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Chatteris Tutor Henry teaches a lesson.

Are you really smarter than a 10-year-old? Three lessons I’ve learnt from teaching primary

As we settle into a new term, Chatteris’ own Henry Kelly reflects on what he’s learnt from his role as a tutor in our primary programme.

It could be said that it is premature of me to be writing a blog post about what teaching has taught me. Having only been teaching for 4 months, I am at the very beginning of my teaching journey. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that in life everybody should have a go teaching. Even if not formally, we should always be looking to teach each other, share our ideas and revel in what we learn. This train of thought made me realise that in the short time I have been a Chatteris Native-speaking English Tutor, I have already learnt innumerable lessons. So, in that spirit, here’s three things that I believe teaching has taught me thus far. 

Lesson one: You can’t control everything, so prepare to be flexible when things go wrong.

The classroom is unpredictable – no matter how well prepared you are and no matter how precise and well planned out your lesson is, it will rarely, if ever, go as planned. Whether it’s those few students who never bring their worksheet to the lesson or the screen share on Zoom failing, rendering you unable to share that PowerPoint that took you hours to make. Things go wrong, but it is having the confidence in yourself and the material to be flexible and proactive in the face of these problems whilst still achieving your objectives that counts. If you have confidence and knowledge in your fundamental learning objectives, then the route to get there can change. Don’t be afraid to adapt and change things up if what was planned isn’t working: quite often it will turn out better than you would have thought. 

Lesson two. Teaching a classroom full of 10-year-old children showed me you cannot afford to be monotonous when presenting new ideas.

Your public speaking and presentation skills can always improve, so be creative and it will pay dividends! There is no harsher critic than a room full of disinterested children, so try out new speaking techniques to make your lesson more engaging, make the content more compelling, or make the presentation more personal. Some ideas will fall flat never to be used again, but some will stick. We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things and improve our own skills, as one of my co-teachers said to me in my second week after a particularly turbulent lesson: ‘don’t worry about it, nobody died.’ Take the leap, it might just pay off!

Lesson three. Children are smarter than most people give them credit for.

They are inquisitive and willing to try their hand at anything in the right environment. In this sense, patience really is a virtue – something that does not come naturally to me but has proven to be an important skill that I have had to begin developing. I have found that there is no limit to what can be achieved, but good things must be given time to grow and require constant persistence. Don’t take your foot off the gas and don’t give up on anyone or anything – it will amaze you what time and a little bit of belief can do.

Eager to learn from your students like Henry? Apply now to become a Chatteris Tutor.

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