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Q&A with Joe Norman on The Super Tutor - on his top 7 essential and imaginative lessons, and lifelong learning

(32 Posts)
BojanaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 08-Apr-19 15:06:51

Hello

As we head towards the exam season (solidarity), we’re pleased to announce a Q&A with Joe Norman, who’s recently published the book The Super Tutor.

Joe has been a tutor of children aged 10 - 13 for fifteen years. Joe shares his top seven essential and imaginative lessons in the book, including: how to write, how to read, common mistakes and how to think. His publishers say: “Stripping away grades, praise, university places or examiners, this book celebrates the love of learning things for their own sake.”

Joe says: “The contents of this book are largely things I was taught 20-25 years ago, which are still available to me now, because they stayed with me. Most of the quotations are made from memory. That’s the only real criterion for inclusion. Do I still remember it decades later?”

Read more about the book and see a preview on Amazon.

Please post your questions for Joe here by noon on Friday - we’ll collect them and send them over on Friday afternoon. Responses will be posted back on Wednesday 24 April.

Please bear in mind our webchat guidelines (though this won’t be a live webchat!)

Thanks
MNHQ

Flaverings Tue 09-Apr-19 05:39:44

confused

Flaverings Tue 09-Apr-19 05:42:28

”11 to 13” year olds is an unusual and narrow age group to tutor, is it because you only work in the public school system?

Flaverings Tue 09-Apr-19 05:45:33

I don’t really understand the premise of the book. It’s a series of things other people have said? And the only criteria for getting in your book is that you remembered them?

Flaverings Tue 09-Apr-19 07:48:00

I’m so sorry MNHQ! I don’t know why I kept asking questions. I’ll understand if you just delete all of my posts here!

londonmummy4 Tue 09-Apr-19 22:22:58

Hi, I was just wondering whether now the traditional m/c parents who desperately try to get their kids into private schools should be thinking about getting their kids into Grammar schools or Outstanding State schools due to the fact that the likes of Oxbridge are being forced to accept more state school students. I'm constantly being told this is the thing to do. I went to a state school and it is something that I would avoid at all costs! What do you think?

AspergersMum Wed 10-Apr-19 09:22:06

"As an overall top ranked lifter, it is Joe's squat that has made him renowned as one of the most powerful squatters in the sport." Wow Joe, that is amazing! Or your amazon page might need a tweek, one of the two.....

AspergersMum Wed 10-Apr-19 09:23:05

Just going to leave the link here incase anyone else needs a lol moment when they see the photo and blurb for the author www.amazon.co.uk/Super-Tutor-education-money-chapters/dp/1780723865/ref=as_li_ss_tl?linkCode=sl1&linkId=97f0bfad3ac576f1b858943637608adf&language=en_GB&tag=mumsnetforu03-21&ie=UTF8

MerryMarigold Thu 11-Apr-19 17:13:32

Hi Joe. My 3 kids all fit into your age bracket. I'd like to know how you differ techniques for different abilities / needs. My boys are both very different. The younger one has a photographic memory and loves learning new things. The older one is possibly more talented in certain areas and has amazing ideas, but struggles with school academics and formal exams. (My daughter is in between, I'd say). Would your book be appropriate for both my children or better for one or the other?

borntobequiet Thu 11-Apr-19 18:21:52

Why is there a picture of a molar in a mortarboard?

Wisefox Thu 11-Apr-19 22:42:33

Hello Joe. I'm writing as a private tutor and as someone who of course pays close attention to the education system and the curriculum. I teach children who take a bit longer to pick things up, or are easily distracted and, children who usually have one on one assistance in school. My question is: do you have any advice for teaching children who find school quite difficult? Not all of them suffer low confidence but they are frequently reluctant, or lose the motivation, to push themselves. A few find themselves getting angry or teary when it comes to homework- I've had it reported to me from their parents. I wish it were a simple case of giving easier homework but often the homework isn't particularly challenging at all.

Thank you for offering us this opportunity.

Wisefox Thu 11-Apr-19 22:53:50

I've also heard that the topics that are covered within primary schools are crucial for necessary life-skills e.g. telling the time, counting money, rounding numbers, mental maths etc. I don't disagree but, I wonder why then it's that such learning isn't stressed in primary schools.

There is no strict but informal testing on such skills before the child learns new, more advanced topics, in his next year. I imagine that you probably have your own list of concerns regarding the education system, but how do you personally ensure the children you tutor have reached the necessary checkpoints before moving forward? Assessments are, of course, one thing but in primary schools particularly these aren't very frequent. They also mean less time for new topics. With the children I tutor, I take care to ensure we move at the child's pace. This often means going incredibly slowly. How can one incorporate a slow pace and covering all necessary topics?

Wisefox Thu 11-Apr-19 22:57:37

Oops. I may have broken more than a few mumsnet webchat rules! Sincere apologies!

Flaverings Fri 12-Apr-19 12:48:14

Wisefox how did you get in to tutoring? Have you had any teacher training?

Mummyxiannubrownie Sat 13-Apr-19 13:10:44

Hello Joe,

My 13 year old son has read your book and he loved it. He thought it was very useful as he is currently preparing for his scholarship exams.

He would like to know whether you have any tips re revision notes / revising before the exams ?

Also, do you have any tips for the interview ?

Thank you.

OmallyCat Mon 15-Apr-19 13:28:20

Do you have any tips on grade disappointment? How do I avoid DS1 giving up on his favourite subjects because he had a run of bad results?

Wisefox Wed 17-Apr-19 15:25:32

Flaverings, to answer you question I don't have the formal qualifications, I build from what I know, teacher resources, study guides, text books and of course, the national curriculum. But before that, I was a qualifed language teacher working with both children and adults.

Are you interested in this career?

Wisefox Wed 17-Apr-19 15:31:41

@Flaverings,
I missed your first question: I got into tutoring because in many ways, I was already paying attention to the curriculum. I had only left academia a little while before. I guess I had the interest to make it happen. I was only really looking for a slight career change. This fits.

Flaverings Sat 20-Apr-19 18:22:37

I was asking because I thought your questions would be unusual for someone with a teaching qualification. The ones about assessment especially. Are you familiar with the work of Dylan Wiliam, for example?

My background is in secondary teaching and I’m now in teacher ed. I tutor on the side in a social enterprise.

Wisefox Sat 20-Apr-19 22:33:47

'@Flaverings Oh I see! Tutoring for me has been surprisingly a lot different than what I expected. When children particularly learn a new language it's fresh and exciting. They aren't confident nor fluent quickly, but eager about the subject. They don't worry so much about getting it wrong or saying something funny or stupid- regardless of who they're with. I suppose my main concern is that with school subjects, they aren't ever free from their anxieties or what progress is expected of them. And while, I can keep their worries at bay, as soon as they go home the worries are back. They go back to feeling unconfident.

I know my work is only in the classroom, but I want to help them establish a comfortable learning environment wherever it is.

I'm not familiar with Dylan Wiliam but I will look him up. Thanks!

JoeNorman Wed 24-Apr-19 06:19:22

Hello everyone,

Thanks for all your questions, I'll do my best to answer them!

JoeNorman Wed 24-Apr-19 06:31:36

Flaverings

”11 to 13” year olds is an unusual and narrow age group to tutor, is it because you only work in the public school system?

Hi Flaverings,

My job is basically to help 11-13 year-olds get into academically-selective schools, and while that usually means private/ public schools, I occasionally tutor candidates who are going for places at state grammar schools, which is also very competitive. Most students change schools when they’re either 11 or 13, and those years are a pretty important fulcrum in most people’s education, even if they’re not taking the 11+ or pretests or scholarship exams.

JoeNorman Wed 24-Apr-19 06:33:34

Flaverings

I don’t really understand the premise of the book. It’s a series of things other people have said? And the only criteria for getting in your book is that you remembered them?

Hi Flaverings

It’s a fair question. Most of the stuff in the book is what I was taught in five years at Winchester College, that I still remember, and which I’ve spent 15 years as a tutor rehearsing with my students. It’s organised into subjects, and it’s really an attempt to put a traditional English public school education into a book.

But, more generally, I think what you still remember from school 25 years later is a pretty good test of whether it’s still interesting, or useful. I’ve filled the book with lots of ‘things other people have said’, most of them famous, but most of the time I’m just reiterating the lessons of the many brilliant teachers I’ve had.

JoeNorman Wed 24-Apr-19 06:35:30

londonmummy4

Hi, I was just wondering whether now the traditional m/c parents who desperately try to get their kids into private schools should be thinking about getting their kids into Grammar schools or Outstanding State schools due to the fact that the likes of Oxbridge are being forced to accept more state school students. I'm constantly being told this is the thing to do. I went to a state school and it is something that I would avoid at all costs! What do you think?

Dear londonmummy4

That’s several related questions, I think, but they’re all very pertinent. I thought a lot about this stuff as I was writing.

First, I don’t think Oxford and Cambridge are being forced to take more state school students. I’m certain they’re not, in fact. I have friends who have given Oxbridge interviews, and as well as being honourable people, for selfish reasons they’re very focused on admitting people who are going to be interesting to teach in one/two-to-one tutorials for three years.

There are thirty-odd colleges at each university, and dozens of subjects taught at each one. So there are between one and two thousand independent-minded academics making the decisions about whom they would like to teach. I don’t think a version of the recent American college applications scandal could happen here for that reason – Oxbridge applications are far too decentralised to be so easily subverted.

So the shift from around 50% state school when I matriculated in 1997, to around 60% now, while probably significant, has definitely not been centrally imposed. The graph in the link below makes pretty optimistic reading, too, for those of us concerned about the gulf between state and private education in this country.
researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN00616

I can see why you’re down on state schools having gone to them yourself. I went to six different state schools all over the country between the ages of five and thirteen. The one with the best Ofsted ratings now, was the one I liked least then. At thirteen I went to Winchester College, which was then perhaps the best school in the English-speaking world.

The difference between a brilliant public school and a brilliant comprehensive is enormous, for all sorts of reasons, most of which have little to do with money. Briefly, their brilliant teachers are free to teach however they like, to a critical mass of brilliant students. But brilliant people are in short supply. They tend to congregate together. And paying large or enormous sums for your child’s education doesn’t guarantee the presence of these brilliant people.

To my mind, there are four types of school in England. First, there are good private schools, or public schools if you insist, which are selective, and expensive. Scholarships are available if you’re brilliant and diligent. My book was partly written to help candidates for these incredibly tricky and interesting exams – google Eton Kings Scholarship past papers for a flavour.

Then there are good state schools, most of which aren’t grammar schools, but which are selective in the sense that you have to own or rent a home within their catchment areas, which ultimately means they are also very expensive to go to – you have to buy a house in a nice part of town. These schools are increasingly successful, though there’s nothing remotely like Westminster and St Paul’s Girls (from the first group), which send 50% of leavers on to Oxford and Cambridge.

Third, there are average private schools. Most private schools are in this group. They’re more socially/ economically selective than they are academically, but they get decent results on the whole. Mostly you’re paying to keep your kids out of the fourth kind of school – at least partly out of fear, or for snob value – rather than to inspire your child with the joys of the Western Canon.

The fourth kind of school is what Alastair Campbell unkindly called the bog-standard comprehensive. It’s much the biggest category. Two thousand of the three thousand secondary schools in England haven’t had a successful Oxbridge candidate in the past five years. There are brilliant teachers at these schools, and brilliant students too, of course, but not in enough numbers to make a dent on Oxbridge.

With the best two groups of schools, you can purchase advantage, whether you pay fees or buy your way into catchment areas. But what if you can’t afford either of these options? How do you mitigate the lack of these huge advantages? Here’s how.

1. Don’t worry too much. A huge study of Danish teenagers found that the effect of the schools these children had attended on their final exam results was pretty small. Only 10% of the effect was down to the schools. 40% was down to the parents. And 50% was down to the students themselves. And, just speaking anecdotally, when I meet a new student who reads for pleasure, I rarely have cause to worry about their academic future. If there’s a magic bullet, it’s that.

2. Environment environment environment, as Tony Blair might have said. That means fostering, and investing in, the subjects that they take joy in (whether they’re curricular or extracurricular). Just as much as it means coming to an arrangement with the entire household that severely limits the presence and visibility of internet-enabled screens for anyone expected to read actual books every day. Bonus marks if you can be seen reading books yourself in your home’s communal areas. Children respond more to cues than commands, like everyone else.

3. If you do get involved with their subjects, teach them the stuff you know and like best – and only that. Give your expertise in small doses, and spend at least as much time listening to their ideas.

4. Make sure Oxbridge is what they want, too. If they end up e.g. studying Sculpture at St Martin’s College, they’ll have worked damn hard to get in there, too. And it may have been in the teeth of all your Oxbridge promptings, which will garner you only resentment.

5. Finally, if Oxbridge is definitely their aim, look really carefully at their A-Level choices. This is more important on the Arts than the Sciences side. You’d think that Oxford PPE dons would look kindly on an applicant with excellent A-Levels in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. But they won’t. You’d be better off dumping the first two for History, or English, or a language, or Maths. Why? Because Oxbridge dons just don’t rate these exams’ syllabi. They’re not difficult enough.

JoeNorman Wed 24-Apr-19 06:39:31

MerryMarigold

Hi Joe. My 3 kids all fit into your age bracket. I'd like to know how you differ techniques for different abilities / needs. My boys are both very different. The younger one has a photographic memory and loves learning new things. The older one is possibly more talented in certain areas and has amazing ideas, but struggles with school academics and formal exams. (My daughter is in between, I'd say). Would your book be appropriate for both my children or better for one or the other?

Hi MerryMarigold

I’m going to surprise absolutely no-one and say my book is worth a look for all three of them. It’s not a textbook, and it’s not something you have to work through steadily, in the order it’s written. I’ve had little success forcing my students to read anything they didn’t feel they’d chosen for themselves. So maybe present them with a couple of other books alongside it, and see if anyone picks my one. You could just mark the contents page – there are seven chapters covering different subjects – and hope that someone picks it up and treats it, as intended, like a menu.

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