Ekaterina attends a boarding school in Switzerland, but wanted to benefit from some additional short-term support over the Easter break while at home in Monaco. The family wished to arrange six hours of tuition daily – two Physics, two Maths, and two English – over two weeks, and so David and Olivia flew to Monaco and stayed in a hotel five minutes from the family’s residence, in order to provide the intensive, non-residential support.
We spent half our time preparing for the oral exam and half our time working on analytical and writing skills. She has quite a challenging Shakespeare play for her oral (Richard II), so we went through all the major passages, analyzing and marking them up for significant points about their language. We also did many mini practice orals.
For the second hour each day I would give her an unseen poem and ask her to analyze it independently – then we would come together and discuss the meaning and language. We spent about thirty minutes on this activity and then would practice writing. First we focused on introductions and wrote them until Ekaterina had perfected the practice. Then we focused on plans and body paragraphs, and even zooming in on how to write specifically about features of the language like caesura, imagery, syntax etc.
Ekaterina definitely improved over the course of the ten days. I always find this with intensive revision – retackling the same problems again every day leads to success. Her ability to speak about the passages of Richard II improved greatly till I thought she was performing at a level 7 – she was speaking precisely (no waffling), had organized her thoughts well and signposted to the examiner how she would move through her oral, and importantly she ended up not missing a single caesura or image or rhetorical question in the poetry. Her writing also greatly improved – as I mentioned she perfected the introduction (a difficult feat for most students – the hardest part of an essay is just starting, and many students flounder here) and by the end of the 10 days was writing really strong sets of paragraphs.
I didn’t think Ekaterina had any particularly special academic requirements – she was clearly clever – but she expressed concern that she had not gone through the material enough in class, so I believe being able to spend a chunk of time looking at it thoroughly really benefited her.
It is enjoyable because you actually notice a tangible improvement – and the students do as well. I really think this type of tuition is more effective than an hour a week, where skills are forgotten instead of succinctly consolidated. Also in just one hour you can’t get through very much material, but working 2 hrs a day for 10 days provided us with ample time to cover a lot of ground. Often students learn best through repetition as well, and so intensive support like this creates that environment of returning to things that are difficult and breaking them down.
I always find that my age and proximity still to my own IB experience makes my students more comfortable with me – I find it easy to teach because it is so relatable, and they respond well to speaking to someone who has done what they are doing and been successful at it.
Unfortunately poor Ekaterina’s texts are both very difficult and rather dry – even at Oxford with a love for literature I didn’t love Richard II or Wordsworth. I think she appreciated me admitting that these were very difficult texts with rich philosophical and political backgrounds, and we spent some time talking through their meanings. I think once we looked at the theatricality of Richard II she grew to appreciate some of the king’s more verbose moments.
When Ekaterina did her first oral that was clearly a level 7 – a great improvement!