External tutoring can give final-year students the edge to exam success, writes Kristie Kellahan.
It's make or break for thousands of final-year students as they head into their VCE and HSC preparations. Many of them, keen for a competitive edge, are turning to extracurricular tutoring and coaching to help them gain mastery of subjects and exam techniques. And many teachers are finding their skills are in demand as tutors.
In Melbourne, there are the Art of Smart and Ace Tuition services.
In Sydney, one of the coaching colleges offering tuition outside school hours is Talent 100, based in Chatswood. Six of its students scored Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks of 99.85 or more in 2012. And 30 per cent of the Talent 100 students scored ATARs of more than 99 in the past three years.
Liz McKenzie tutors years 10, 11 and 12 English students at Talent 100. With a diploma of education from the University of Melbourne, McKenzie previously taught media, English and visual arts at high schools in Melbourne and Sydney.
She guides her students through the English curriculum, including units on speeches, film studies and drama. "There's an in-depth investigation of units with a focus on clearly and completely deciphering the unit requirements, intensive creative writing and sophisticated essay structure techniques."
McKenzie says dedicated subject time in school isn't enough to achieve outstanding results. "The teaching detail required and appropriate interrogation through multiple layers and text elements simply cannot be dealt with appropriately and individually in the time provided for these subjects in traditional school environments."
"In any standard school class of 50 minutes, teaching up to 30 students, you may have time to cover the material you need to and respond to the questions of a few," she says. "In tutoring you get two luxurious hours to immerse, discuss, question and respond to every student in your class."
McKenzie says the high for teachers who work as tutors is having the time for "really interesting" discussions with students. "Guiding and supporting students to authentic and creative ideas and sharing these as a class is rewarding, as is contributing to your learning model by being able to suggest ideas that support your students, such as essay structure, intensive workshops and subject support."
She says the lows of the job are few, mentioning only "unpaid marking time".
McKenzie says any teacher passionate about bringing their subject to keen, capable students would enjoy tutoring. "With colourful modern learning environments, excellent teaching materials photocopied and ready to go when you walk in the door, engaged students who want to learn and participate, class sizes of up to 12 students who respect each other and you, appropriate pay for your years of university, industry-related experience and subject expertise - what more could you ask for?"