To celebrate 10 years of tutoring sessions, we spoke to one of Action Tutoring’s first ever volunteer tutors, Patrick Bidder, who tells us about his time tutoring on a programme and how the experience helped prompt a career change to becoming a teacher.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do currently.
For the last three years, I have acted as Subject Leader for English at Tonbridge Grammar School in Kent. It is a terrific school, where very high achieving pupils are nurtured and encouraged to be curious and independent in their learning. I have loved the experience. I moved with my young family to Tonbridge from London for the job and to make the most of the beautiful countryside in the Weald. Teaching the International Baccalaureate English course has introduced me to new international literature and I’ve enjoyed exploring an amazing variety of texts with the pupils.
Why did you first get involved with Action Tutoring? What were you doing at the time? How did you hear about it?
Before my teaching career, I worked as Wealth Planning Solicitor in central London and it was during this period that I first got involved with Action Tutoring. Susannah (CEO and founder of Action Tutoring) is an old and close friend of mine, who knew I had always had a bit of a yearning to teach. When she suggested I take part, to get some experience of what teaching is like, I jumped at the opportunity and since then I haven’t looked back. Thanks Susannah!
How did you find the tutoring? What subject were you tutoring? Where were you located?
For a few weekends, I tutored English GCSE pupils at Harris Academy Peckham. It was a very good experience, because it gave me a very realistic view of how difficult teaching is. I perhaps had a slightly naïve view of teaching, standing in front of a class, waltzing around with an open copy of Pride and Prejudice in my hand. The tutoring experience made me realise for the first time that this career is more about learning than teaching. It is not a performance – more about the nitty gritty of figuring out how children learn and progress. But don’t get me wrong, I still get to delight in literature every week!
What impact did you see the tutoring have on the pupils you were supporting? How long did you support for?
It feels like a long time ago now! I am ashamed to say that I think I only spent a couple of terms supporting on a weekly basis. But in my defence, I think I may have been so inspired by the experience that I immediately applied for the Teach First Leadership Development programme. It then became a full time job! Teachers will often say that the highlight is the ‘light-bulb moment’ when pupils understand something for the first time. I actually quite like the bit before that. When you’re working with a pupil who is quietly and determinedly working towards that moment. Pupils are not always like that. Teaching is not always like that. But when it is, it’s a privilege to witness.
What was the best thing about volunteering with Action Tutoring?
The best thing was working with the pupils. Trying to find different ways to explain something and working towards a new understanding together. There was also a really clear goal to it – although English, and certainly life is not all about exams, when you were in the room with the pupils, there was a really positive atmosphere. They were driven and there to work hard to get the result they wanted!
What impact did the volunteering have on you? What did you learn? What have you done since then?
It confirmed my decision to change career and become a teacher! I spent two years on Teach First at an excellent school in Peckham called St Thomas the Apostle College. I was a Head of Year 7 and 8 and enjoyed all the challenges and highlights of being a pastoral leader, before moving down to Kent where I’ve loved leading more on Curriculum and Teaching and Learning within the English department.
Have you followed the work of Action Tutoring since? What do you think has helped the charity reach this milestone? What has contributed to its success?
Yes, I know that the organisation has gone from strength to strength, expanding to new areas and reaching many more pupils. I also know that it played a big role in the setting up of catch up provision following the lockdown – so important for pupils across the country. I think the clarity of your charity’s vision has been vital and the focus of ensuring that the tutoring is rigorously planned and resourced. Maintaining the quality of the pupils’ experience means that I am sure you will go from strength to strength.
What would you say to anyone considering volunteering now?
Do it! It’s a very rewarding experience, and you never know…..you might wake up tomorrow a teacher!
What do you think the importance is of volunteering at this time?
No matter how hard teachers or pupils have worked, no matter how much we have used technology intelligently to connect from home to home, we cannot recreate the experience of being in a classroom. Inevitably, it is now crucial to support pupils with any learning they need clarified so that they can access the results and futures they deserve!
Donate your 10
To celebrate 10 years of critical tutoring for thousands of young people, we are asking whether you can donate either £10 or 10 hours of your time (or both!) to support the thousands of young people we work with each year.