Gemma’s Educational Autobiography & Personal Tutoring Philosophy

This article has been written by Gemma Luscombe, an English tutor at LearnMate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Gemma, then please check out her page here.


Gemma’s Educational Autobiography & Personal Tutoring Philosophy

My motivation to become a tutor began on my first day of schooling. I remember being so excited by learning, pouring my heart and soul into schoolwork and achieving the highest grades. I attribute my initial interest in schoolwork to how highly my father valued education and took pride in the fact that he was the top of his classes. I continued to be invigorated by academic achievement, particularly in English and Japanese, but I also became intimidated when studying Japanese, which has been highly influential to my tutoring.

This reflection of mine will cover how my educational experiences of invigoration and intimidation influenced my decision to become a teacher and relate to pedagogical theory, as well as how these experiences influence my personal teaching philosophy, with reference to both of my learning areas; English and Japanese.

I am going, to begin with, English because I have always seen English as primary in my educative experience. I loved sitting in year 12 English, bouncing ideas back and forth with my year 12 English teacher; Rohan Chiu. I want to be an English teacher because I love exploring texts. And, yet, I want to be a secondary English tutor because of Rohan Chiu. His pedagogical techniques not only facilitated my development in English but also inspired my interest in English, exponentially. He asked thought-provoking questions, probed my thinking further when I gave responses to those questions and continued to upgrade my vocabulary by introducing me to new words like ‘amalgamated’ and ‘furthermore’ to integrate into my responses. I started questioning my own beliefs and the discourses in society, becoming more open-minded and critical. I found that my development in English in school directly transferred to my eloquence outside of school, as I was able to communicate in an articulate way with older family members of my peers and my peers’ family friends. I believe that my ability in English also increased my emotional intelligence, as I was continually studying representations of the human condition, relating it to my personal experience and becoming highly reflective about the relationships in my life. Thereby, I have come to perceive English as an invaluable discipline because of the benefits that I have personally derived from my dedicated study.

I believe that my invigoration in the English classroom is directly attributable to my involvement in discussion, which increased my critical thinking skills and academic outcomes. Recent pedagogical theory reinforces my belief (Alexander 2002; Barnes 2010; Ritchhart 2012; Hirn and Scott 2014). These theorists argue that discussion is a powerful tool for pedagogical intervention and cognitive development (Alexander 2002) as talking to explore ideas creates a “deep thinking classroom” (Ritchhart, 2012, p. 8) that “leads to better intellectual engagement with what is being taught” (Barnes, 2010, p. 10). Therefore, “one of the principal tasks of a teacher is to create interactive opportunities” (Alexander, 2002, p. 2) like dialogic talk and “opportunities to respond” (Hirn and Scott, 2014, p. 591). I believe that it is highly beneficial that students perceive learning as a process of exploring ideas so that they can start formulating their own informed opinions and thinking independently and critically. Therefore, I want to promote a culture of enquiry in my tutoring. I want my students to question my analysis of texts, question one another and ultimately question themselves.

However, I also spent a great proportion of my educative experience being intimidated whilst learning. In the senior years of Japanese, I began feeling highly anxious about practising speaking. After so many years of being an exemplary student, the tasks were suddenly not as easy to complete as once before. I did not want to face the fact that I may not be perfect in an academic setting; that I may have to work hard at something that did not come naturally to me. This resonates with Dweck’s pedagogical theory of fixed mindsets in that I was being a “self-handicapping high achiever” (Scott, 2015, p. 121). Dweck’s theory (1998) of fixed mindsets argues that students who identify as intelligent can lack “resiliency to [academic] setbacks” (p. 34) when a task requires more effort academically than others because “they hold the belief that the naturally talented don’t need to apply themselves to doing well” (Scott, 2015, p. 121). I internalised the idea that I was intelligent as a major facet of my identity and subsequently sacrificed “potentially valuable learning opportunities” that challenged that identity, like speaking tasks in Japanese (Dweck, 1998, p. 33). Studies state that there is an inverse correlation between language acquisition and anxiety levels (Krashen 1987; Krashen 1988). I experienced anxiety in learning Japanese because I did not want to make a mistake whilst speaking in front of my classmates. In year 12, my VCE Japanese teacher Sumiko Jojima enthusiastically said ‘let’s make mistakes’, which truly resonated with me. She was encouraging everyone to be comfortable with making errors, which I believe is key to language teaching. Therefore, I want to actively try to decrease anxiety in my classroom, particularly for those who perceive themselves as high achievers. I want my students to perceive mistakes and struggling with tasks as an integral part of the learning process. If a task is too easy then what will my students gain in doing it? If my students continually shy away from difficult tasks then when will they develop as learners?

I am motivated to become a secondary school tutor from being intimidated in my own education because I believe that the final years of schooling are greatly rewarding challenges for young people, academically and emotionally. In my eyes, the final year or two of high school is the first true, major test for individuals transitioning from adolescence and school into adulthood and society as a whole. From reflecting upon the enjoyment that I derive from helping students in their final years of schooling, I have realised that I enjoy it so much because tutoring is much more than content transference. Tutoring is about mentorship; supporting students emotionally with the trials and tribulations of their learning. 

In conclusion, I want to always promote a culture of enquiry-based learning and decreased anxiety in my practice. I want to be open-minded to exploring new pedagogical practice and dedicated to calmness in the face of challenges because I believe in the facilitation of lifelong learning. This is highly influenced by my past experiences, which, in turn, influences my personal beliefs about teaching and learning.

WORKS CITED

Alexander, R. (2005). Culture, dialogue and learning: Notes on an emerging pedagogy. Retrieved from http://www.learnlab.org/research/wiki/images/c/cf/Robinalexander_IACEP_2005.pdf

Barnes, D. (2010). Why talk is important. English Teaching: Practice and Critique,
     9(2), 7.

Hirn, R., & Scott, T. (2014). Descriptive Analysis of Teacher Instructional Practices and Student Engagement Among Adolescents With and Without Challenging Behavior. Education and Treatment of Children, 37(4), 589-610.

Krashen, S. (1987). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall International.

Krashen, S. (1988). Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall International.

Ritchhart, R. (2012). The Power of Questions. Creative Teaching and Learning,
     2
(4), 8.

Scott, C. (2015). Learn to Teach: Teach to Learn. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.


This article has been written by Gemma Luscombe, an English tutor at LearnMate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Gemma, then please check out her page here.


LearnMate is Australia’s leading tutoring agency offering private lessons in all primary & high school subjects including English, maths, science, humanities, foreign languages, and so much more. Our mission is simple: to provide professional, engaging and enthusiastic tutors to students, while also ensuring the student feels empowered and confident during their assessments! Ultimately, our goal is to empower students all over Australia to achieve amazing results and make their dreams come true!

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Gemma’s Educational Autobiography & Personal Tutoring Philosophy