Action Tutoring, and I still hope to work with this amazing charity once I am able to. But for anyone who does have even the odd spare hour in the week – I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a great cause, and I have no doubt in my mind that the work I did there was worthwhile.
You only have to look at statistics to see that education inequality is real, and these exams are given a great deal of weight on children’s futures. These are bright pupils with so much potential who have everything going for them. They just could do with that extra little boost of personal attention that can give them the skills and confidence they need to achieve passing marks and above. Many young people in London are able to get that in private tutoring, but these pupils don’t have that privilege.
Being able to see first-hand the improvements made – not just in terms of the curriculum, but in terms of their confidence in themselves – is something I will never forget. As an educator of any kind, you have the power to help a child recognise their talent, capabilities, and worth. Action Tutoring enabled me to see this first-hand. I miss it, and I miss the pupils I worked with dearly. But I hope to carry these values forward with my own teaching career. For anyone who is not a teacher but wants to devote even an hour a week to a worthwhile cause: go to Action Tutoring. You won’t regret it, and it may even change your life in ways you never would have imagined.
English tutor, London