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‘One Step at a Time’ advises Private Tutor

March 10, 2014
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Thoughts From The Corner

As a private English teacher, many of my students see passing their GCSE English as the be-all-and-end-all of our private tutoring.

As we commence our studies, it is as if they feel they are at the foot of an unclimbable mountain. The dizzying heights seem unreachable. The start is tinged with tension the conclusion lost in the mists of time.

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Mountain – Alaska’s Denali (Photo credit: blmiers2)

I assure them that it’s only a matter of one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. The GCSE English curriculum is merely a path of hurdles. I tell them that I will guide them down the path and together we will stride over the hurdles.

The year progresses, the lessons are ticked off one by one and we arrive at examination time; and sure enough, the ascent has been successful, the peak reached and GCSE English passed. I receive a phone call/text/email/tweet from a very excited student and are asked about private tuition for the next level – ‘A’ level English.

Then a sense of deja vu as the first lesson commences. Nerves, stress, tension, talk of the unclimbable mountain ahead of them. I remind them of the mountain scaled in passing their GCSE and assure them, once again, that we are about to start on a path of hurdles. We will take the journey together one step at a time, one hurdle at a time.

So we start. It may be ‘Hamlet, then on to John Donne, then on to T.S.Eliot, then on to Samuel Beckett. Each one comes and each one goes. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes the ascent seems shrouded in mist and other times it’s simply that the gradient is too steep. Eventually, the peak is reached, the exam. completed and then the nervous wait for results.

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John Donne

The deja vu kicks in again. Contact by phone/text/email/tweet; ‘A’ level English passed and a place at university accepted.

I know that when the university mountain has been climbed and the peak reached three years later, the student will look back at on the GCSE and ‘A’ level and wonder what all the panic was about. Perhaps even wonder if a private English tutor was required at all!

Stand upon the highest ridge, and see, how small the other mountains seem.

Du Fu, Tang Dynasty (618-907)

  1. Well said, about the steps in passing exams or learning about literature (or both!). Great to hear about the results of your tutoring work.
    I remember the first Shakespeare play we read, it all seemed rather impossible. But after a couple more, we began to ‘get’ the language. John Donne too – ‘A valediction: forbidding mourning’ is a favourite now, but back then!

    • Thanks for the comment. Literature is a wonderful thing once you have the key to decipher. Sometimes that comes with age/maturity.

  2. Hi there -just a quick thought about something I came across. Have you come across the publishing imprint – Britain next Someone who follows my blog told me about it. If I’ve understood it right, you commit to getting x number of pre sales and them when ho it the target you get a publishing deal. You probably l know all about it but whilst I’m sitting waiting for my lh drive car to appear I just thought I’d mention it.😊

    Sheila Williams Writer

    31 Petite Rue Ste.. Colombe sur l’Hers Aude 2130 France


    • Thanks for the thought. It seems that it springs into action later this month. I’m not sure that I would want to go to a start-up. A bit unfair really because unless people give them a chance. . . I’ll keep an eye on it and let you know. I’m presently having a good look at Troubador Publishing. They are running a self-publishing conference at University of Leicester on March 30th which I am thinking of going to. I probably won’t want all the the bits and pieces done by one company. A little over a week now and I’ll have to start making some decisions. Good luck with your new toy.

  3. Sounds like you provide them with a firm foundation for that next mountain.

    What a great reward, to know that you’ve helped them start the journey. Makes me all nostalgic for the time when I wondered what all that panic was too – and I never lost sight of the tutors who made that possible. I’m sure your students haven’t either.

    • Same with me. I will always remember my great Maths teacher – wonder why I went on to do English? Strange but true.

      Thanks for the comment.

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