Teachers and Mentors: Bridging Two Roles as a Tutor.

Increasingly, tutors are fulfilling the role of ‘mentor’ for young people. As well as teaching the skills and knowledge students may need in a tailored one-on-one setting, tutors can provide mentoring support – helping students build study skills, test skills, organisational skills, as well as encouraging and supporting students who may be managing anxiety or other issues that present in the transition between childhood and adulthood.Teachers and Mentors

So, what makes a good mentor? How do tutors fulfil this role?

A good mentor is invested in the success of the mentee;

The best teachers are the best learners. This is a motto I stand by. Tutors are almost always people who themselves LOVE learning and will often have a rich and varied educational background. Tutors are people who are passionate about education, who have transformed that passion into a desire to teach others, so that they can experience that same love of learning. For this reason, tutors are extremely invested in the success of their students, they want nothing more than for students to learn – and learn to love learning!

When a mentor (tutor) is invested in the success of their student, they give their absolute best knowledge, tips, advice, and encouragement, which is just what students need to succeed.

Shares KnowledgeA good mentor shares their knowledge willingly;

And this goes double for tutors! As well as subject knowledge tutors can share their knowledge of the experience of school, exam taking, the HSC, and tertiary preparation.

This insight and guidance from someone who has experience as a learner, who themselves has overcome struggles and triumphs on the way to their own education is invaluable.

Tutors can develop a rapport with students and provide the encouragement and advice they need, which sometimes counts for so much more than academic knowledge alone.

A good mentor sees an individual’s needs for support, and provides for them;

Whether its medicine, fashion, finance or education – culturally all over we are adopting a more individualistic approach to life, and this goes equally for education.

SupportEvery student has different learning needs, passions, likes, dislikes, and drives and these factors will all effect a student’s ability to learn a given subject. Traditional learning environments in increasingly large classrooms can not cater for individual needs, and this is where a tutor comes in.

At Nepean Tutoring we have tutors that have specialist training in teaching students with dyslexia, autism, brain injury, and other learning needs. We have qualified school teachers and university students in a range of fields, who can fulfil a variety of learning or support needs. We have tutors qualified at masters and doctorate levels, who can assist students who are academic high achievers and want to pursue an academic trajectory.  We pride ourselves on matching tutors for each students’ individual needs, because we know that a tutor’s role is more than just a teacher – they are a mentor to our students as they make the important journey through their education years.

3 NAPLAN Myths Busted: Demystifying Common Misconceptions About the NAPLAN Test

NAPLANJust hearing the word ‘NAPLAN’ is enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure; images of stressed out kids, parents and teachers spring to mind. Since 2008 the NAPLAN tests have been measuring the reading, writing, literacy and numeracy skills of Australian children, and for hardly a moment without controversy. The constant media attention and politicization of the yearly NAPLAN results can lead to confusion and some misunderstandings about what these results really mean, both for individual students and across the board for Australia.

We have talked about the issues with standardised educational practises before, NAPLAN epitomises this problem.

But for now, let us demystify and debunk 3 common myths about NAPLAN, as it stands in 2018.

MYTH 1. ‘My child did not meet the national minimum standards for year 9 NAPLAN in some areas, so they will not be able to graduate with a HSC.

Myth 2 NAPLANNot anymore. The controversial move in 2016 to prevent students graduating with a HSC if they had not achieved the national minimum standards in their year 9 NAPLAN test has been revoked as of February this year. This move came after an outcry from parents and teachers who found that this had put unnecessary pressure on students at a young and vulnerable age and made the focus of education about passing tests rather than teaching skills and building up strong learners; an unfortunate downside of standardised testing.

Disentangling NAPLAN from the HSC removes that extra stress of potential long-term impacts of the NAPLAN results.

MYTH 2. ‘The national average NAPLAN results keep getting worse and worse, Australian kids are getting dumber.’

This year’s national average NAPLAN results did not significantly differ from 2017 in any field. Over the past decade of testing the results have shown some small improvements in numeracy, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and reading. The only area of concern is writing, where there was a decrease in ability across the board in most states and year groups between 2008-2017. The good news is that in 2018, the number of students meeting national minimal standard requirements for writing has not changed.

Table 2-1 Table 2-2

Examples of the number of students meeting national minimum requirements between 2008-2017, and 2017-2018 (Image from ACARA). The black dot shows no change, clear arrows represent a small increase or decrease in numbers. Data is per state. For more information check out http://reports.acara.edu.au/NAP/TimeSeries

However, results did not significantly improve in the past year either (pictured above, the black squares represent no change) The improvements across the previous decade of testing have been small, which begs the question; for all the added time, money and stress expended in the pursuit of better NAPLAN results, why haven’t we seen massive improvements in performance across the board?

NAPLAN tests are primarily diagnostic tools for teachers, schools and the education department to identify areas of weakness, and they should be viewed as just that. It would be negligent to never check in on the standards of education in Australia, but the huge focus placed on the NAPLAN tests is not making the difference in improving outcomes that would justify the pressure placed on students, and the time and money focused on this one aspect of their education.

MYTH 3. ‘NAPLAN results are the best demonstration of my child’s progress and the best predictor of their future success at school.’

NAPLAN Myth 3There are so many factors that can affect a child’s outcome in an individual test. It could simply mean your child had a bad day on the day of testing! They may have been overcome by test anxiety, such that they performed significantly below their ability level; a common response to the mounting pressure placed on students by standardised testing.

Assessing your child’s progress should be done through a combination of test results, reports and in one-on-one consultation with teachers. Standardised tests alone cannot reveal the unique abilities of every child, they simply aren’t designed to do so.

NAPLAN ResultsNAPLAN results may help identify areas your child may need more support in. Our tutors are there to help fill those gaps that may have been identified. They can also help mentor your child in exam taking preparation and teach them how to reduce test anxiety. Most importantly however, we aim to encourage each child’s strengths and empower them as individual learners, teaching them thinking and problem-solving skills to be able to overcome many challenges. And that’s an outcome you simply can’t measure in a standardised test alone.

This article was written by Anne Gwilliam, one of our tutors. 

How Learning a Second Language Benefits Students’ Development and Education

Increasingly, Australian schools are taking positive steps towards making language lessons a compulsory part of the syllabus. Many primary and high school students now learn Italian, French or Japanese, among other languages. But languages classes aren’t just a ‘fun alternative’ to get students trying something new. They’re a very real way of benefitting growth and learning skills.

As discussed in many research publications and news reports, learning another language assists students with multitasking, processing information in more complex ways and, of course, in expanding their social and cultural understanding. More information about the benefits of bilingualism to physiology can be found here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10126883/Why-learn-a-foreign-language-Benefits-of-bilingualism.html

Since the beginning of the year, Western Australia introduced language classes for all Year 3 students throughout the state.

“Exactly what language is up to individual schools to determine, but the School Curriculum and Standards Authority has developed syllabuses for the six most popular choices — Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, French, German and Italian.

Second LanguageIf schools decide to go it alone and teach a different language — such as Arabic, Hebrew, Korean, or an Aboriginal language — they will be able to use an alternative curriculum approved by the authority.” (Language classes compulsory for Year 3 students in all WA schools from 2018, November 2017, ABC).

Such classes are also integral to helping students negotiate an increasingly multicultural Australia, and giving them a competitive edge for future careers as employers increasingly value bilingual skills in their new employees.

Do you know someone wanting to learn a second language?

We’ve compiled a checklist to help them decide which language to choose.

Cultural significance

Over 70% of Australians today have family born overseas. You might think about learning a language that strengthens your relationship and knowledge with your cultural background, if you can’t already read and write in your family’s ethnic language. Alternatively, you might want to branch out and experience a new or exotic culture, such as the language spoken in a country you might want to travel to.

Usefulness in School or a Workplace

Professional environments increasingly require additional language skills for productivity. Conduct some research – if you’re a student, you might want to learn a language which you will excel in during HSC exams. If you’re in a workplace, your business might have ties with another country, so learning a certain language will benefit your communication.

Enjoyment

Make sure you enjoy the language you’re learning! Learning a language should not be a rushed or stressful process. Go at your own pace. Useful apps and both print and electronic resources can assist you. Many can be borrowed from your local library, and other free resources are listed here: https://www.thebalance.com/the-7-best-free-language-learning-apps-1357060 and here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/fodors/7-outstanding-language-le_b_6431448.html. Above all, have fun!

If you’re already bilingual, you may consider learning yet another language! This can be a fun hobby that is genuinely beneficial to your quality of life. Of course, language tutors are also great resources, who can guide you through the process supportively, sharing ­

Online Tutoring

online-tutoringWhile Nepean Tutoring is predominantly an “in home” tutoring service, the need to diversify became evident as the business grew and time restraints caused availability issues.  The inception of online learning as an option still met our philosophy of “one to one” tutoring but it broadened the scope for this to take place.

The opportunity to tutor young children in remote areas, young people in the Senior Secondary sector whose timetables often made it difficult meet tutoring appointments and our editing service were able to utilise technology via google drive and add another dimension to our services.  Below is a testimony of how this online service was borne and the success it has bought to the learning of some of the students we work with.

DANUTA PAXTON

Danuta PaxtonI have been tutoring for 10 years, 4 of them with Nepean Tutoring, and via Skype for over two terms. Skype has been a welcome addition to my tutoring skills and the skills of my students. Most of them are familiar with both Skype and Google Drive and do not quail at the thought of opening laptop to access the information they need. However, since most of the initial resistance has come, not from the students, but from the parents, I thought I would like to give some reassurance. So this message is for the parents.

Recently I had the opportunity to take on a year 2 student. No surprise in that, but the fact that she lives in rural NSW meant that the only way to tutor was via Skype. Now, I had often thought that tutoring via Skype would be the solution to issues of geographical availability and save on travelling time between students. Nevertheless, because the student is only very young, I was a little anxious. Needlessly so. The lessons continue to go well and the student is gaining computer skills as well as improving in numeracy and literacy. This gave me the confidence to explore the possibilities with my other students.

As most of my students are high school students and due to a change in my personal circumstances, I suggested that with the permission of their parents, they try a Skype lesson to see if it suited them. I am pleased to say all of them said it made no difference whether I was actually in their home or on screen. Furthermore, by using Google Drive (which everyone has on their computers if they have internet) I am able to share files and edit them with the students. Whatever either of us writes comes up on both screens and is saved automatically. This works really well especially with year 11 and 12 students. Both student and I can access any changes that have been made on the document, regardless whether the other is on line at the time.

The advantages of Skype tutoring are the greater flexibility and availability of the tutor and the ability to catch up on lessons that have been missed. The geographical location of the students ceases to play a role in availability and travelling time is diminished. The technology is simple and carries no extra cost. The advantages for the student are that their work is always there, saved, so no excuses. The work can be added to and edited by both parties as needed. The student can still see the tutor in a small window and vice versa.

I now do all my lessons on Skype with very pleasing results. I would encourage year 11 and 12 in particular.students to give it a go.

Other tutors are beginning to see online tutoring via Skype and Google Drive as an option. Our plan is to fine tune this method of delivery by a range of tutors and invite you take Danuta’s stance and give it a go. It may provide you with a solution to tutoring your child with some flexibility and utilise the wonderful technology we all have at our fingertips.

The Changing Face of Nepean Tutoring

Nepean Tutoring is still growing strong with over twenty tutors available to suit the wide variety of needs of our students. We are not your every day tutoring company, but a group of committed educators with different talents, interests and skills who hone these into specific teaching and learning methods for our individual students. While we pride ourselves in the high quality of HSC tutors we offer, we equally committed to provide what I call “multi faceted” tutors who can deliver our younger students in the infants/primary and junior secondary years a service that crosses a variety of key learning areas.

It has become increasingly evident that clients need tutors to be flexible, innovative and of course talented in their teaching craft. Parents/caregivers contact us to express how their child is struggling across a range of concepts in Literacy, Mathematics and other topical subjects. The need for a focus on basic Mathematical and Literacy skills as well as assistance with assignment work and homework in the home can be overwhelming for busy households. It is for this reason that a number of tutors at Nepean Tutoring could be termed as Educational Assistants/tutors who are skilled practitioners and guided by the current needs of their students in a variety of learning areas.

For instance, if your child requires assistance with a Mathematics concept as well as guidance with an assignment in another subject area, some of our tutors have developed skills to cross-curricula teach when needed during one tutoring session. No longer will these tutors teach only one subject, they will cross curricula teach, which is a wonderful asset for students who are struggling in different areas of their learning. If this idea resonates with you and your child’s needs PLEASE GIVE US A CALL!!!
At present, vacancies are filling for the remainder of this term and for Term One 2015. Therefore if you would appreciate a further discussion on this innovative shift in our tutoring focus, please get in touch as soon as possible with no obligation. As many of our regular clients know, I simply love talking about what I am passionate about.

 

HSC 2015

On a slightly different note our HSC STUDENTS have already started the last chapter of their journey toward their 2015 exams. What we find is the panic button is turned on during February/March when gaps in learning begin to become more evident. At the same time there is a swathe of assignments and class tasks to tackle and this is when the HSC crisis begins. AND what we know is that these problems actually already EXIST NOW and could be resolved with so much less stress if tutoring begins at the start of Year Twelve rather than half way through next year.

The misconception that the hard work can be postponed until after the Christmas break, is misguided. Students in their final year should have already set clear goals for achieving their desired outcomes, have planning for major projects and portfolios under way and developed a clear pathway for their English reading schedule. Mathematics and Science concepts that are troublesome at present need attention earlier than later and reliance on cramming with a tutor in the last months of the HSC year is not ideal. A confident knowledge of Essay writing and analysis of questions should be evident along with the creation of a realistic study program.

By the beginning of February the panic button is in full throttle and the phone calls begin to find a tutor to help play catch up. While this is better than no assistance at all, and our tutors work hard to bring their students the best results possible, an early start alleviates unnecessary stress and makes the process so much more balanced. If this idea resonates with you or your child PLEASE GIVE US A CALL!

 

Reading Angels Program

Finally, our successful Reading Angels program for children between the years of three to seven is a lovely new initiative. It encompasses a variety of learning experiences from teaching our little ones to love reading books to role play and artistic pursuits. For more information about the Reading Angels program, go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reading-Angels/357021761122288?ref=hl for a brief snapshot of the ideas behind this progressive method to engage our youngest children in learning as a life time pursuit. If you would like to sample this program during the last weeks of this term PLEASE GIVE US A CALL!
We do look forward to the continuance of the wonderful relationships Nepean Tutoring as forged in the community. With three successful years behind us now, our credibility as a leading boutique tutoring agency is evident. Most of all, we are fiercely passionate about teaching and learning and providing your children with quality tutors and teachers. I do ask that you consider the three ideas presented in this article and call us on 0402339217 to discuss any of the above points if you feel we can be of assistance.

Warmest Regards – Ros McHenery 0402339217

Learning Pods?

Whilst visiting a new student for the first time I did my usual orientation with the family to introduce my pedagogical ideas about the way children learn.   As a new business, Nepean Tutoring has had its ups and downs in terms of accommodating the influx of students whose parents enquire about our services and thus working out how to meet the growing need for one on one tutoring is a bit challenging with a limited staff base.

When I visited the family in question, the child’s mother suggested the idea of learning pods.  A Learning Pod is a new term used to delineate a small group of students learning together where a teacher facilitates the learning.  In a classroom, it is a child-centered learning environment where a number of “pods” are created to meet the demands and learning needs of a busy curriculum and to give children an interactive environment in which to learn.

Now, Nepean Tutoring advertises as a “one on one” tutoring service where tutors target the weaknesses of a student and fast track the learning to fill in the gaps in the student’s shortcomings.  While I still believe this is the most effective way to fill the gaps for most students, I became open to the idea of learning pods as an expansion of our services. 

Research does demonstrate the benefits of small group learning, particularly for on task students. The other benefit is a financial consideration for families who are unable to afford the fees for one on one tutoring.  A small learning pod of three to four students would allow a more focused learning experience for the members of the group along with an affordable alternative to the one on one method.

With some apprehension, I tested this idea in the Secondary School where I teach “one on one” on a part time basis.  I targeted a small group of three students who were struggling with some particular writing concepts and made the instruction very specific to those needs.  Concepts such as sentence structure, forming paragraphs, proof reading and vocabulary development were used to pilot this idea and I found it extremely productive and time effective to work with the small group and achieve the same level of progress as the “one on one” method.   The students were engaged in the learning and demonstrated improved quality writing over a period of five lessons of instruction.

As a result, I am toying with the idea of introducing Learning Pods as an additional service to the business.  I can see many benefits to this approach, especially in the area of writing as discussed above.

Another area where I can see the benefits of this approach is in Science.  Learning Pods would be an ideal method for Science instruction where very small groups were given the opportunity to engage in hands on science investigations at a level which is often impractical in a large classroom of students.  Similarly, I can visualise Learning Pods as a means for rich Mathematical investigations where students are given Mathematical problems to solve together that crosses over more than one Mathematical strand.  For example, I recently worked “one on one” with a student on a rich Mathematical task where we created a symmetrical 2D piece of art where I reinforced their knowledge of a variety of 2D shapes, and the measurement skills of length, area and perimeter. I could see this approach working in “Learning Pods” and am very excited to hear any other similar ideas you might have for me to consider.

Email me on rosmc1@msn.com or follow us to our Facebook fan page here and look for the post on learning pods and make a comment.