I begin my chat with Fiona by admitting that I don’t know much about her volunteer experience. She kindly fills me in, “I’ve been tutoring at Deptford for probably a year now, after school on Mondays and during lesson time.”
I go to scribble this down quickly when she continues, “I also tutored at a local charity in Camberwell [the Southside Young Leaders Academy] for probably six months, supporting talented black boys in the area. Then I volunteered with the On Track Project, teaching maths to students who are at risk of being permanently excluded, probably for another three months.”
While I’m amazed at the time and energy Fiona has dedicated to the education of young people, Fiona herself doesn't appear fazed. “It’s just nice to keep my hand in—to keep connected to schools—and to teach on my own terms. It’s a system that allows me to give back and not tear my hair out,” she jokes.
It’s a system that is easier for many students, too. As a tutor, Fiona is able to focus on those who most benefit from the extra tuition, but she doesn’t make the sessions mandatory. “I really like that balance; you don't have to be there, but if you want that extra help, then come,” she explains. “I think it's very refreshing to have a bit more freedom. It’s more of a choice, and that creates a very different balance between you and the students.”
I ask Fiona if she can think of a particularly exceptional tutoring moment that was fostered by this new relationship between her and her students. “Oh, I’ve got loads. I’m just trying to choose one,” she answers easily. “I really like working with small groups—that's the fun of teaching—and tutoring back at Deptford Green it gave me the opportunity to tutor students that I’d taught before. There was one student who was very disruptive in class, but being able to work with him one on one, he was a completely different child. That’s what I enjoy the most, working with the students who are really difficult in class, but then they get to be treated differently, and show how special they are.”
I know I should let Fiona get back to her fantastic work, but I have one more question. Although it doesn’t sound as though she needs another reason to volunteer, I ask her if there is anything she would like to say to someone who is thinking about volunteering.
She says, “I’m really interested in working more with children in care, and volunteering allows me to gain more experience with this group of young people. That’s how I feel about volunteering in general: it's just an amazing way to get experience in a sector you want to work in. You get to specialize and it's on your own terms.”
We couldn’t have said it better. Thanks, Fiona!
If you're a tutor, teacher or an aspiring educator looking to make a difference, visit the Tutorfair Foundation to find out how you can join the future of tutoring.