Figtree tutor and One Degree volunteer, Rudi talks to us about maths, mentoring and the magic of a little self-belief.
How long have you been with Figtree, and what do you enjoy most about tutoring?
Although I’ve only been with Figtree for a few months, I’ve worked with its founder, Ariana Azad, for several years – at the educational charity One Degree, and on other tutoring initiatives.
There are so many things I love about tutoring, but I really enjoy seeing my students grow in confidence to the point that they speak up and effectively challenge my ideas. A sign of proactive learning, engagement and critical thinking, it really demonstrates that a student is starting to take control of their own learning.
One of your areas of expertise is maths, and we understand your degree covered Mathematical Education – what did that involve?
The main thing I learnt from this module was that maths is one of the most poorly taught subjects in school. If you ask someone about their experiences, you’ll receive binary answers – either that they liked it, or that they simply ‘can’t do maths’. It’s like you either have the maths gene or you don’t; you’re born good at it or you aren’t – and this simply isn’t true.
With enough time, attention and the right combination of real life and theoretical examples, anyone can get to grips with maths. The problem comes when it’s taught too quickly, or in just one way. We all learn differently, and at varying speeds, so when teachers don’t take this into account it’s very easy for students to lose confidence and switch off.
That’s why maths tutors are often so effective – they offer the one-to-one, tailored support that a classroom teacher simply doesn’t have the time to do.
You mentioned your work with Figtree’s charity partner, One Degree. What prompted you to get involved with them?
I had wanted to work with a charity for some time, and serendipitously met Ariana, who was then a trustee of One Degree. She suggested I help them run their English and maths programmes for a year, and as I was looking for a job alongside my creative writing studies, this sounded perfect.
One Degree is a mentoring charity that helps students struggling to pass their maths and English GCSEs. Alongside more traditional support with each subject, the charity arranges fun social activities and inspiring speakers to bring their studies to life.
My job was to organise and teach all the material for maths, and act as assistant teacher for English. It had everything I wanted – a meaningful cause, interaction with children, and I got to work with Ariana, which was great fun! After that first year, I took on a job in speechwriting for a government minister, but I had enjoyed my time with One Degree so much I didn’t want to say goodbye.
I’m now a mentor with the charity, which is just as enjoyable and rewarding. The pressure of organising all the students is off, so I can focus on helping them learn, have fun – and hopefully support them to realise how worthy and smart they are.
What would you say to other Figtree tutors considering volunteering with One Degree?
If tutoring is a passion for you, rather than just a job, then go for it. With One Degree you give students with so much potential – but who can’t afford the tutoring they need to realise it – the opportunity to discover all the great things they can do if they put their minds to it.
In a world where they may not get the academic attention they need, the fact that you show up and believe in them means everything. The team of mentors are lovely as well, so it’s a great place to meet a whole new set of good people.