Tutor Time

Those who value tutor time are generally those who place relationship building above teaching kids stuff.

Those who value teaching kids stuff either:

(a) in shit schools (tutor time 30 mins and “valued”) generally tweak their lessons, mark some books and do the minimum they can get away with in tutor time.

(b) in good schools (tutor time 15 minutes maximum, preferably 10 – you can do an assembly in that time if the kids are well behaved and on time) check kids are in uniform and have the required and explicit equipment, refer on to senior leadership or the great system in place when they don’t, log that they’re late, cursory check of homework diaries to make sure a sample are being used well, and send on their way – and then get on with their lessons.

The problem is when it becomes ‘really important’ (ie will be inspected by SMT), or when Heads of Year get told their tutors have to do something ‘productive’. Then you end up with circle time, attendance bingo, a form time quiz, or some other rubbish.

Why can’t we just teach them something useful? Or failing that, get on with lessons where we can teach them something useful?

I know teachers get attached to kids, and I don’t hate that. I don’t think it’s wrong to care about their life chances and want them to do better.

I do think it’s bad to feel like the thing you’ll miss is them, as kids, and hence cry when they leave Year 11 because you’ll miss them, and worry about what you will do without them. Teachers reading this will think “that’s not me” but it is a lot of people.

I value colleagues who build ‘relationships’ by showing kids (and parents) they care by having high expectations that they will learn stuff, expecting they will aspire to A-Levels and not crap substitutes, and who take pride in their results because those are the things that best represent preparing them for real life.

In my experience of crap schools, colleagues want to teach their tutor groups because they have been able to develop relationships with them and their parents, and hence are more secure that the pupils will behave. If that’s what tutor time is for, I’ve made my case for scrapping it.

In face, in terrible schools, this is often phrased as ‘tutor time takes up a lot of time, so you must work harder in it’ (ie do something that could be done better in lessons).

I think most schools value ‘tutor time’ far too highly. It occupies between 1hr 40 mins and 3 hours on the timetable a week. That’s between 65 and 117 hours a year. There is a hell of a lot of opportunity cost there – especially for working class kids.

Disclaimer: Obviously there are huge generalisations in this post and I’m not dealing with grey areas. I actually think something like “prep” in independent schools is really worthwhile to ensure practice of stuff kids have been taught.

6 thoughts on “Tutor Time

  1. Some kids are much more receptive if learning from people they like – investing in these relationships, although they cannot be observed as direct instruction (which implicitly seems to be what you think should be happening), is often the best catalyst for more positive learning relationships. I think it’s perfectly fine to feel sad when the kids move on – if you don’t feel that, or if others don’t, that’s fine, but if others do, then that’s fine too. It’s symptomatic of the different relationships that form within schools – that diversity of relationships is perhaps the thing that is more conducive.

    I’m one of the namby-pamby ‘tell me your woes, stray waif’ style teachers, but now my wandering sheep have moved on to more strict pedagogues higher up in the school, it is good for them that their new teachers toughen them up and cement the standards for being an older kid, whilst those kids who need to can (and do) return for that pastoral top-up when needed. One of mine from last year came to me today to tell me about how lonely he is – he can’t tell that to his current teacher. The fact that he has both roles means more of his needs are catered for.

    A happy mind is a receptive one, and some kids more help to clear the fog.

    • I don’t disagree with everything you say. My concern is that the extensive time doing this, while effective, is not the most effective use of time.

      There is also research that suggests that ‘happiness’ is actually bad for learning. I think some put it as – “being slightly depressed is good for learning”. I don’t think it’s worth making kids sad, even if it does improve learning, but I don’t think we should be building relationships in the way you describe.

      I’m not convinced that you wouldn’t have the same relationship with one of the ones you said (or maybe a different one with a different kid that was equally as valuable to you) if you just taught them stuff and showed them how you care via huge expectations and half an hour more a day to teach them.

      Thanks for the comment.

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