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Socially distanced but not distant

Paradoxically, the effects of keeping ourselves locked away indoors, in our own homes, has created a world in which we can meet a vast range of people. It has connected the previously unconnected and unconnectable.

While much is still needed in the way of ensuring everyone has access to the same pool of digital resources, much has been achieved already. Perched on our kitchen table or hunched over our small bedroom desk, we’ve been able to get in front of colleagues, acquaintances, fellow students, international tutors and many more at the click of a button (depending on your web conferencing platform of choice).

The world of online tutoring has opened a new way of communicating. Linda Larbi, Research Assistant at UCL and dedicated tutor for Manning’s Tutors, has noted that children in her classes, even though they attend the same school, often do not know each other due to the allocation and the sheer number of students at their school.

When Linda conducts icebreaker tasks, the key aim of the first session is for students to get to know each other. It’s easy just to leave it there. But over the 15 or so weeks of tutoring these children really do get to know each other.

A few weeks ago, two of Linda’s students, who previously didn’t know each other, logged in, bursting with excitement to explain that they had just been playing football together. They hadn’t realised it, but they actually lived very close to each other. Without meeting via the online environment due to the nature of school closures and partial closures, they might never have encountered each other.

In the same week, another student at a different school told Linda that he had chosen to sit next to his fellow tutee as they knew they would be meeting in Linda’s classes later on that day.

So, in a time of social distancing, we are somehow also being drawn closer together. Online tutoring is bringing children together through the National Tutoring Programme and it’s a breath of fresh air for many. There is no telling if these children would have one day sparked a conversation up between themselves without the pandemic.

However, these children have demonstrated a willingness to put in the extra mile to connect in a different way. This has been such a rewarding experience for many tutors.

Within our Qualified Tutor Community, the impact of a lockdown and the forced changes in social behaviour have led to an environment in which tutors all around the country, and all over the world, are coming together to meet and connect. These are buzzwords in online community speak, but this is exactly what’s been happening in this vibrant Community since last spring.

There is very little chance that we would have had the pleasure of meeting the many American and Canadian tutors and educationalists within this Community without the surge in online connections and communication.

It is an exciting time for educators. Let’s take the huge advancements we’ve made in digital learning and online tutoring software into the post-lockdown world. Let’s continue to reach out and expand our network of other tutors even when meeting up in person in larger groups is legal again. Let’s ensure that those in danger of missing out on these developments are never left behind again.

Join the conversation today within the Qualified Tutor Community and build your tutoring practice every day by reaching out to those who you’d never previously have had the opportunity to meet.

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You can catch Linda discussing her recent experiences of working with children and managing their wellbeing on the Qualified Tutor Podcast.

Ludo Millar
Ludo has been writing for years but, in penning his thoughts around tutoring and learning, he's found a break from note-taking and essay-writing ... thank goodness! Ludo believes it's about time tutors' voices are heard and an open blog with numerous contributors is the best way to make this possible. To write a blog for Qualified Tutor, email him at ludo@qualifiedtutor.org.

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