By Lewis Howell
⏱ Wednesday 9th August 2017

Ah January.  What a cruel mistress she can be.  After the sweet heaven of being back at home for Christmas, what with the central heating, the food and a real life tumble dryer, it can feel pretty grim slogging back up North to the cold realities of Uni life, and once again having to work for a living.  But as I set out my clothes for tutoring the next day (I of course do not do this, as I am not a child, but I think it adds nicely to the narrative) I ponder the thoughts of a new year and tutoring.  Something I love about both working and studying in the academic world is you get two fresh starts in every year.  There's the beginning of the academic year in September, when you're full of optimistic resolutions that often- for me at least- end up proving very unrealistic.  But then there's January, the much better fresh start, I feel.  It is a time to reflect on mistakes of the past term and correct them; identify what caused the small victories in order to repeat them; and most importantly... set up a new gym membership.  You'll never go.  You'll curse yourself for paying that £25 starters fee, and eventually you'll cancel it in three months.  But this isn't about the gym goshdarnit!!

It's about remembering the things you learnt last year, whilst also clearing way for the new things to learn.  There are things I learnt as a tutor last term that I definitely do not want to lose sight of.  I learnt that Year 8 students can very easily be distracted by the simplest of games; I learnt that when it comes to difficult students, perseverance is key, and I have been reminded even further of the brilliant potential that lies in the schools of Manchester.  I also learnt how to brew the perfect pot of tea, but that's beside the point.  These things make me look forward to returning to my students from last term, picking up where we left off and making new progress.

But what I am more interested in is resolving to improve upon things that I learnt did not go so well last year.  And I'm not just talking about the time I took the 206 bus from Hyde back to Piccadilly.  Last year I learnt that sometimes over planning for a difficult tuition group in the form of a home-made board game can in fact hinder progress rather than instantly winning them round with all the fun.  I also learnt that attempting to stick entirely to the lesson plan can lead to a loss of interest with pupils, that there is a point when being unorganised crosses over to just being a full blown mess, and that sometimes trying to find out what my pupil's interests are can lead to me being completely distracted for a good ten minutes by idle yet captivating conversation.  And so I am resolving to bear these things in mind when tutoring this year. By the end of 2015 I am convinced that I will be a fully organised, mature human being and dynamo tutor.  And pigs will be flying.

I've heard loads of people this year saying that they don't believe in New Year's resolutions; that they think it's a pointless and unrealistic tradition, and they've given up on the idea completely.  But I honestly think that New Year's resolutions are a fantastic concept.  Who doesn't want to improve upon themselves in some way?  To give up on the idea of forming new resolutions for yourself is basically just saying that you already think you're perfect, and I simply refuse to get on board with that sort of narcissism.  Of course I'm joking, but I really dislike the cynical idea of doing away with resolutions.  So if you haven't made a resolution yet, then resolve to make one now, tutoring or otherwise.  I mean it probably should be tutoring, seeing as this is a blog about life as a tutor, written by a tutor, for a charity called The Tutor Trust.  But still.

So fellow tutors, I invite you to reflect on your own mental notepads.  Peruse the pages of lessons learned last year... cast a tear-filled eye over the things you need to improve upon this year... and then look forward, eyes squinting with optimism and hope, to the empty page, ready to be filled with the list of things to be learnt.

Oh and by the way, that Disney quote from my last blog?  'Hercules', boy and girls.  A splendid film which you can now find on Netflix.  Looks like you already have that first note to add to your list of things you'll learn in 2015.

Date of publication: 09/08/2017