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Liluo Yan is an MSc Global Prosperity student and a Volunteer Tutor at Action Tutoring. Action Tutoring is a national education charity that supports young people facing socio-economic disadvantage to achieve a meaningful level of academic attainment. Their tutoring programme supports Primary and Secondary School Children, helping them gain confidence and attainment in academic subjects to help them in later life.

Tell us a little bit about your volunteering!

I go to a primary school for one hour a week, sometimes will spend half day during the final revision week before the SATS exam, to give pupils some extra support in their maths studies. This is mainly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

What inspired you to volunteer in this area?

When I was living at home I used to teach my cousins about Maths and English, and I thought it might be an opportunity for me to gain some teaching experience within formal education system. Besides, I can also share my ideas on how to study mathematics as I was struggling with math, too.

As you’ve tutored before, tell us - does your experience now differ to your previous experiences?

Yes! For example, teaching mathematics in primary school in the UK is a formal way of understanding and learning the pragmatic teaching mechanism – it’s very different to teaching my little cousins back home. Every week in the primary school, we’re assigned to accomplish a designated section of mathematical topics. The topic itself is random, however we need to ensure our pupils understanding the weak part of their studies. And also, I can tell that there are some differences and similarities between the Chinese education system and the British education system as I grew up in China. I think now the Chinese education style has switched from a harsh cramming method to a method that focuses more on pupils’ personalities. But when I was young, teachers tended to put more pressure on students in order to make academic progress in a fast pace. Learning from my personal experience, I believe that the combination of a task-oriented and personality-oriented development mechanisms can work better. We basically need to show pupils that they can achieve something if they wish and try hard, so that they can finish tasks first, and then accomplish these goals. We do more to encourage rather than pushing them and overall there’s less pressure.

Do you feel the people that you’re helping are getting a lot from you - and do you find that your approach helps them?

Yeah, it does - putting discipline on them doesn’t help so I think they appreciate an encouraging way! We had different groups of pupils – my pupils are more active than others so I felt that the encouragement made a difference!

Do you get a good feeling and sense of achievement with this volunteering? Presumably, you help the students through difficult academic periods, like tests?

We got the first assessment before I started to teach them, and the first one I helped them through, they feel like they were a little daunted– I remember one of my pupils said that she believes only a few people are born with mathematic talent – I told her I could agree with her, but it’s more useful to think of maths as a tool, not a talent. You don’t have to like mathematics, but it will help you a lot in the future and present.

I tried to make mathematics more of a game for them.  They enjoyed learning when they played games like Timeline, Number-line and drawing for understanding fraction. Also, they like understanding wider uses of maths like temperature-change, conversions, monetary trade, and learning how these all work in the real life.

That’s great because often children will question whether maths will this be of use to them later in life, so it’s great you’ve been able to show them the value of Maths! On the other hand, did you find any challenges to volunteering?

I think apart from the education process, other challenges are more about supporting the group. my group have the naughtiest pupils in the class. They are adorable indeed, but sometimes they can be annoying to other pupils and tutors. They would sometimes walk around the classroom during sessions, and thrilled to show me their extra-curriculums projects in the school, and give me little tours. It’s great that they want to show me these, but I need them to concentrate on the math practice sometimes. I normally will talk with them that after the day’s tutorial if we finish our tasks as early as possible, as fast as we can, you can show me the rest of things - then we can talk about what you’re interested in – other than maths. Pupils usually would be happy to accept this deal and calm down quickly.

And finally - would you recommend the project?

Yes – they always need people to join the team. Action Tutoring is a wonderful charity group that prepares tutor training and everything to potential tutors. Each week we have about 6 tutors in the same primary school, and we have to manage a group each but the more the merrier!

If Liluo’s experience with Action Tutoring with has inspired you to get involved, check out their other opportunities, along with other Tutoring volunteering opportunities!  Or if something else strikes your fancy, please visit our online directory to view all the current roles we have on offer with our 400+ London-based partners!