Tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got into tutoring!
I graduated from Imperial College (Mathematics, 1972) and have since gained an MPhil and PhD. I have worked as a research and industrial scientist for a wide range of industries (e.g. Aerospace, Automotive, Chemical, Petrochemical and Gas, Civil, Nuclear etc), and have served as an expert on British and European standard committees. Notwithstanding my 36 years of industrial-related research, I haven’t stopped teaching Mathematics for just over fifty years - and have never lost my passion for it. I have been a Mathematics lecturer in universities, colleges and prisons, and have recently been appointed as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University on one of the Mathematics Master's degree courses. Alongside this, I run my own Mathematics workshops in North London, covering a range of levels from Key Stages to Degree - and have had GCSE and A-level Mathematics examining experience since 1980 with various exam boards.
How have you found tutoring online?
I have been involved in tutoring online for several years, and exclusively during the past 5 years. Despite teaching Maths for over 50 years, I always enjoy the experience. I do not find tutoring online as enjoyable as face-to-face, especially as a simple physical gesture or demonstration can sometimes explain a whole concept. You certainly have to be more creative in your approach in order to produce a successful session.
How have you found the Tutorfair Foundation’s online platform?
There are so many different types of platforms for teaching online. The Tutorfair Foundation uses 'Bramble', which is a 'whiteboard' environment. It's simple to use. There are some problems, but not insurmountable. For example, you do not appear to be able to type in Mathematics with Bramble. And a feature that would help would be if the student could see the tutor's cursor. This would make it easy to discuss something the tutor is pointing at. I have found there are some issues with the sound sometimes, but I get by and learn a little more each week. There is excellent support for the platform if you find you are in trouble, or want to know how to do something.
Would you recommend the programme to other tutors?
I would definitely recommend the programme to other tutors, because there is satisfaction in giving something to deserving students. But I can understand why it is not for everyone. You require patience and understanding of why you are volunteering. Once you establish a working relationship with the student, there is a lot to gain for both tutor and student. Whilst this is a volunteer position, it can also lead to other interesting work. I do it because I love the teaching, irrespective of the level, and want to simply teach Maths.
Are there any other comments you'd like to add?
There is excellent support from the Tutor Foundation team and you can write to them about any issues you may have. I made a conscious decision to volunteer, knowing I would not get financial reward, but I work hard to gain something for myself as well as the student. It's an ideal situation really. You do need the support of the parents in this, but as a volunteer, it's something not that you have direct control over. However, the Foundation is there to step in and help if you feel you need them.
If you'd like to find out more about volunteering with Tutorfair Foundation you can do so here. If you'd like to read more about our projects, you can find them here.