Name: Thomas Lodge
“I’ve been working as a tutor since 2016, with my specialist subject being classics. Outside of tutoring I am pursuing work as an actor. As part of this I am a proud member of the team at Just Enough, which uses acting and performance to educate young people about important world issues.”
I have always been interested in education and began with some voluntary teaching, first at my secondary school and then with the Iris Classics Centre at Cheney School in Oxford (a local state school). When I moved to London following my degree, I decided to make this interest a professional pursuit, since tutoring also allows me to explore my other interests.
I enjoy teaching lots of different subjects, but classics remains my main focus. I have always liked teaching Latin and Greek because they include a range of topics. Under the classics umbrella you can find everything from granular grammatical rules to fascinating mythology and the birth of western literary traditions. This means that there is always a way to incorporate the student’s own interests into lessons, and to provide a more holistic teaching of the subject.
Studying at St Anne’s College, Oxford allowed me an insight into the tremendous benefit that teaching to a small group can provide – even more so when it is one-to-one. Having previously only experienced the typical classroom-sized lessons, it was a revelation to understand how much could be accomplished when lessons are tailored to an individual. I owe this understanding in no small part to Professor Matthew Leigh, whose tuition – especially in my first year of university – was transformative with regard to my appreciation of classics.
I wouldn’t want to speak for all tutors, but in my mind the best moments as a tutor are when a student fully takes on board a lesson and remembers it. It can be especially difficult for younger children to absorb and retain lessons when they only see a tutor once a week, so when they finally do, it is a very rewarding feeling. One of my favourite moments definitely falls into this category: I began teaching a young boy who had been struggling with counting to 10 for a long time – and by involving singing in my lesson I was able to get him to remember the numbers in the right order. It felt like solving an intricate puzzle with all the rewarding feelings associated therewith.
This is a very tricky question, because it all depends on how we define “successful”. I would say that it is unfortunate that so much of whether students are considered successful relies on exams. For some people, exams are a breeze, for others they are the stuff of nightmares. It is unsurprising that I often see calls for tutors who can teach ‘”exam technique”. I think that with the right tutor any subject can be made interesting and engaging for the student.
In my opinion, a good private tutor shouldn’t only improve a student’s ability to pass exams, they should also seek to expand a student’s horizons. This can be achieved by exploring subjects in ways that they will not cover at school, and by placing some emphasis on ideas of critical thinking. I don’t just want to ask my students when Caesar was assassinated, but why and also whether they think it was a good idea! Of course, it’s not always possible to approach lessons in this way; sometimes the best way to learn is by doing an exercise from a textbook. However, when it is possible, it’s more enjoyable for the student (and the tutor) and therefore more engaging.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think acting has helped me understand the importance of engagement. Whether it is a full theatre or a single student, keeping people engaged is what allows you to get your message across. It is also much easier to keep people engaged than to re-engage them once they have lost interest. Acting has trained me to notice some telltale signs of losing focus, which allows me to rescue it before it’s too late. Acting has also taught me to be less serious, and this plays well – especially with younger students.
One of my favourite things about my life is that there really isn’t a “typical day”. I could be auditioning in the morning before heading off to a tuition session in the afternoon. I could be rehearsing all day and planning lessons in my breaks. I’ve just come back from a month-long residential tuition for a family holidaying in Italy. In Italy, days consisted of sun and sea alongside tuition and tennis. It’s all quite adventurous, really!
It’s difficult to narrow it down – but if I had to choose one, I think it would be Watership Down. It’s a book with layers of meaning which allow you to appreciate it differently depending on the age at which you read it.