Regular visitors to this blog will recall that back in November, I tiptoed back into the world of teaching as a one-to-one tutor in two Sheffield secondary schools. I agreed to take on four Year 7 pupils in one school and four Y9's in another. The deal was that I would provide each child with ten one hour sessions of intensive English coaching. For readers unfamiliar with the English education system, Y7 = 11/12 yr olds, Y9 = 13/14 yr olds.
In spite of snow closures, school administrative hiccups and the forgetfulness of a couple of my young charges, I am gradually getting to the end of my tutoring obligations so that the decks will soon be clear for me to invade Thailand. I must say, my experience of one-to-one tutoring has generally been delightful. The Year 7 children in School A have been a pleasure to work with. The two girls - Cassie and Florence - are both quite capable so I have been able to move away from the dull basics of literacy. The two boys - Fred and Bobby - certainly have revealed literacy "issues" and particular bad writing habits but they are both lovely boys. I think that for both of them, their main handicap is their awkward handwriting styles - slow and laboured. Where I might take fifteen seconds to write a short sentence, they take a minute. Obviously in future examination rooms, this will have a big impact upon their performances.
Over at crazy School B which seems to be organized by a branch of the Keystone Cops, one of the girls - Kylie - has been what they call in Sheffield, "a right pain", "a mardy bum". From Day One it was "Do I ave to do it on me tod? Can't I ave one of me mates wiv me?" and then later "Me mam sez I can't stay after school" etc.. I certainly won't miss her for she encapsulates the Vicky Pollard spirit of teenage arrogance and that vein of boorish self-obsession that seems to run through certain layers of English youth like the blue mould in Stilton cheese. In contrast, Rosemary has been as sweet as pineapple chunks. Always there, always polite, always trying her best and well-engaged. As with the boys at School A, perhaps Rosemary's main problem is her cumbersome handwriting style. Small case letters are often bigger than her capitals and her uncertainty hangs about her like an aura.
Max is a nice enough lad but a bit of a dolt really. Proudly, he declared that he never reads books and he doesn't like school. Frankly, I'm surprised that School B selected him for the kind of support I have been providing. The old saying that you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink is very true in Max's case. Conversely, Cody has been a great lad to work with. There's a mischievous twinkle about him, a bit of vitality. Recently we have been working on his scary story "The Lost Schoolgirl" where I have acted like a coach, egging him on and pointing out writing issues as they happen - not hours or days later as is usually the case with English teachers checking their pupils' work. Cody has loved every minute of this experience and feels very proud of the story that has emerged - with all the creative ideas drawn from him.
I doubt I'd want to go back to the asylum that is School B but if I were staying in Sheffield up to the summer, I would have happily taken on a dozen children at School A. Every time I go there I'm met by the smiling Colette, a recently married member of the admin team. She takes me to my office to unlock the door and is my reliable point of contact for emails and organisational matters. In School B, the philosophy has been more "Do It Yourself" with the right arm not knowing what the left arm is doing.