We speak to Community Member, Lisa McRobbie, about her experience in tutoring and what advice she has for tutors starting out.

This is the first in a new series of Q&As with Community Members to explore our community and what skills, advice and support it can bring you.

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  1. What is your academic background?
    1. My BSc was in Computer Science and Management Studies followed by an MSc in Biochemistry. Nearly eleven years ago I started my teacher training, which consisted of the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, Mathematics Subject Knowledge Enhancement and the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector.
  2. What subjects do you specialise in?
    1. Maths and the Sciences from upper KS2 to A-level, including Further Maths, and Maths university entrance exams like STEP, MAT and TMAU.
  3. What is your favourite thing about tutoring these subjects?
    1. These are essential subjects for the students who seek tuition in them so can I make a huge difference to their prospects and progress. I live in a small rural town so it’s lovely, many years later, when they cross my path as paramedics, midwives, neurologists, engineers and so on, and tell me I made the difference between them flipping burgers forever and doing what they do now.
  4. What skills have you learnt in your tutoring experience?
    1. There are so many it’s hard to know where to start! Some of these are teaching skills which I started to learn in my former role as a teacher, things like patience, determination and persistence. I started tutoring seven years ago which meant learning to run a business which involves things like tracking income and expenses, doing my tax return, customer (parent) service, plus marketing and advertising skills. Most recently I’ve learnt a lot of technical skills because I moved all my tuition online in March and have stayed there: Zoom, BitPaper, creating a Facebook business page and a website, and the (for me) very difficult skill of self-promotion on the Internet.
  5. Why do you believe tutoring to be so effective?
    1. In the classroom you have to choose a level and approach to a topic and try to make it work for all thirty students at once. Even with careful planning and plenty of resources, that’s really difficult to achieve. Tutoring, on the other hand, lets you find out and cater to a students’ strengths. Most of my tutees first come to me with the same main problem:a lack of confidence. My task therefore is to pitch my tutoring just a fraction of a grade above their current level, constantly adjusting it based on their feedback, and steadily pulling them upwards. The personalised and low-threat tutoring environment gives the student the chance to ask questions and gain clarification in a way they may not be able to do at school.
  6. Name one game that you like to play in your tutoring sessions.
    1. I like games you play with dice and a board. My big bag of physical games is gathering dust now but I have a growing collection of virtual games. Roll the dice, move to a square, which has an instruction or a question on it. If you get it right (or beat the teacher with A-level students) you advance 5 moves, and so on.
  7. What one word would you use to describe your tutoring?
    1. Transformative.
  8. Lastly, if you could interview one famous person, who would it be?
    1. If I could travel in time, pioneering 19th-century mathematician, astronomer and all-round scientist Mary Somerville.