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Making use of the power of the QT Community

During the Qualification for Tutors course, I was struck by the number of times the course facilitators said that they wanted to learn from the participants. I think when they say ‘we’ they mean all of us in the QT Community – not just the course facilitators and tutors. The concept that we all learn from each other is very important to QT Founder, Julia Silver, and it’s rubbing off on the rest of us.

Being a private tutor can be very lonely. I’ve been a tutor for a long time and I’ve worked alone. I have made mistakes, learnt from them, had problem students and learned how to deal with them.

All on my own.

Sometimes a client will ask me if I know a Maths tutor. I have had to say, until this summer: ‘No – I don’t know other tutors.’

I do now.

An issue I have had to learn to deal with alone is dyslexia. One way I tried to learn about it was through the British Dyslexia Association, and I completed an Open Learn course which I found helpful but rather technical. I wanted straightforward help and guidance on how to help my students. Experience showed me that dyslexic students are often strong at Maths, but spelling is difficult. They confuse the letters d and b and they mix up some letters in quite simple words.

I also found that actually what was more common than dyslexia was a condition called Meares Irlen Syndrome (MIS) where glare on white paper (or computer screens, for example) causes the printed words to actually bounce about on the paper either sideways or up and down. I researched this and found coloured overlays, coloured writing paper and tinted lenses in spectacles kept the written word still and easier to focus on. But this came from long processes of research and trial and error – on my own.

I’m no expert on dyslexia or MIS but I think I can tell the difference when I see a student reading.

A bright student in science subjects struggling with English came to me last year. Forming cohesive sentences is sometimes difficult for him. I’ve been over the grammar time and time again, but he just doesn’t seem to be progressing. Spelling is good. He’s quick on the uptake. He does not confuse d and b. He does not have MIS as far as I can tell. Where do I go next?

Having joined QT and met an expert in dyslexia I was able to ask a colleague for advice.

This is novel.

I actually feel that I know someone who is willing and able to help me.

Amanda Cremona, MA Ed, and I were on the same course and Amanda is a specialist in dyslexia. I explained the issue to her and sure thing, it seems likely that my student really is dyslexic. Sometimes concentrating hard on getting the spelling correct, a dyslexic will become overloaded with attempting to get syntax and grammar correct.

Amanda’s advice led me into dealing with this student in a different way. I’m trying shorter sentences and putting less importance on the spelling. I’m more confident and less critical of him now I can see his problem.

And all because I was able to click on the ‘chat’ box on QT. It’s worth nipping into what Julia has called the ‘staff room’ and floating a problem, because someone might be able to help.

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 ..."