Teach, Coach and Mentor - Advice From a Super-Tutor

August 24, 2021 by Tas F
Image Tutorfair Foundation is lucky to count super-tutor Mark Maclaine amongst our trustees. Mark’s expert guidance helps us to drive standards in delivery and training and informs our understanding of tutoring.

Simply put, Mark is an awesome tutor. For more than 20 years, students have been inspired to achieve by his energy and enthusiasm.

His tutoring journey began, rather oddly, in Homebase. He was recommended to a top London agency after giving a customer an excellent explanation of how a hoover worked. Since then he has become one of the best known tutors in Europe and has taught hundreds of students including the children of celebrities and royal families.

I recently came across a blog that Mark wrote in 2013. I found his advice to be eloquent and insightful and wanted to share it with our current community. So without further ado - take it away, Mark!

What does it mean to be a tutor?

Often when I’m called upon to explain the role of a tutor, I say that our main goal is to unlock whatever is standing in the way of a student achieving. In that respect, I see the job of a tutor as a combination of teacher, coach and a mentor.

After discussing this idea with a set of successful tutors, teachers, life coaches and psychologists, these seem to be fairly good descriptions of each:


A teacher imparts knowledge and understanding, usually following some form of curriculum or lesson plan. Most often they will teach a group of students (can be done one-on-one) and will work over a pre-determined time period.

Examples include: school teacher, driving instructor, 


A coach will support an individual to achieve a specific goal, often it will be immediate and over a defined time period. The coach does not need to have any personal experience in that particular field, but instead challenges that person to grow and find answers for themselves. This work is mostly done one-on-one but can be done in groups too.

Examples include: football coach, personal trainer


A mentor usually works one-on-one, and their approach is usually less structured and more organic than the other two. They share their own specific experience to help guide an individual who is setting out, or struggling, on a path that they themselves undertook in the past. A mentor is generally more long-term in their approach, and they will usually take a broader view of a person.

Examples include: Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars*, university peer mentor
"Tutoring is the hybrid of teaching, coaching and mentoring because it involves imparting knowledge and wisdom to students, coaching them to reach their full potential and sharing specific personal experiences with them so they can grow as people."

My belief is that the best tutors are those who, to varying degrees, undertake all three of these roles. 

At times, your job may be simply just to teach. Identify a topic that needs to be covered and you teach it. Plan your work and work to the plan. Then test to assess what your student has taken onboard and create new plans based on this testing.

Other times your job is to work out why a student has not been learning in school. They’re sitting in the same class as 30 other students who seem to ‘get it’ and yet they still don't. This kind of work requires a combination of mentoring and coaching.

Coach when you’re focused on why they may not have understood a particular topic. Mentor when you’re helping them negotiate the tough world of being a student and understand why they might want to do well in school.
"When I was at school, the best teachers didn't just teach their subjects. They were also coaches and mentors to me."

If you’d like to improve your tutoring practice, gain experience and make a difference, find out more about volunteering here. You can read more about the work we do here.
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