An introduction

For my first blog post, I thought it only fair to introduce myself and tell you a little more about my vision for CK tuition.

Who am I?

I am a fully qualified science teacher with a specialism in Chemistry. I have been teaching since 2005 but actually started one-to-one tuition two years before this – it was my enjoyment of this ‘side job’ that encouraged me to leave my PhD research and enrol in a teaching degree at the University of Oxford. 

Since then, I have worked in a number of different environments – state secondary, sixth form college, an international school in Dubai and a selective entry independent school, as well as designing and delivering courses for other science teachers at the National Science Learning Centre. Every post I’ve been in has taught me something new and I am a huge believer in lifelong learning. If a teacher can’t bring themselves to learn new things, how can they inspire their students to do the same?

Why online tuition?

All through my career I have continued to offer private tuition to a wide range of different students, from ten year olds to adults older than myself. I love the variety and challenge that supporting individual students offers, but over the last year have been concerned about the carbon footprint and inefficiency of travelling to students’ homes; I have also had to turn students down because they were too far out of my catchment area.

Having already been thinking of developing an online model, events at the beginning of 2020 rather forced my hand and I now intend to focus my efforts fully in this area.

Since switching to online with my current students, I don’t know why I put it off for so long! I feel like I am now using a much richer collection of resources to help engage students – it is much easier for me to present visual information to back up my explanations, and students get to keep records of our sessions to help with their revision.

What makes me different?

As with anything else, the internet offers a bewildering amount of choice for online tuition opportunities. Why should you choose me over a tutor from a larger agency, who are no doubt offering cheaper hourly rates?

Knowledge of the curriculum, not just knowledge of the subject

Many online agencies employ university students as tutors, and there is definitely a place for this. They are close in age to the pupils they work with and obviously have a reasonable subject knowledge to have obtained their university place. For a tutee who knows what topic areas they need help with this can be a valuable low cost option to build confidence.

Many pupils do not have this level of self-knowledge, however. They may not really know why they are struggling with a subject or how they will be assessed. Some pupils I’ve worked with have had no knowledge of what course they are studying or, for older pupils, why they seem to be performing badly in tests. 

I make a point of staying up to date with curriculum changes in all the major GCSE and A Level boards so that I can quickly adapt my teaching and keep it relevant. As well as this, experience in exam marking means I have an excellent understanding of the most common errors and misunderstandings. 

I do charge more per hour. However, by ensuring each session gets quickly to the point of what the student needs most, time is spent much more efficiently.

Understanding how students learn

An experienced teacher knows that subject knowledge makes up only a tiny fraction of the skills required for pupils to make good progress. Countless other factors need to be considered, including (but not limited to): intrinsic motivation, prior learning and misconceptions, self confidence, revision and retrieval strategies and cognitive load.

All sound a bit complicated? Well, teaching is complicated! As a science geek, I love keeping up to date with the latest educational and psychological research but the good news is my pupils don’t have to. They simply benefit from my knowing what will work, and what will quickly confuse them or waste their time. 

The bottom line

Online tuition is quickly becoming a crowded market, and I am perhaps taking a risk by striking out on my own rather than signing up to an online agency and letting them handle everything. I do this because I believe that there is a place for my services, and that many pupils need more structure and support than just a weekly Skype call to help them with homework. 

If you would like to know more about how I can help you or your child make progress, please feel free to contact me.

Claire Costello-Kelly

Claire Costello-Kelly

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