Learning Institute Tutor

Name: Johanna Cliffe

Job Title: Tutor for The Learning Institute

What exactly is that?

The Learning Institute is affiliated to the University of Worcester. The role of tutor means that I teach on the foundation degree in education course. This might be in a module like child development, or as a personal tutor where I help with study skills, writing assignments, writing reflectively and any other issue that a student might have across their time studying, personal, professional or linked to study.

How did you get there?

I left school believing that I was average. I felt I had to work really hard to just stand still sometimes, or at least that was how it seemed to me. I didn’t do badly by academic standards but I wasn’t a straight A student by any means. I found school hard going and really did not enjoy myself. I mostly felt like a round peg in a square hole. I left as soon as I could thinking I was escaping to the real world. I joined a local training company that offered NVQ’s in business and administration level 2 & 3 for both school leavers and mature candidates and eventually worked for the local council. However I then became pregnant and had my two children quite early on and left work to raise my children.

After awhile various personal circumstances led me back to the job market but I wanted to have a job that worked with my family. I had trained in a couple of other unrelated areas so that I could have my own business but it wasn’t working out, in order to support them I would need to work more hours than I realistically could manage. I started helping out at my local pre-school, joined their committee and then a member of staff asked me if I had ever considered working with children and that I would be ‘good’ at it. They were just signing up to a level 3 childcare course and I joined them. It was one evening a week and offered locally so childcare was not so much of an issue. That was how it started I worked term time only so that I could still have time with my children and worked my way through various roles until I became manager.

At the time the government were looking to make this role more professional and we (pre-school leaders) were all told we would need to go back to university to get level 6 qualifications (which are the equivalent of degree level). Eventually after much looking around I found The Learning Institute which offered a degree based course locally, although it was affiliated with University of Worcester. Tutors would travel to us essentially so we could get the university experience without having to travel to university (which did not always work with my lifestyle and commitments). I gave up one afternoon/evening a week so again it fitted with my family and I had to remain in placement/work as part of the course which also meant my bills were paid. I did have to go back to my old school which meant I had to face many ‘demons’ left over from school and had to get rid of these, but found that actually I was more academic than I had previously believed. It was in fact the way things were taught to me that made the difference. Armed with a first class honors degree and a few year later and here I am as tutor for The Learning Institute and working my way through my Master in education.

I recently gave up my job as manger of the pre-school so that I could focus more on my tutoring and research within the field of early years.  I have learnt that I am passionate about learning and about early years childhood and education. I have things that are worth saying and areas that I want to continue to research in that I feel will make a difference to the field. I have essentially found myself in a way I never thought I would and now I want to help to take learning to others. To give them the chances that I had to learn and work in a meaningful area whilst still being there for their families. I want to inspire other educators as I have been inspired.

Give us a picture of a typical day.

My day is random at times. Until recently as manager I would be ‘in setting’ for three days a week and then teaching/training/marking on the other two days and my weekends were split between my own research and family. Now it is a little different.

I get up and make sure my children are awake and getting up too, even though they are more than old enough to get themselves moving. My day will then depend on what time of year/term/day so some days I will then travel by car to wherever I am teaching. This can take anything from 20 minutes to over two hours depending on how far I have to go. Other days I will go straight into answering emails from students and marking work, or I will be preparing my lesson plans for the lectures that are coming up.

I need to attend standardization and moderation meetings for all the modules that I teach and this can take a whole day depending on the module, this ensures that everyone marks to the same levels. There are also training sessions throughout the year which are full day sessions. If I have any ‘spare’ time I devote this to my own research and qualification requirements. This might include visiting a setting to gather evidence linked to research, reading research which is already out there or and writing in my own right.

My days are full and I often ‘pit stop’ to create meals so everyone eats and then go back to work. I do try to keep my weekends free if I can to be with my family but with my own qualification and research requirements this does not always come off (it depends on if deadline is approaching).

Work life balance when there are times you work from home can be a juggle however I like being more in charge of own work load and when and how things get done. This does mean that I can normally work in the things I need and want to do for the children, whether that is ferry them somewhere in the car, or school events, which is incredibly important to me. I don’t exercise anywhere near as much as I should as I don’t feel I have time/energy or inclination however I like to walk and this can give you some very much needed down time.

Although the role itself is a term time only role it would be important to realize that as with any teaching job you work in the holidays. The idea that is often presented by others that you must have a wonderful job as you get 6 weeks off in the summer is not true. Most breaks you will be working, either marking, training or supporting students with their study.

What’s the best thing about what you do?

It is rewarding and you get to meet lots of people from all walks of life which I find fascinating. No two days are ever the same! I like the ethos of taking learning to communities/families/people that would otherwise not be able to access it for some reason and in this way education becomes emancipatory which is what I believe it always should be. I also love discussions and debates and you have plenty of these about subjects that you are passionate about.

What’s the one thing you would change if you could?

You never know how many hours you will work from one year to the next so from a financial point of view this can be more challenging to make long term plans. You are not salaried so again when it is not term time you are not earning, which again can mean you have to be more organized with bills etc…

What did you want to do for a living when you were younger?

I had absolutely no idea but I knew without a doubt I hated school and never wanted to be a teacher (just goes to show you can be wrong)

Tell us about one thing you were insecure about when you were at school and why or what you did about it if anything.

Me! I was basically insecure about me, I didn’t like the way I looked, I was much quieter than I am now always worried about what people thought of me, I was insecure about my intelligence, yeah just everything to do with me.

I did martial arts which boosted my confidence massively and I think became a turning point; however I think life helped me sort myself out, experiences you have either break you completely or make you find an inner strength you never knew you had.

What advice would you give yourself at 18 if you could?

Believe in yourself more

What’s your favourite thing to do in your spare time?

Being with my family in anyway anywhere is top of my list. However I do like to ‘do’ lots of things. I draw, I am a big reader, I like walking and being in nature, I cross stitch, knit and make crystal jewelry, I like food so although I don’t get to do it often eating out I enjoy or cooking and/or family BBq’s and I like murder mystery or fantasy/supernatural programs/series’.

What’s the name of the last book you read?

The woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

Give us one beauty tip you have learned.

HAHAHA so not my thing!!!! I guess drink lots of water it flushes out toxins.

Give us one money tip you have learned.

Money is not everything so if you do what you love and in a way that takes care of you and your family the money will follow and your needs will be met.

Give us one life lesson you have learned.

Everything in life, every experience, every person or interaction is chance to grow and change. Everything is a learning opportunity and what kind of opportunity it becomes is down to you.

What’s your favorite recent purchase for under £25 and why?

I have no idea (how sad is that!!)


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