One of our tutors, Paul George, who teaches Maths and ICT in Alford, Aberdeenshire, shares his experience of moving from classroom teaching to private tutoring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Making the transition from teaching to tutoring and the Covid-19 effect Background After 26 years as a teacher I made the decision in March 2020 to leave the profession and become self-employed as a private Maths tutor. Having worked in six different Local Authority schools, three mainstream and three for children with SEN/ASN, the decision to give up secure employment for a more uncertain work regime wasn’t an easy one to make. Throughout my teaching career I tutored students in Science and Mathematics in the 11 – 16 age range. I found the experience a rewarding one and felt this is where my teaching future lay.
The decision came after moving from a town in Hampshire to a hamlet in a rural setting in Aberdeenshire, close to the Cairngorms National Park. One difference moving here was the reduction in population levels. Aberdeenshire has a population of 270 000 in an area of 3.6km2 and Hampshire a population of 1.4 million in an area of 3.8km2 . This had implications for the number of students I could tutor, especially in the area I live. After some research into the local competition I ascertained there were few Maths tutors, especially for the 11-18 age range – perfect for me. The timing was good to make the change - exam season was on the horizon and I had time to prepare myself. So, I resigned from school and then Covid-19 reared its head!
The effect of Covid-19
After the Scottish Government’s decision to close all schools I had to think about what this meant for me professionally and financially. Having banked on a need for students to have some extra support in preparation for the examinations, the cancellation of said examinations was a setback. In addition, I had planned to offer face-toface tutoring and that was no longer an option. At that time I was not considering online teaching; however, it quickly became obvious that online teaching was the way forward.
Learning New Skills
As an individual who could never be accused of overusing IT, especially social media, it became apparent that I needed to seriously upskill myself – quickly. We are fortunate in Scotland to have an organisation called Business Gateway that provides support for new, fledgling and established companies. All free of charge! Having visited my local office and having an excellent consultation with a representative I was alerted to the range of courses available.
The first course centred on creating websites using WordPress. This proved invaluable and within a couple of days I had managed to create a basic site. Of course, that was just the start. Getting it on Google My Business and Bing Places was the next challenge. After this I needed to make sure I was able to offer online tutoring. So, a new HD webcam, whiteboard, pens, whiteboard software and a writing tablet were soon to be delivered ready to use on Skype and Zoom.
The next course focused on social media for beginners. This was a fascinating course for a novice and opened my eyes to the power of using such platforms to advertise and keep in touch with potential customers. Facebook and Twitter accounts followed.
Looking to the Future
The opportunities for tutoring in my area at the moment are few, especially under the present circumstances. The two closest towns near me (combined population 5 500) with Secondary schools are at least 12 miles away interspersed with small villages and farms. My focus will be what happens once restrictions are relaxed or lifted. I anticipate increased demand towards the end of 2020 as students for the 2021 examinations catch up work they will have invariably missed despite the best efforts of the schools. So, I look forward to getting my first student and from there establishing myself in the community.
Paul George is an ICT and Maths tutor in Alford, Aberdeenshire. With 26 years of experience in a variety of mainstream and special schools as a teacher and Head of Department, he now tutors students in-person and online.