—is STEM Ambassador and Oxford University graduate, Fiona R. In addition to providing private tutoring in biology, chemistry, physics and maths, this past spring Fiona volunteered with Year 11 students at Deptford Green School in the lead up to their GCSEs. We help her tell her story below.
When I ask Fiona why she started tutoring at Deptford Green School, she remembers what drew her to volunteering almost immediately. “I’ve been doing private tutoring for about a year and a bit, and I just felt like I quite liked the idea of tutoring students who couldn’t afford it,” she says decisively. “Overall, the more tutoring you do, the better. There's a lot of tutors who do private tutoring, and they don’t tutor many students at the C - D [grade] boundaries. The problem with [private] tutoring is it just makes the divide worse, when it could make such a difference.”
This divide would prove to be one of Fiona’s greatest obstacles as a volunteer. Through no fault of their own, many of Deptford’s students simply needed more one-to-one attention than there were hours in a school day. “[That was] the saddest part of it for me,” Fiona remembers. “One of my students just—we just needed more time. There was quite a lot of basic maths that felt like maybe if she got help in the beginning of secondary school [it could have been different] . . . but by the time I got in, there was so much knowledge that was lacking that I had to teach her as much as I could and hope for the best.”
Fortunately, tutoring is a powerful academic tool, especially when delivered by an excellent tutor. Not to be discouraged, Fiona recalls another student for whom the extra tuition made all the difference. The topic was "direct and inverse proportions," four words that could make any student cringe. Instead of being overwhelmed by an onslaught of ratios and equations, Fiona’s student rose to the challenge. Fiona explains, “We just focused on [that] particular topic. I don’t think she had even been taught it before, [but] it just really clicked with her. She told me the next lesson that it was on one of her maths tests, and she managed do it.”
As I wrap up my chat with Fiona about her struggles and successes in volunteer tutoring, I catch a glimpse of the patience that is so important in motivating her students to achieve their academic goals. When I ask her what she would say to other tutors who are considering volunteering, it was clear the students had affected her, too.
“Definitely do it!” She says so quickly I can’t help but laugh.“It was really worth it, and I used to come out of the school feeling quite inspired by the kids.” Thanks, Fiona!
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