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Keeping up appearances

I haven’t worn a tie for years. I wear what’s commonly referred to as ‘smart casual’.

When I was visiting perhaps 10 different homes each week, I shaved every day and started out with a clean shirt, clean shoes, clean teeth, hand wipes (sanitiser and face shield more recently) and a tube of Polo mints. Looking presentable was key to making a good impression, especially with new clients.

In the summer, it’s tailored shorts (M&S) and open neck short-sleeved shirts. My clients have never complained about my appearance but visiting other people’s homes can leave you open to criticism. Some homes that tutors visit will have a ‘no shoes policy’ for example and I always comply – in fact, I usually ask. For this reason, I find slip-ons really useful.

The days of home visits seem few and far between these days. When we are out of various stages of ‘lock-down’, maybe they will return but I know most of my clients are quite content with the change to ‘online’ sessions (and the cheaper price).  

But there are other changes.

I’m not so paranoid these days about my shoes, teeth or even the clean shirt now that my sessions are all online. I do follow basic hygiene of course, but by the late afternoon if my breath isn’t quite so fresh (my wife will tell me) it’s not going to offend an ‘online’ client. 

That should not mean that I can open a Skype session with unkempt hair and wearing an old T-shirt! We do need to look presentable on Zoom for every student.

I have a GCSE student who insists on an early Saturday morning session. At 8.15am, I’m not the brightest and sharpest in the world so to meet this client, on Saturdays I am up early, showered, dressed and breakfasted, walking the dog at 7.30am. I’m at my desk at 8am with a second coffee and doing my best to be upbeat. 

One hears stories of mums wearing PJs to take their children to school. I have some sympathy and it’s so tempting for me on a Saturday morning to just throw on a shirt and sit there in my boxers so that I can go back to my slumber afterwards, but no – that’s not the way to go.     

Working online requires tutors to keep up our appearances.

Richard Ashelford
Richard has been a private tutor of English language, literature and Business Studies for over 15 years. After completing an Initial Teaching course and an English Language course at the Open University, he began to tutor seriously. Says Richard, "It’s been a massive learning curve and my own learning seems never-ending. In 2020, I completed the QT Tier 1 Course and I am an active member of the Community. After my first short blog, I was inspired and encouraged by the QT Team to write more. And blog writing is becoming another new skill! I hope my readers think so ..."