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“I now simply cannot imagine doing anything else…”

“I joined OC-EC as a science and maths tutor in the spring of 2007, having previously worked for a handful of other tutoring agencies since moving to London as an aspiring musician in 2005. I distinctly remember my interview.

Lucy: “So, what are your plans in life?”

Me: “Well, to be honest it looks like I’m on the brink of hitting the big time, so I suspect I have about 6 months’ worth of tutoring left in me and then I’ll probably be too busy. But I’ll be happy to help in the short-term”.

Ah, the arrogance of youth. But, 5 years down the line, the reason I am still very much a committed tutor is not so much because of a thwarted ambition in an imploding industry (ahem), but rather because of the gradual realisation that, as my friends and I were hurtling unrelentingly towards our 30s, I was one of the anomalous few who apparently actually LIKED what they were doing for a living.

At this point, I must justify my enthusiasm for this profession. Yes, profession! I concede, most of ‘us’ get into it as a way to supplement other incomes, and the flexibility it affords complements the ‘creative’ lifestyle nicely. And, yes, my parents still think I’m biding time until I grow out of it and finally get a ‘real job’. Indeed, many people do ‘tute’ on a more casual basis until something more permanent and, dare I say it, secure comes along. But it is difficult to remain an effective tutor for long without investing some serious time and effort in honing your craft (I’m referring to the art of teaching, rather than whatever else one’s creative projects may be). In fact, I can think of few other positions within the educational system (if you will allow us to rank ourselves amongst this noble and esteemed industry) where one has to maintain such a consistently high standard of tuition. Every single lesson is an audition. If you’re not up to the mark, an instant replacement can be found. Feedback with the agency is almost instantaneous. Compare that to end-of-term appraisals.

That’s not to say for one moment that I regard the work of a private tutor as being equivalent to that of a full-time secondary school teacher. My work-load is considerably less stressful and I take my hat off to anyone with a strong enough constitution to manage a hectic classroom day in, day out and still manage to impart enough knowledge to keep up with deadlines and additional bureaucracy. But I firmly believe the quality of teaching that I deliver is of the highest standard, perhaps because, when it comes down to it, there is simply no better way to learn or teach than in a one-on-one environment.

Of the many, many students I have had through OC-EC, it is hard to choose which of them I have enjoyed working with the most. The thrill of hearing that your student who was once convinced that they were destined for failure got A*s in their exams never diminishes. But my greatest achievements (if you’ll allow me to call them that, for they are as much my students as my own) have been more than sharing a few memory tricks. They’ve been about building up someone’s self-confidence from scratch, or helping someone fulfill a potential they didn’t realise they had, or even explaining to a disillusioned teenager growing up in a world of uncertainty just why education should matter to them. These are things that many school teachers may simply not have the time to share with their pupils, and yet all are just as important as learning and understanding the material itself. These are just some of the reasons why I am proud to be a tutor, and why I take my job so seriously.

So, whilst I certainly never imagined that this is what I’d end up doing for living, I now simply cannot imagine doing anything else!”

Tom MacLean.

Photo: Tim Tronckoe

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