I am an academic coach based in London and Surrey. There is no simple explanation of what I do, but I equip students with the tools to achieve their potential and push themselves beyond their limits; I go beyond what the average tutor, mentor or coach would do in most cases. Some clients have described me as an ‘education management’ consultant. I predominantly work with secondary school students, from all backgrounds and abilities, with some parents fully outsourcing education to me. I have seen it all, from the student who couldn’t speak a word of English gaining a scholarship place at a competitive London independent school, to someone who started off in top sets but ended up not being able to apply for their top university choice. I believe in ambition, determination and sheer grit. As a former investment banker and having lived in four different countries from Asia to the US, I have seen what it takes to succeed.
There is no doubt that technology has made education a lot more accessible. I remember the days of rote learning, when highlighter pens were considered a luxury. Nowadays, with technology at our fingertips, time is often spent choosing the right app, programme or software – and this is what slows us down and distracts us from the main activity of learning; I’ve seen students focus on redoing a whole piece of revision because it “just doesn’t look right,” and that’s before we get to students not saving their work and losing everything. So much for technology speeding up the learning process.
Not all is lost. As a coach, I embrace these apps and learn a huge deal from clients who have shared their experiences with me. At the end of the day, it comes back down to personalisation, which is an aspect technology is yet to fully address. This is where I come in. The simplicity and power of human judgement has become more expensive and valuable as more things become automated. With each student being individual, there is a genuine need to understand the subtle nuances of what drives them, makes them tick or want to give up completely. This, in turn affects, what learning techniques work for them, or whether we have to change the strategy completely. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
“I have seen it all, from the student who couldn’t speak a word of English gaining a scholarship place at a competitive London independent school, to someone who started off in top sets but ended up not being able to apply for their top university choice.”
Providing a bespoke programme is my acknowledgement of the highly individual nature that education at school often lacks. As part of a premium package, some students have 24/7 access to me over a channel of communication of their choice. I do this partly because of the digitalisation of education and our lives, but mainly because I understand that teenagers operate at very different hours, and some choose to study much later or earlier than the social norm. Functioning at hours optimal to the individual is key in making the most of one’s productivity and boosting results – scientific evidence proves that the optimal waking hours for teenagers is different as the circadian rhythm changes.
With the help of technology, there is no real limit to study. Prescribing yourself to a set number of hours a day is against my coaching philosophy, as I strongly believe it is all about challenging yourself. Why limit yourself to studying five hours a day with breaks, when you could happily work for seven or more? When you believe you can achieve higher grades and you expect yourself to work for it, where do you draw the line? In my opinion, there shouldn’t be one.
If I deduce that a student has been putting in regular revision during term time, I would advise against cramming or sticking to a rigid number of hours per day over a holiday period. It isn’t necessary and could be inefficient – a student is so much more than a revision machine. This is what sets apart a well-rounded individual who has varied interests, extracurricular talents and perhaps some work experience against someone who just gets good grades. The life of a student has become that much more demanding, and society has evolved into something that much more competitive.
I empathise with the view of many parents who say: “I don’t know why my child won’t revise. They have such better access to technology, I bought them the best iPad and the school recently had a session on the best revision apps. What’s going wrong?” To that, all I can do is remind them to think back to their teenage years. No matter how many apps you have to help, no matter how many friends you can ‘revise’ with online, studying will remain laborious and often boring. All we can do is navigate technological aids the best we can through a personalised approach that proves most successful for the individual.
To learn more, visit teresasong.co.uk.