Thinking about using a private tutor? You need to read this

Cluey’s Dr Selina Samuels shares her personal experience as a private tutor and why they’re not all created equal

private tutors vs cluey
Dr Selina Samuels Chief Learning Officer BA(Hons), LLB, PhD, MEd Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Many years ago, when I returned to Sydney after studying in London, I made my living as a private English tutor. I had been a successful English tutor throughout my undergraduate years in Sydney and now I had a PhD in English literature. So, obviously I knew what I was doing. How could I possibly go wrong?

Except, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Sure, I knew the difference between a metaphor and a simile and I could speak passionately about Shakespeare and postcolonial literature. But what I didn’t know was that there had been a complete syllabus overhaul since my own HSC. I was, in fact, preparing my students for assessments and exams that no longer existed. The approaches to texts that I was teaching my students were just not relevant anymore. Also, I was relying on content that I had from my own high school years and which was woefully out of date.

Furthermore, to be honest, the pressure to provide the learning content my students needed every week and the fact that I was only one person, working without the benefit of a team of colleagues to support me, meant that I do not believe I gave my students the best possible learning experiences. In subsequent years, as the Head of a secondary English Department, I often had cause to look back with surprise at my certainty that I was tutoring the right stuff and giving my students what they needed.

The Cluey approach to tutoring is designed with the best and the worst of that experience in mind. Students and their parents look for private tutors because they want the personalisation that the partnership between student and tutor enables. At Cluey, we take this relationship very seriously. Our tutors are their students’ learning partners; their primary aim is to match the needs of the student in each live learning session.

But we also have an Education team that works with the tutors to make sure that all the programs we offer our students are mapped to the curriculum and relevant to what the student is learning at school. The Education team are all experienced teachers who keep abreast of curriculum changes and incorporate best practice in instructional design. They are also part of the Tutor Development team, who interview thousands of tutors across Australia to find the top but also most supportive & friendly tutors they can (not many make the cut) including specialists for different learning needs such as Dyslexia. This team also supports the tutors by providing ongoing professional development, support in the form of session observation and feedback, and overall guidance.

Many of the elements of working as a private tutor that I found so challenging (and, I see now, negatively impacted my students) are actively addressed in the Cluey model. While students get the full benefit of personalisation and connection with their tutors, the tutors gain the support of being part of a highly expert team of educators. We quality assure the whole process so parents don’t have to.

And there are other benefits too: If your private tutor gets sick or goes away for a period, it can take time to find a replacement. This equates to lost learning time, which can come at a huge cost to your child, especially if they’re looking for extra support leading up to exams. At Cluey there is always another tutor who can take over and teach the same program. Equally, students can change tutors as they wish; they are not stuck with the only tutor in their suburb or town who has availability and the right knowledge. Flexibility and expertise can co-exist!

I am confident that my private students all those years ago still learnt valuable English skills and, I hope, a love of literature. But now I realise how much better it might have been for them, and for me, had I been part of a larger organisation with the skills and knowledge I lacked. If any of those former students are reading this, get in touch. I’ll make it up to you!

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