Tutoring in a Pandemic

“Castle tutoring take the safety of our students very seriously and use the following advice and guidance to ensure we all stay safe”

Richard Endacott, Castle Tutoring

If someone had told me that our lives would be disrupted by Corona, I would have immediately thought that the additives in the popular sparkling drinks from the 1970s had finally caught up with us, I would never have dreamt that we would be in the worst global pandemic since the conclusion of World War One. Last week I did some supply work in a school and was taken aback by the necessary changes in the classroom. I salute all those Headteachers who have had to adapt the physical environments, timetables, curriculum and staffing despite some very weak direction from the Department for Education. For us tutors it has led to some very dramatic changes too, especially considering that the majority of our teaching is face to face whether that be 1:1 or group work, so how have we adapted?

Tutoring online

As the pandemic took hold last March and schools went into lockdown, most tutoring went online. There are huge benefits to online tutoring and it is becoming a hugely popular form of tutoring. Online platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams and Skype became second nature and new platforms such as Loom allows us to pre-record lessons ahead of the session, allowing for a flipped learning approach to tutoring. Not only is there zero risk of passing on or catching coronavirus via your computer, but actually it is a dynamic way of teaching which allows you to share files and adapt to online practices. Safe to say I have deployed IT skills I didn’t know existed. So far this year my clients mostly continue to prefer face to face, but with a second lockdown seemingly imminent this will change.

How to tutor face-to-face safely

Invariably you will either be tutoring in a complete strangers house or in a centre, either way it is important to ensure both you and your client are as safe as possible.

How will you get there?

Counterintuitive I know, but consider your transport options, cycling is ideal in terms of the environment, but if this is not possible you may wish to prefer to drive than use public transport. Remember if you chose public transport that masks are compulsory.

How do you get into the house?

Last week I arrived at a house for a session to be met with blind panic, do I use the bell? This is your first decision and do not underestimate how hazardous this is. This is probably the most frequently touched item with which you are likely to come into contact with. make sure the antibacterial hand wipe is available, if not you may wish to telephone the client to let them know you’ve arrived.

Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

Meeting and greeting

People are getting pretty used to this normal now, but of course do not shake hands, lots of alternatives are good, maybe even teach your tutee sign language for hello. Get creative and think about the silliest greeting you can try with your student. There is a lot of public hysteria about coronavirus, so if you can put the student at ease early that’s fine, it helps to lighten the mood.

If you do have antibac with you put it on the table and apply before the session starts. Hopefully the client has set up a hygiene station, if not it might be worth suggesting to them. If there is not one in the house, then politely ask if you can use the bathroom to wash your hands.

Where are you going to sit?

At a tutoring session last week, we started outside, but it got too chilly so had to move inside. Wherever you sit, try to be as far away as you can without impinging on the quality of the lesson or making things unnecessarily difficult for you and your student. Not only does this reduce the chance of infection, it will also make both of you feel more at ease. If using photocopies or books try to get two copies and don’t be shy in asking the client to get additional copies if needs be.

When reviewing a personal statement draft, I ensured I did not lean over them. I asked them to pass you the work to mark and then pass it back when you’re done. The same is true in reverse — they shouldn’t lean over you — so if they need to see something you’re writing or drawing, consider whether you can write/draw it first, and pass it across. Another option is to ask the WiFi code from the client and pass work electronically if possible, bringing your own equipment, pens, paper, laptops etc is an essential feature of keeping people safe. Maybe provide a list of items you are likely to need and ensure the client has these too, such as calculators.

Be careful about over enthusiasm.

Teaching is a great theatre and it is often felt that the teacher is the star performer, but it is too east to get too carried away and start sweating or accidentally spitting over your audience, try to avoid this and maybe calm the enthusiasm just for now.

Use the pandemic as a learning tool

You may want to think about whether there are any ways you can turn a negative into a positive and improve the student’s understanding of the coronavirus situation in a way that is relevant to your subject and ‘does your bit’ for your fellow citizens. In history for example there are a number of examples from the Black Death, the Great Plague and Spanish flu where you can draw parallels, creating masks is a great learning tool. Schools are one place the virus could potentially spread quickly, so children do need to understand the risks and how to minimise them.

Make sure you are up to date with Government advice.

Tricky as the advice keeps changing and varies from region to region, however, as a basic you should aim to be a model of hygiene from the moment you step into a client’s home to the moment you leave it. Not only is this the safe thing to do as it minimises the chance of infecting or being infected, but it also sets a great example to your student.

Coronavirus is a fast-evolving situation, so you should keep abreast of any developments and consider how they may affect your tutoring practice. Ensure you are fully familiar with the latest coronavirus guidance from the NHS, which currently includes sneezing into your sleeve (never into your hands) and avoiding touching your face (eyes, nose or mouth).

If at any point you develop coronavirus symptoms, you must self-isolate and should alert all of your clients. The responsible thing to do (if you can’t move to online teaching for whatever reason) is to stop tutoring for as long as necessary, even if it comes at a financial cost.

Consider how you can protect yourself in a business sense.

Having a Covid-19 policy in place is not a bad place to start. Clients will respond well to this, especially where you teach in their home, which they will undoubtedly see as their one guaranteed germ-free space where they can and should be able to relax without worrying about coronavirus.

All you want to do is convey that you’ve thought about how to keep your client and student safe, and reduce any awkwardness that may arise from you behaving differently in lessons going forward, whether that’s avoiding doorbells and handshakes or asking more regularly to use their bathroom, or anything else.

You should also politely and respectfully detail anything you want the client and student to do to ensure your own safety and comfort. For example, maybe you would like them to confirm that your student is up-to-date with the latest hygiene advice and to inform you at the earliest opportunity if your student develops any coronavirus-like symptoms so that you can postpone your in-person lessons until the all-clear.

I hope all of this advice is useful to both tutors and clients and you will stay safe.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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