Just like every student learns differently, every teacher has a different approach to teaching. Two tutors may work in a similar way and follow basic principles of education best practice, but they will never be exactly the same. Which tutor works best with your child will really depend on what approach and personality they connect with. Some students prefer an enthusiastic tutor who is quite chatty and perhaps eccentric at times, while for other students this can be a bit overwhelming, and they instead connect best with a tutor who is quietly encouraging. The only real way to find out if your child is going to work well with a tutor is for them to have a session or two together so they can experience how the tutor works firsthand.
We spoke with a few of our tutors about their different teaching styles, backgrounds, and experiences so we could share their insights into education. A common thread we found across all our tutors was the importance of relationship building. Being able to engage with their students and build a strong working relationship with them was mentioned as the most important element of each of our tutor’s approach to education and learning. However, how each teacher goes about building this relationship will of course depend on their own unique attributes, values and background.
Our tutor Laura spent four years working in the corporate sphere before she made the decision to move into teaching, as she was not finding personal fulfillment from her chosen career path. Luckily, she made the right choice and has found her passion in education! We asked Laura about what her time in the private sector taught her and how it impacted her approach to learning and she told us that the biggest impact it had was allowing her to really appreciate teaching and the value it brings to both herself and to others. It does also help her encourage students to find their passion for learning and to enjoy the journey, rather than only focusing only on a destination.
Laura had the opportunity to teach in a Singaporean International School early in her teaching career and found that this experience was quite influential on her teaching style and philosophy. Her approach to teaching centres around the importance of engaging students through hands-on activities and making learning fun, something which is very prevalent in the International School curriculum. This is a stark contrast to the mainstream schooling of Singapore, which Laura found focuses heavily on more traditional forms of learning: reading, note taking, worksheets and listening to lectures, rather than class discussion and hands-on activities. This traditional approach can work to disengage students and does not necessarily lead to a deeper understanding of what is being studied. Laura particularly loves being able to provide individualised learning 1-to-1 and in small groups, compared to working in a large class where class and behaviour management and the assessment schedule can prevent her from giving her full focus to each student.
Rhonda has been a teacher for over 20 years and has taught in a multitude of different countries, which has allowed her to see a range of teaching styles and approaches to education.
Her teaching philosophy focuses on the importance of foundational skills, such as number sense, that underscore an in-depth understanding of major concepts. With standardised tests and exams being so prevalent within the curriculum, often the foundational concepts which foster this understanding end up taking a back seat to repetitive, memory-based tasks like reciting the alphabet and times tables. Although knowing your timetables is important, reciting them in a list does not necessarily mean students understand how numbers relate to each other. Rhonda is very passionate about using teaching strategies to foster in-depth knowledge of fundamental concepts. She believes this starts in early education and she has had a lot of experience teaching Year 1 and 2 classes to provide this foundational understanding. She applies this approach to students of all year levels as she has said that no matter what age the student is, if they are missing a core concept they will struggle to progress, so she ensures she finds exactly where their gaps may be and works with her students at their own pace on that area before they then apply that knowledge to the concepts taught in their year.
Thet’s teaching style focuses on direct and explicit teaching, developing strong content knowledge and empathy. She believes that every child is unique (with individual strengths and weaknesses) and that they should all have equal access to learning and opportunities for personal achievement. Thet moved to the US as a child and entered the US education system without having learnt English. We asked how her life experiences have shaped her teaching style and she said:
“My background has taught me to empathise with and understand the feelings of non-Native English speakers. From my experiences I understand that hard work and determination is the key to success. Confidence and perseverance can keep you going and allow you to be proud of whatever the result may be, as along as you worked to your full potential. Hence I believe every child can be taught to learn effectively.”
Having started her teaching career in the US before moving to Australia, Thet has experience with both countries’ curricula and has felt them to be quite similar. However, through her time teaching at the International School Yangon in Myanmar, she was able to meet students from around the world, experience multi-cultural classrooms and collect a repertoire of teaching strategies from the professional development courses and other teachers she taught with during her time there.
One of our high school tutors, Reagan, is currently in the final year of her Bachelor of Education. Due to her specialisations encompassing both humanities and science, she is in the unique position to really incorporate STEAM principles into her teaching style and understanding of education. We asked Reagan if she feels that teaching two such different areas of the curriculum impacts her approach to teaching and she let us know it certainly does!
As an English teacher with a strong understanding of science, she feels she can help student’s see the relationship between the two areas. For example, while working with an English student on a persuasive piece about climate change, Reagan was able to improve their knowledge of the scientific understanding of the topic so their argument could strongly include statistics and expert opinion as well as anecdotes and emotive language.
She has found the same true for her approach to teaching science. Her understanding of society, current affairs and pop culture helps her to engage her science students in the subject and concepts taught – Reagan mentioned a particularly memorable classroom moment where she asked students if they watch any crime dramas showing parts of the forensic process. As a class they were able to myth-bust and go into more detailed discussions about the scientific accuracy shown in popular shows! This helped her students to relate the subject to their own interests and experiences in the world.
We asked all these tutors how they felt about collaborative teaching and this was another point of similarity as they all spoke of its importance in ensuring your personal teaching style is able to evolve and develop alongside changes in the curriculum, in educational theory, and through a diversity of experience.
Rhonda told us about a particularly memorable professional development session she attended where they were able to observe a teacher working with a group of students, but with another educational specialist present who was explaining what the teacher was doing and why while it was happening in front of them. Rhonda found this to be an immensely useful strategy for showcasing new teaching methods, as there is such a difference between knowing educational theory and being able to watch it in action.
Thet acknowledged the positive impact of teachers collaborating, as working together can allow educators to support one another, act as mentors to each other and build strong professional relationships. Collaboration brings a wealth of different interests, backgrounds, and strengths that each teacher contributes to the profession.