Q) Are you as good as a real teacher?
A) I am a real teacher! I gained my PGCE teaching certificate in 2000 and have taught physics for more than 20 years in three large UK schools. My classes consistently performed well above the expected level, to the delight of the students, parents and school. My most recent A level exam class achieved the best physics results that the school has ever seen. Physics A level classes are usually taught by two teachers; with this class I shared the teaching with a young teacher who was once my student when I taught her A level physics!
I have taught GCSE and A level physics throughout my career, progressing from Head of Physics to Head of Science and onto Assistant Principal. Having discovered that tutoring allows students to make fabulous progress, I have moved on from school teaching to tutor full-time. In a school, many physics teachers will only teach each part of the course once each year, and a teacher may not teach some topics at all for several, or even many, years. However, I now teach every part of the course at least twenty times every year! This has enabled me to finely tune the delivery of each aspect of the course to maximise the understanding and progress of the student. Ofsted (school inspectors) consistently recognised my lessons as being outstanding and I have since developed even better expertise to teach in a way that enables students to fully grasp each aspect of A level or GCSE physics.
Q) Do you have experience with my exam board?
A) Yes! A schoolteacher will probably teach the same exam board for a whole decade. In the past five years I have taught more than a dozen different physics qualifications (including international qualifications)*. There are some minor differences, but much of the central material is extremely similar. This means that I have built up a comprehensive understanding of the details of your qualification (e.g. is the thermal physics on paper 1 or paper 2? Do I get this equation in the formula booklet?) whilst extracting the best techniques from each board to teach the whole course. If your exam board is new to me, then I will quickly find out how it works, get any additional resources and be ready to go.
*16-18: IB, Cambridge International (CEI), Pre-U, AQA, Edexcel, Edexcel International, OCR A, OCR B, WJEC.
14-16: CEI igcse (both 9-1 and A*-G), AQA, Edexcel gcse, Edexcel igcse, OCR.
Q) I am in a different time zone. Does this matter?
A) This is actually a big advantage. Students generally prefer tutoring in the evening after the school day is over. My evenings in the UK fill up with tutoring quickly, but if your evening corresponds to my afternoon or morning, we’ll more easily be able to find a tutorial time which suits us both.
Q) There’s so much available on the internet, why would I need a tutor?
A) I’ve been playing guitar for more than forty years so I’m certainly not a beginner. Yet I still want to improve so I have a tutorial each week (online). My guitar tutor is better than me; far better. When I play, he knows exactly what I need to do to improve, he can spot it in an instant. The internet has so many guitar tuition videos that it’s easy for me to get immersed in them spending hours watching amazing guitarists, without actually learning how I can improve. Or I can spend far too long searching for the one tiny piece of learning that I require (whilst getting endlessly distracted), when I just need someone to see what I’m doing and say “Hang on, do it this way.”
I find myself working hard between guitar lessons too, so that I can master a skill and move on to the next one. My tutor is not only providing precise personalised instruction at the level I need, but he’s also handing me the motivation to practice my skills and make good progress. I can’t get that from the internet.
Q) What can your tutoring offer that a student can’t already get from their teacher?
A) Please remember, I have been a good teacher for more than 20 years. A 60-minute school lesson will typically consist of settling and registration, collecting and commenting on homework and reviewing previous work before it’s time to tackle the new learning. A talented teacher will be able to hold the interest of the class but will need to ensure that the everyone has grasped the material. Consequently, extending the understanding of the most able or supporting a struggling student may not happen regularly (and might not happen at all). This dynamic often results in strong students doing work which is either repetitive or too simple, whereas weaker students could just be left more confused than ever. Whilst juggling the delivery of a class practical activity, ensuring good behaviour, maintaining safety and addressing any pastoral issues which may arise, with a class full of students at different abilities, how much time is the teacher able to give to each individual student to support their own personalised learning? It is not unusual for each student to receive less than a few precious minutes of focused individual time from the teacher in a lesson, often less. A one-size-fits-all lesson could leave an individual student unchallenged or left behind.
The enormous advantage of personalised tutorials is that I ensure the student is constantly learning in their ‘zone of proximal development.’ Here’s what that means: If the student can do the work independently, then they don’t need me – it’s too easy. If the work is too difficult for the student to understand even with my help, then it hasn’t been broken down sufficiently. The tutoring skill which maximises the learning progress is ensuring that the student can fully grasp the material with support, then the tutor relaxes the support to foster independent consolidation (through homework which I always provide). Maybe it's like teaching a child to ride a bicycle: let go too early and they crash. Hang on too long and they don’t reach their potential. The trick is knowing how to support and when to let go!
I have often heard students comment at the end of a tutorial, “I’ve honestly learnt more in this hour than I have in the last half term at school.”
Q) I’m not sure about online tutorials.
Can they be as good as having the tutor in the same room with me?
A) I used to offer tutoring face-to-face, but I made the switch to online tutoring and discovered many advantages for the student that I’ll list:
I’m never late. If traffic is bad, if the roads are blocked with snow, if the bridge has collapsed, I’m still on time.
There is no wasted time settling into the tutorial. An hour’s tutorial gets 60 minutes of actual learning.
If we planned on studying electric fields but you find out you have a test tomorrow on thermal physics, then I have all my resources at my fingertips so we can easily and quickly switch.
At the end of each tutorial I set follow up work to consolidate the learning that we’ve done in the tutorial, so that you gain independent practice to embed the skills. Don’t waste time if you get frustrated with the follow-up work, give me a call and we’ll grab 5 minutes online to clear up any misconception, so you can carry on learning between tutorials.
We generate a set of notes together as we both write on an online interactive whiteboard (permanently saved) – we’re not struggling to share the same piece of paper!
If you need more past questions on a particular topic, it’s simple and quick for me to send them to you.
And recently Covid-19 has also taught us all other benefits of moving learning online.
When I made the switch to online tutoring, my students were soon saying, “This is actually way better, why didn’t we do this before?” Parents were echoing the same thoughts a few weeks later once they’d seen the lasting benefits.
Q) How do I pay you?
A) It’s simple. Payment is made in advance of tutorials by either a BACs bank transfer or, if you’re not in the UK an International bank transfer. Payment through PayPal is also possible, though there is an additional 3% fee for this.
Q) Can I get a special offer on the price?
A) You’ll be able to find less expensive tutors (and more expensive ones too). But I doubt you’ll find a physics tutor who has the experience and proven track record that I offer. Some people who offer tutoring have never actually taught in a classroom (or not for long) and lack the understanding of how to deliver the whole course and how to support individual students with their understanding and progress. If you want someone to help you with your homework then this might be fine, but I doubt you’ll be prepared to reach your best grade when exam time comes around.
It’s great to see students make progress over time to achieve their goals and I therefore offer reductions when booking a sequence of tutorials. Most students have a weekly tutorial over a whole academic year, or both years of their course I like to encourage consistent progress, as this gets the best results, so I offer a discounted price for booking multiple tutorials and paying in advance.
Q) Wouldn’t I be better going through a tutoring agency?
A) A tutoring agency can give the impression of security and confidence, but the reality is that many tutoring agencies do not perform rigorous checking of tutors. Going through an agency does not ensure that you will find a tutor who is a properly qualified and certified (or even DBS checked) teacher. Many agencies take a substantial fee for linking students to tutors and, even though some say they do not charge the student for this, the tutor receives less than the amount paid to the agency. Tutors therefore often increase their fees to compensate for this. In short, going through an agency can result in you paying more for nothing more. Whilst I do some tutoring through agencies, I prefer to liaise directly with the student/parent as this is just simpler and more transparent than negotiating through a third party. It also means that I can provide the same tutorial at a better price.