As part of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (1-7 February) we asked some of our tutors how they supported their tutees’ mental health. It’s a really important part of the work we do, and our tutors have training on mental health awareness, so that they are able to support themselves and others.

So how do they help our tutees get into the best frame of mind for learning?

According to our tutors, acknowledging their tutees’ successes, and building on their strengths, is key.

Jodie says: “I would say lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement when they are struggling. Saying things like "There were a lot of tough words in that paragraph, you read it really well!" or "They were some tricky numbers, you did well to add them!" for example.

“I always praise their hard work to their parents at the end of the session and will quite often refer to last week's session at the beginning, for example ‘Jude did so well last week so I am sure she is going to do amazingly with her work today!’

“I basically just do my best to put pupils at ease and build up a rapport so they feel confident in the session – confident enough to give things a go, ask questions, and discuss topics without fear of being wrong. This coupled with lots of praise for their efforts hopefully helps to create a safe space.” 

Jason focuses on encouraging his students: “Giving students encouragement and praise can really help to improve their attitude towards sessions. Even if an answer is incorrect, responding positively (e.g. "You're almost there!") can prevent their motivation from falling mid-session.”

Harry writes: “In my very short time as a tutor, I’ve made sure that I’ve been very sympathetic with the children and ask them about how they are finding the online lessons. If they say it’s ‘boring’ or ‘difficult’, then I’ll tell them that I’ll make sure my next lessons will be really engaging and completely different to their Zoom classes.

“In addition, I’ve made sure that they have fun in the lessons. For example, if they’re struggling with a particular question, I will agree with them that it’s really difficult and make a joke of it – ‘Don’t worry, I can’t do it either’ or ‘Don’t worry, it is really difficult but let’s go through it together and we can find out what to do.’

“I’ve also been asking them about their future – ‘what are you working towards?’ ‘what are you doing next year?’ to try and help them to see that we will definitely overcome the pandemic, life will move on and you can move on to your next step and your dream etc.”

Sarah stays focused on positive feedback: “Positivity is key, particularly at the beginning of the lesson. Making sure your students know that you are pleased to see them and looking forward to the session. I think this can help build students’ confidence heading into the session and feel more ready to learn.

“Generally, making sure you are present and listening to your students is key. This helps you to build a rapport and also just makes sure that they know you value what they say.

“For dealing with stress, I think taking short breaks throughout can help with some students. Some days will require more breaks than others, but that’s fine! I think this can help to make sure tuition doesn’t feel pressurised and can relieve some stress.

“As a confidence boosting tip, I would always say reflection! At the end of each session, after the plenary, ask the students what they think they’ve done well today. This can be a great way to build self-esteem and to get into the practice of recognising and valuing their own achievements.”