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Dec 11, 2018 in 

The Power of Private Tuition

A discussion of some of the negative social dynamics in the classroom environment affects students and how private tuition can be a remedy.

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Antony Stanley-Clarke


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I recently had a conversation with a mother who was looking for some support for her son. The family has a strong background in languages and humanities and neither of the parents personally favoured science or maths. The mother explained, as a result, the dislike for these technical subjects had, to some degree, been taken on by their children and was now being expressed as their own dislike for these subjects. For her son, maths and physics have become a real bane. However, he has expressed that he would love to do maths and physics for A-level as this would be considered a huge achievement for him personally.

We discussed his environment at school and I heard many of his teachers were of high academic achievement and he feels they pitch well to students that follow their explanations, and those requiring a different or more thorough explanation, like himself, are left by the wayside. He feels shy to reveal he doesn’t understand something, because he believes he should, especially given his performance in other subjects (all A-grade), and therefore doesn’t put his hand up in class. This has now become a pattern of fear and anxiety making it harder to step beyond. In a nutshell, he feels like he’s failing.

This may well echo our own experiences of the classroom and school and it is certainly a difficult impasse. Over the course of the conversation we discussed the effect of these unrevealed and uncommunicated concerns that repeat in our minds and feelings. She revealed she had in fact many years ago not passed GCSE maths and that even to this day as a, and I say in jest, ‘proper full-fledged adult’, is something that still lies within her as a sense of failure.

To me, all these factors are incredibly important in all learning environments as they can and often do shape our decisions in life. The combination of the setting, who is around you, what you think they expect of you, whether they might think you are stupid, ‘what will they say about me afterwards’, ‘what might my parents say about my recent test result’ etc. all get in the psyche and can be deeply affecting; they affect our ability to learn.  My question is, how might things change if we encourage communication and address and support these fears, rather than suppress and ignore them?

As a tutor, I have the ability to give my full attention to a student’s and parents’ concerns. I’m here to listen as much as I am to teach. There is no classroom, there are no others of higher or lower intelligence around us, there is no pressure being placed on you and there are no expectations. The environment, for most, is unique; it is a space that is truly refreshing and a relief. Both teacher and student can leave their concerns behind and become immersed in learning. This is the power of private tuition. Everything is welcome in the space.

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