My role within Action Tutoring allows me to observe the multiple volunteer tutors we have on our programmes. When I meet a volunteer and we discuss what has led them to want to tutor pupils affected by socio-economic disadvantage, you can straight away see the passion and desire to support and motivate young people to have a better chance at education.
It’s always interesting for me to see what motivates my tutors and why they choose to dedicate a part of their week to supporting young people they have never met before. It’s a fairly small commitment in comparison to other volunteering roles, but one with a huge impact to the lives of many young people. For the pupils themselves, when they realise that this volunteer is specifically there for them and genuinely cares about their education and wants them to succeed, that can be very powerful. By just being present and supporting these young pupils on a weekly basis, the tutor is already making a massive impact on that young person’s life.
Now a bit about the volunteers themselves; these are the people I work with and as the lovely Rebecca (Programme Coordinator for Sheffield) once said, they are essentially also our colleagues since we interact with them on a daily basis. They are the individuals I rely on and they help us to run our sessions and programmes smoothly. Without their cooperation, it would be very difficult, almost impossible, to get the job done.
I have worked with a large variety of tutors over this past year. There are tutors that can seem a little strict or stern and ensure their pupils work really hard throughout the session. However, then they also play educational games with their pupils and you can see the pupils enjoying themselves and eagerly getting involved. These kinds of tutors truly go out of their way to make the session engaging and fun for the pupils and even bring in their own resources which they use alongside our workbooks. Most tutors learn to build a good relationship with their pupils from the first session; find a common interest and then build upon that in the remaining sessions. So, it makes the sessions interesting and the pupils are very willing to engage as they can discuss what they love alongside learning.
There have also been cases where some tutors are friends and have decided to join the same programme so they can spend more time together and compare notes after the sessions. It works for their timetables and they enjoy it as they get to give back to their community together. It’s a great experience and a good cause to get involved in with a friend if you are looking to do something worthwhile together. I have worked with tutors that have increasingly taken on larger roles during sessions and it’s fantastic to see them progress in their role and grow with confidence, both as a tutor and mentor. There have been times when I can see a difficult situation arising within a group and have contemplated stepping in to support the tutor, but they’ve managed to handle the situation calmly and without any intervention. At times like these I realise how strong and resilient my tutors really are.
In the last few months, due to the GCSE exams many pupils were stressed and anxious. This led some tutors to spend time on exam planning and teaching pupils time management skills because they had realised the pupils desperately needed that. It was brilliant to go past a group and hear the tutor have a frank and relaxed discussion with her pupils about their future plans. She took the time to listen to their concerns and gave them valuable advice, thus acting as the positive role model they needed. It was a great discussion and it was obvious that her pupils could see she was truly interested in what they had to say and wanted them to succeed, and they understood how valuable that was. It was a great motivator for them and I could visibly see the difference in the remaining sessions when they worked harder than ever before.
Lastly, there is that tutor – a saviour you may even say – that I have had the absolute pleasure to meet. This is the tutor that steps in for another tutor on a completely different programme at a last minute notice. This is a favour that will always be truly appreciated and welcomed by all of our programme staff!
So there are different types of tutors and not one is the same. In terms of tutoring style, every tutor is different and varies their style according to what the pupil needs. However, there are two top qualities that every amazing tutor has, this is to be reliable and committed to your pupils. I believe these two qualities are the most important when it comes to volunteering as a tutor. If the pupils regularly see these individuals and know they are there exclusively for them, this for a young person – that perhaps has never had such focused external intervention before – can be a great motivator to attend the sessions and enthusiastically take part.
I have been working with and observing these tutors over the past year and their amazing qualities have shined through and I can see why they choose to volunteer. Even though they are all so different to each other and can have multiple different reasons for volunteering with Action Tutoring, their main priority is to ensure their pupils can go further in life and are not held back from an equal education. It has been a fantastic experience and I look forward to meeting new volunteers and getting to work with them.