“I can teach you everything in this book 18 times over but it will be fruitless if you don’t believe you can do it” I said (on my soapbox) to my GCSE group. “I can’t do it”, “I’ve already failed”, ‘I will never, ever, ever do this exam – I don’t have the ability” were the three sad responses I got back. In that moment, I remembered the stress of exams as a teenager – the confusion of doing work and exams in preparation for being a young adult, at the same time as being told to ‘never grow up too fast’. There are so many pressures on young teenagers nowadays, it is easy to forget how important confidence and resilience is – they need to believe in themselves, not just in their teachers, tutors, parents or guardians. This is the real challenge in tutoring: building subject knowledge whilst turning hopes and dreams of getting good grades into goals and focus points.
I start off every session with new pupils by saying “Henry Ford said, ‘Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re probably right’” (always met with numerous blank stares – “who is Henry Ford?”). But that doesn’t change the message I am giving – mindset is everything. You can be a genius in a subject, but if you are crippled with anxiety and disbelief, you won’t get the grades. So I made it my aim to build and grow confidence, motivation, focus and resilience in my pupils. I urged them to ‘focus on the finish’ and see the end in sight. We all know what it is like to be so full of concerns and panic that you can’t see the woods from the trees. Plus, these pupils are the next doctors, teachers, politicians, civil servants etc. so I need them to believe in themselves -for the sake of all of us; it’s no good having a doctor who doesn’t believe they have the power to make people well!
Each session we would do a little bit of visualisation – how they would feel when they got their results, what they would see the day they got their results, what they would hear and so on and so forth. It may seem ‘out there’ but it worked, and each session they would have a new aim or goal to work towards. “Today I want to be more confident in linguistic devices” – GREAT! Not only were we building subject confidence, we were building enough confidence to almost demand what they wanted to be tutored on, which also made my job a lot easier!
There is no time like the present – try visualisation with your tutees. At the very least, I urge every tutor to speak with their pupils about their goals and concentrate on working towards the finish.