Tall Tartan Tells About Tutoring

One of the things I love about my freelance business is the variety in my portfolio. In the mornings I do proofreading and editing. In the afternoons I tutor primary school pupils.

So how does this blog post relate to proofreading and publishing? Well, I have been making plans: it is the start of my new blog series on education and tuition.

It is aimed at educationalists. It is also for freelancers (editing or otherwise), who are recovering teachers and are thinking of supplementing their income by adding tutoring to their portfolio of jobs. You could also be a parent wondering whether their child needs a tutor.

Specialism networking

One of my takeaways from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) mini conference in Newcastle (May 2019) was encouraging networking from Denise Cowle. Going to SfEP local group meetings and events if you feel confident enough, but also meeting editors with your specialism. There are a variety of specialist niches in the SfEP community (which you can find by going into forum settings and clicking on the ones you have an interest in).

I must say I do get excited when I meet a proofreader who was a teacher, or with a publishing background, who freelances for educational publishers. We have a lot in common! In fact, I have connected with a few former teachers on LinkedIn where we share our experiences.

How to keep up-to-date?

I was a bit doubtful about networking. Here’s why. The only access I would have to educational Continuing Professional Development (CPD) networking is if I was in the classroom, on the payroll.

Obviously I need to keep up with developments in the world of curriculum changes to offer tuition effectively – I need to match what is being delivered in primary schools.

I realised, after doing joining-up thinking, that reading education blogs written by teachers would be an efficient way of keeping current. After all, they are, in theory, sharing examples of best practice.

Education blogs

Researching for this blog it dawned on me that I have read an amazing plethora of blogs by fellow editors full of suggestions about how to edit and proofread, how to market content, and how to write. But I hadn’t actually read any blogs about education. It never occurred to me that there WERE blogs about teaching. Lightbulb moment!

So I investigated Google and found many blog writers – as you do. Teachers have written about education, teaching and learning, assessment, and resources. But, most importantly to me, how teachers are coping with trends in education and demands from the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). But you’ll have to wait until the end to see the links for further reading … See what I did there 😉

How I got into tutoring

So back to the beginning. Three years ago, I developed a heart condition and was on sick leave from the classroom. It was obviously a relief to be away from the increasing mound of paperwork (more planning, deeper marking and continuous assessment).

But I did miss the interaction with the children. After a year of training in proofreading and setting up my business website, my husband saw an advert in the window of the local newsagents.

‘Tutor required for girl in Year 4. Needs boost in Maths.’ He persuaded me that Y4 (8/9 years old) was an age I had much experience with. And that I should phone the number.

I had mixed feelings. No, actually I was terrified. I had been out of the classroom for about a year. Even after the six week summer break, many colleagues share how nervous they are to go back into the classroom – will I remember how to teach?! Anyway, I met her family and prepared the first lesson. To say I was nervous is an understatement.

I shouldn’t have worried – the hour flew by. She had fun. I had fun. She learnt. I learnt. We talked about her strengths and weaknesses in Maths, and that over the next few weeks she would tell me what she had done in school that she wanted to practise. I would reinforce concepts sent as  homework by the school. Her self-esteem and confidence grew quickly which, frankly, was my main aim. I was pleased to be making a difference.

Why blog about tutoring?

So, in this blog series on education and tuition, I want to share some tips from my 30 years in the classroom teaching 7–11 year olds.

Naturally, there is debate regarding tuition. Why tutor children? When should children be tutored, if at all? In theory, the input of the teachers and parents should be enough …

I have been tutoring both privately and through an agency for three years. I am aware of a variety of reasons for parents wanting a tutor for their child. I don’t judge. I simply help where there is a need. Because I can. I have the time and expertise (unlike the parents).

When I was a class teacher at parents’ evenings, it became more common in the last five years for parents to ask: “Does my child need a tutor?”

The most common tuition requests from parents:

  • to boost those children who are struggling to keep up in the classroom; those who are below average, perhaps with special educational needs, e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, etc.
  • to support parents who are too busy to help.
  • to support parents who complain that methods have changed since they were at school. For example, they don’t understand the homework (Maths methods, Grammar rules …)
  • to support with the 11+ or Common Entrance Exams.

Why I tutor

At the time of writing, we are approaching the end of another busy academic year for me (July 2019). I have tutored 1-1 for five afternoons a week since last September, with four tutees, ranging in age from six to ten, in their homes. The only days I don’t teach are Friday and Sunday.

My students all work at a level below average and need a boost in confidence. This is my preferred focus – raising self-esteem. By cultivating a growth mindset I make progress visible. In reality a lot of us could do with some positive thinking.

Some favourite phrases I use during tuition to make the experience positive are:

  • IMPOSSIBLE becomes I’M POSSIBLE.
  • Don’t stop until you’re proud.
  • Make progress with every mistake. Mistakes mean I learn better.
  • FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.
  • Don’t quit. Do It.

Specialism to offer publishers

When you begin training as a proofreader or copy-editor, if you have come from a career outside publishing, it is advised that you offer your former career as a specialism, as a ‘way in’. As is patently obvious by now, teaching is a specialism I offer to educationaI publishers. I know about ability levels and different learning styles; I am open to new pedagogies; I adapt to whatever the government of the day *throws* at us. My experience with educational materials makes me ideal to proofread them. I have cold-emailed educational publishers over the last year and  been added to the freelance banks of three. Which is good. It will be interesting to receive work.

How to get tuition work

Let me end with the link to my profile with the Tutorful agency. This is how new parents can message me and lessons are arranged on our mutual dashboards. There are, of course, other agencies out there.

You can also find the link on the About Me page of my website.

To finish, the best tuition feedback I have had was from the parents of a 10-year-old boy with ADHD and dyslexia: “I feel so much more clever when Annie has been.”

 

 

Thank you to Lisa De Caux (SfEP Intermediate Member) for proofreading.

P.S. Here are those UK blogs I mentioned. As I write more about education and learning, teaching and tuition, I will mention specific subject blogs as I write about each one.

Tall Tartan Tells Why One-day Conferences Appeal

When I heard the North East Editors (@NEEditors) were organising a one-day SfEP mini conference in Newcastle, I was very tempted.

I mentioned to Mr Deakins that, as he had spent 4 years there studying Art and had a great affection for the place, he might want to accompany me and ‘do culture’ (art galleries, museums) while I was learning. Thankfully, he was REALLY keen so we hatched a plan that was win-win: we would have a mini-break by train from Essex in May, and I would get some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and upgrade points.

#SfEPNEConf here I come!

On the morning of the conference, we left the Holiday Inn really early and sauntered to the cathedral to admire the architecture. At the appointed hour, I headed to the venue – the rather stunning Royal Station Hotel – adjacent to the railway station. A perfect location. Victoria Suite was sumptuous with huge windows through which the bright sun shone all day and impressive, glistening candelabras. Very glamorous and extremely spacious for the 68 delegates.

An interesting variety of sessions had been planned. At this point I must credit Eleanor Abraham (@EABediting) who wrote excellent summaries in her live tweeting throughout all the sessions. I have relied on some of her tweets for accuracy.

Sessions

  • Denise Cowle: Marketing Your Editing Business
  • Matt Deacon (from Wearset): The Changing World of Academic Publishing (and the ripple effects on editors)
  • Melissa Middleton: Ministry of (Business) Training MO(B)T
  • Hester Higton: Efficient Editing – How to Make the Most of Your Fee
  • Panel Discussion chaired by Luke Finley: Navigating a Course in Publishing. With Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor, Alex Niven

Session 1 – Denise Cowle

Denise is the SfEP marketing director and she belongs to the Content Marketing Academy. Some of her points included:

  • It’s important to make the shift from ‘freelance’ to ‘business owner’.
  • Have a website. Everybody can have a social media profile, but any of the platforms could disappear tomorrow. Your website is yours to do with what you want.
  • Be brave and network with editor colleagues, including those from your specialism.
  • Like, comment and share content from colleagues.
  • Be helpful and demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Add value. Give away brilliant free stuff on your website (be like Louise Harnby!).
  • Record outcomes – “What gets measured gets improved”.

Time for coffee and CAKE! Marieke Krijnen even brought Stroopwaffels from Amsterdam.

Session 2 – Wearset

Next, Matt Deacon, Project Manager at Wearset, conference sponsors, talked about the pressures that publishers, in this case academic experts, are against. Pressures from profit-driven markets, the internet, expectations on speed of delivery, globalisation and increased competition. All affecting editors.

He asked if artificial intelligence and natural language processing apps are going to take our jobs? No. Context, style and subtlety of language need the human element. Automaton tools (such as PerfectIt) mundane tasks and reduce the time taken to edit, leaving us to focus on language and sense.

Matt gave guidance on how to future-proof editing: spot change, embrace and innovate, and spearhead development. How can we as editors encourage standardisation of templates amongst publishers? He suggested that the SfEP has a role to play in encouraging cleaner formats for editing  by sharing discussions with publishing clients. Food for thought.

Session 3 – Melissa Middleton

After a quick change-over, Melissa Middleton’s session was hilarious. She runs Project North East Enterprise (PNE) promoting Enterprise and CPD. Apparently, there is one local to you – part of the National Enterprise Network. She had us eating out of her hands with her Geordie humour! In groups, we listed all the ways we do CPD daily – many more than we first thought. Her final workshop activity had us writing our top skill on a post-it to be placed on a poster of collective skills; then writing a skill we want to improve on a separate post-it for a second poster. By the end of the session we had created a Skill Swap Shop. Very simple, clever and effective. As a post-script, a couple of the SfEP directors reminded us that the Forums on the SfEP website offer a similar support: members ask a question, and those with relevant knowledge answer. Many of us learn from the way different professionals answer the question with techniques they have used. Melissa finished her session by sharing an Interactive CPD Toolkit – a very useful resource.

 

Session 4 – Hester Higton

After lunch, Hester’s session was fascinating, if intensive. Her aim was to help us judge what can and can’t be done when clients are cutting costs and driving down schedules. Given examples of non-fiction texts to discuss and prepare for copy-edit, the task was to analyse the brief and project; calculate how much time could be allocated to each task, bearing in mind the rate of pay for the job and the time scale.

Hester’s tips:

  • Can the essential work be done within budget? And by the deadline? Often, when copy-editing, there was little time to put aside for dealing with the actual text.
  • Know what your key priorities are and stick to them.
  • How often, when an editor says the text is ‘clean’, do you believe them …?
  • Use clean-up automaton routines, keep track of the project, and analyse when finished for timings and cost.

Session 5 – Panel discussion

The last session was a Panel Discussion chaired by Luke Finley: Navigating a Course in Publishing. On the panel were Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor and Alex Niven. The panel discussed such questions as:

  • How do editors deal with …?
  • How have you tackled a ‘muscular’ (favourite word of the conference) or heavy editing job?
  • When do you get time to work on your own novel when you are an editor/publisher and enjoy writing?

One-day conferences

This is my second one-day conference. The first one I attended was the Educational Publishers Development Day in November 2018 at De Vere West One (DVWO) in London. Both conferences were hugely popular with impressive speakers and plenty of opportunities to network.

In summary, one-day conferences appeal to me for a variety of reasons:

  • Lasting only a day means they are not expensive in terms of time or money.
  • Their location may be nearer to you than the main SfEP annual conference.
  • They present more regular networking opportunities than waiting for the annual conference.
  • They are eligible for upgrade points.

The FINAL (unofficial) session moved venues and headed to a bar for well-earned drinks. Unfortunately, I had to miss it as my husband and I reconvened at the station for our train home.

Bravo and cheers to the NE Editors: Kia Thomas, Nik Prowse, Caroline Orr, Jenny Warren, et al, for a valuable day!

 

P.S. A summary of this was seen in the SfEP Blog in June 2019.

P.P.S. BitmoAnnie thought she really should wear tartan to represent #TallTartanTells. She feels a new branding concept brewing.