Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.
Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.
The question is, what will you learn today?
Ludo Millar 1:11
Hello, and welcome to the next episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. We’re getting ever closer to that pinnacle number of 100 podcast episodes. This week, we’re at episode number 96 with a wonderful tutor and business leader called Jemma Zoe Smith. Welcome, Jemma, to the podcast.
Jemma Zoe Smith 2:23
Thank you very much for having me.
Ludo Millar 2:25
It’s an absolute pleasure. I’m sorry we couldn’t have you on our 100th episode. If we just waited for four more episodes, we could have brought you on but we’ll certainly bring you back, maybe for the 200th or for another celebratory episode, because we have been meaning to speak to you on this podcast, Jemma, for quite some time. And we’ve got a wonderful backlog of guests. And I’m very, very happy that we’ve got to this conversation today, just two weeks before the Love Tutoring Festival.
Now just before we get onto the Festival, of course, let me introduce you, Jemma, so that our listeners here know a little bit about you before you dive in. So, Jemma is both the Founder of The Education Hotel, which is a boutique tuition agency that supports families around the world, and also an education consultant who helps pupils of all ages and levels achieve very highly. Now, through this channel, she has worked in, here we go, Dubai, Wyoming, Hawaii, New Mexico, Prague, Cannes and I dare to say a lot more places. So quite the roll call that really from Jemma. Now at the upcoming Love Tutoring Festival 2 that I just alluded to, Jemma will be delivering a keynote on the Monday which is the 24th of January at 2pm GMT on High Learning Potential (HLP), I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that in just a second, and Gifted and Talented students and how we can understand them best. But first, our opening question.:What is your why as a tutor?
Jemma Zoe Smith 4:01
Okay, so I love, and I’ve thought about this, I think there is one big thing that drives me when I’m teaching and that’s that that is to help my students to be the best. And the best is kind of a very generic term. But what I mean is, it’s not anyone else’s idea of best but what that student in particular wants to achieve. So we’ve had students come to The Education Hotel for whom the best means scoring particularly highly on an entrance exam. And then we have those who want to improve their confidence or who want to move up a set. But I suppose that that’s my why, that’s why I tutor and what I like to see from a student and that really comes I suppose from my background. I come from not an educational background. So, both my parents, my dad’s a builder, my mum’s a cleaner, and they left school at 14 and 16. So it’s not the same education as I’ve been able to have. But when they had me, they knew that the best, they wanted me to do, the best that I could academically. And when they couldn’t support that themselves at home, they invested by getting tutors.
So my idea of why as a tutor, and really the why I choose to be the way that I am is, is founded by what I saw when I was being tutored, which is a really great experience for me. So again, as we said, I am running a session on HLP. So High Learning Potential. And a lot of our students, indeed, in there and elsewhere have really interesting interests. And I was one of those, I was really interested in botany, and entomology as a kid. And that’s something that my parents had no idea about. Butterflies were not their key area of interest, but they were mine. And so really being able to delve into a student’s interest, into a student’s motivations and help them to be the best, and really the best of what they want to be. So if that is, you know, I would like to write a book on this, or I would like to get to this university, it really doesn’t matter, I suppose with the end goal, it’s about having the student be able to go back, look back at the work that they’ve done and say, ‘I didn’t think I could do this. But I’ve worked at it. And now I can do it. And look at that. Isn’t that great? Because I have managed to get to prove that I could do what I wanted to do’. And yeah, I think that’s because that drove me.
Ludo Millar 6:59
So, that’s always been your why? If I’d asked you this, if you’d been on this podcast 10 years’ ago, it would have been the same, it would have always been the same?
Jemma Zoe Smith 7:07
Yeah. It really has been founded by tutors that I had. So they were really ambitious, but realistic as well. And they helped me to realise, like I, for my undergrad, I went to Oxford, I hadn’t considered really University until I’d finished my GCSEs. My parents obviously had no background in it. That came from a tutor saying, ‘You know what, let’s go and see Cambridge’. Cambridge was nearest to where I lived. And let’s go and look at what it could look like. And that’s something that really encouraged me to push myself because I saw it. And I thought, I want to go somewhere like this. And so I’m going to really push for the grades, and I’m going to push myself forwards. But if it wasn’t for the tutor, I probably wouldn’t have considered it.
Ludo Millar 8:01
Yeah. And Jemma, this is a really interesting thread that you’re pulling on, I hadn’t even really considered what you’re saying here before properly in my mind, but you’ve just helped me kind of figure that out. You are now that tutor. And potentially, so am I as a tutor, and so is every single other tutor up and down the country, across the world, can be that tutor that then leads the child onto whatever they go onto, whatever success they have. How do you manage that? How do you interact with that idea?
Jemma Zoe Smith 8:36
So yeah, so I suppose there is, there’s responsibility, but it’s also really interesting, because majority at the moment, I work with tweens and teens. So they are at that point where they’re starting to make those decisions. And they’re starting to think about those decisions themselves. So a lot of what I do, I work quite intensively with students as you said, I go to different countries, and I work with clients out there. So a lot of this happens over the dinner table nowadays. So just conversations, and really getting to know a student, getting to know their interests and suggesting stuff to them. And so over Christmas, I was in a not so glamorous place. I was in in the UK, in a town in Winchester, and I had a student who I was staying with, was working with, and they’re thinking about A-levels or IB and one of the things that they were considering was philosophy. Now, philosophy is not my area. I studied Biochemistry at university. I’m a Science teacher. But I’d been watching a programme, a Netflix series, really fictional, called The Good Place. It’s kind of a cheesy, drama-type thing. But it’s got a lot of philosophy in it. And so I said to them, ‘Check it out, you know, give it a look and see, is it something that’s interesting?’. And they dropped me a message a couple of days ago: ‘Yeah, I’ve watched it. And actually, I can see the way that different philosophers see things’. And it’s that kind of conversation that I think I really enjoy and probably why I’d say that I both tutor but I also mentor. And that would be I suppose the way that I would say a tutor is not just an academic, not just looking at how do we be the best in an exam but also how do we develop a student as a person?
For those of you who know the Love Tutoring Festival, you will be delighted to hear that … we’re back!
From Monday 24th to Friday 28th of January 2022, the Love Tutoring Festival will return bigger and better than ever. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re in for a real treat. The most loved festival in tutoring, the Love Tutoring Festival is a five-day, online celebration of all things tutoring. With some of the biggest names in tutoring, education and pedagogy and hundreds of committed and motivated tutors from all four corners of the globe taking part, it really is the biggest party in tutoring. We will again be working on a freemium ticket model this year, with all our events totally free, apart from our famous, and ludicrously inexpensive, CPD-Accredited workshops. You can find out more, including the confirmed speakers so far, how to grab your place, and key information on our wonderful sponsors at qualifiedtutor.org/lovetutoringfestival.
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So Jemma, you run The Education Hotel and your education consultant business. How do you manage both?
Jemma Zoe Smith 12:13
It’s hard. And it’s tricky to get them running the way that I want them both to. So it is something that I’m still working on, definitely. Because there’s times where everything is running really well and really smoothly in The Education Hotel. Then we take a look at Top School and Uni which is the consultancy. And all these things I want to change and then I kind of get into changing that. And then there’s something with The Education Hotel. So as always, it’s a bit of plate-spinning. But I’ve decided to do the two, I really didn’t originally plan to. I originally thought I’d do The Education Hotel, I keep myself busy and occupied. I’d grow that. And I’d develop that. And that would be the business that I ran. But really, what I started to realise was actually some of that stuff that I talked about earlier, that mentoring side, there were points where people were booking sessions with me and with my tutors that weren’t for academic tuition.
So I had parents who booked sessions just to understand what is the UK university like? So what is the session like? Because I’ve got a lot of international students, they want to know, what’s it like to do university in the UK? Can we understand it? Or I had parents whose children had entered boarding school. And maybe they were getting reports back, but they didn’t quite understand them. And they wanted to know, what can we be doing to support because yes, we could get a tutor in but is that going to be the best thing? I go to parents’ evenings on behalf of some of my students as well. And then there was always students, always parents and families who were looking at school entrance. So what school should we apply for? What’s going to be the best fit for our child? And the same for university: what’s going to be the best fit for our family, for our child, to make sure that they are developing their interests? So that’s where Top School and Uni came in. Because it’s a very different model to tutoring. Tutoring is it’s kind of you are either exam-based or you’re support-based or you are supporting a child throughout their journey, their educational journey, but this involves more and there’s more conversational stuff to it. So that’s where yeah, that’s where the The Top Score and Uni had to come in, I felt like there wasn’t a way that I could leave it. And I thought, ‘Well, you know, it’s something that I know parents need and that support is needed. So let’s start it up’. But in terms of balancing, it is hard. And it’s something that I have to keep going back to and tweaking.
Ludo Millar 15:24
So what advice would you have for someone who’s thinking of setting up two similar, but certainly distinct, education businesses?
Jemma Zoe Smith 15:33
It’s something I’m not very good at, which is splitting your time. So I have gotten a lot more, these last couple of years, into time blocking, because I have to try and keep both businesses up, and both working, and then delegate, because, again, it’s something that I’m learning and learning to let go off. I have a VA, who is based in the Philippines. And she looks after our social media and our newsletters. I have a VA, client manager who works in the UK, I have a partner who works with me, he does the website stuff, but I’m starting to give more stuff away. Because ultimately, someone’s going to be better than I am at certain bits of it. Not everything. [LAUGHS] But there are definitely skills that I don’t have, that someone else does have. Just recently, I got support for setting up an email list, so that everyone who comes on board with The Education Hotel gets a welcome from me and all of that stuff. So yeah, delegation.
Ludo Millar 16:51
I always find it easier said than done. I think it’s just part of that, yeah, out of that fairly well-known trope now of it being hard to let go of something you’ve started. And I think lots and lots of people have started education businesses in the past two years, and probably now, you know, two years down the line, they’re getting to that stage where they need to delegate, the business is growing, if they have too many clients, or customers to handle themselves. So I think, you know, you’ve been doing this obviously, much longer than just the past two years, really. So, it’s very important to hear that. I think just for a listener today hearing, you say that, that’s the kind of trigger that someone needs to actually implement that. I think it can be so hard to know that that’s what you should be doing. But for that just to sit on your to-do list, you know, a month is hard.
Jemma Zoe Smith 17:46
Because also when you take in the new person, you have to train them. And sometimes you’re like, I just don’t have time, I don’t have time to train them. So then you put it off, but they are the person that’s going to save you time. So again, it’s something I still work on, because I still struggle to give bits up and I still think oh, they’re gonna do it like I do it. But ultimately that comes down to training and communication. And often people have ideas that are better than what I thought, so sometimes I just have to do it.
Remedy Tutors 18:37
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Ludo Millar 19:13
Now so, Jemma, can you just tell us a little bit more about upcoming events … can you tell us a little bit more about the keynote that you’ll be delivering at the Love Tutoring Festival 2? Not everything, but a little teaser, perhaps?
Jemma Zoe Smith 19:31
Okay, it is something I’m really looking forward to actually. Because, last year, I listened into enough of the talks, so to actually be able to speak about something is quite quite cool. And it’s on the topic of High Learning Potential, which is something that is I suppose less known sometimes in the UK, but something which I’ve got a personal draw to. At university, I was misdiagnosed as dyslexic, and at the same time, told that I fitted into the High Learning Potential, high IQ, gifted category. So I’m coming at it from a personal point, but also, from now, several years down the line, it took me a while to get around to re-reading that report and really understanding what it meant and really, really getting to know the community and getting to know students who have HLP. And really what that means. So it’s a kind of looking back. And I’m excited because it’s something that I think, often when I interviewed tutors for The Education Hotel, I say to them, ‘Well, we’ve got a small cohort of learners who are High Learning Potential. And this is how they present’. And I’ve explained to them about some of our learners and some of our learners are really, really extended within a certain subject. So it’s kind of having a ‘spiky profile’. So I’d say they’re age-related at certain subjects, but they’re much further beyond in their real areas of interest. And sometimes that can be beyond academics.
And I explained this to people and sometimes, we take on teachers and ex-teachers, and they’re like, ‘I’ve had one of those in my class, and I just didn’t know what to do, because I gave them extension work. And it finished and then I was like, “What do I do?”‘. And it is something that’s really hard to do in the classroom. Because you get students who are bright, and then you get students who are High Learning Potential, which is a step above. So it’s going to be quite fun to talk about some of the case studies that we’ve had, and some of the techniques and the areas that we’ve been able to go into, because we now have a team that work with High Learning Potential. And some of the stuff that we do is really interest LED. So I have team members who work with students who are quite young, but who really need that challenge, because they’re not necessarily getting it at school. And it’s usually in a really interesting area, well, I’ll try not to say too much because it saves save some bits for those students who come along for the talk.
Ludo Millar 22:41
Yeah. So what kinds of things are you hoping, what kind of learnings are you hoping attendees will have by the end of the session?
Jemma Zoe Smith 22:52
So I’m hoping that, by the time people finish the session, they will be able to identify someone who might be HLP, and to be able to point their family in a direction of supports and when they can meet other families, because that often is a big thing when your child seems different to everyone else in the class. And the child’s quite advanced in things like Maths or English. You don’t really want to go around going on, ‘My child knows the times tables in their reception’. Because other parents will just look at you like you are forcing them to learn or something. So being able to talk to other parents is one thing, but also so that teachers can consider not just HRP but again students who are bright students who maybe they are within certain subjects, they are above the level that they need to be, what can I choose to do because often, people think about tutoring as support, so if a student is struggling. But actually it can be used in the other way. And if a student is doing very well, they’re likely to get bored. And you’ll see that in a classroom, you’ll see disruption, you’ll see a student who might just become disengaged, and indeed the marks will slip. So how can a tutor get involved and what can I do to help that family to really develop that student?
Ludo Millar 24:35
That is pretty good learning, I think for a free, one-hour event with you, Jemma. So I think that’s going to be a really, really good, post-lunch session. That’s at 2pm UK time on Monday 24th of January. And that will be followed by a keynote by Fiona Spargo-Mabbs about young people, drugs and decisions, that kind of thing. So that Monday is really about understanding. It’s about furthering your learning. It’s about being sensitive to the different kinds of learners that there are out there. And really expanding your knowledge and not staying in your own lane, which I think a lot of tutors and educators may sometimes be kind of guilty of. But just to finish it, Jemma, of course, we have to finish, I know, it’s sad, we do have to finish, all good things … what does 2022 hold for Jemma Zoe Smith?
Jemma Zoe Smith 25:43
Oh okay. Hopefully, first of all, I suppose doing more of what I love. So that’s the first thing. I really enjoy tutoring. And I really enjoy advising families. So that’s fairly similar. But for us, I think 2022, for me, is all about future-proofing. The last two years, and really, I started The Education Hotel fully in September 2019. I’d worked one-to-one as a tutor for about 10 years now. But the actual agency came in a lot later. So we started and then about seven months later, COVID started. So we have run and expanded and really built the agency side of it up over these last couple of years. And it’s been tough because we’ve all been locked down and and really there hasn’t, it felt like you were by yourself. So the big thing for me is really to look to the future. And I want to make sure that we can continue helping families so that The Education Hotel, the tuition agency and Top School and Uni, the education consultancy, can both continue to support students for a really long time, the future and so that’s 2022. Today’s focus is making sure that everything is sustainable and everything can continue for the future. So that’s the big thing.
Ludo Millar 27:17
Sustainability. Perfect. I think that’s going to be the word of 2022, if it isn’t already. Jemma, thank you so much for giving up some of your time to speak to us. As I said, the next place that you can hear Jemma, at least in Qualified Tutor land, is at the Love Tutoring Festival on the very first day of the Festival: Monday 24th of January at 2pm, straight after lunch.
Next week, we’ll be talking to Diego Melo, the Founder of Nudge Education and Claire Devanney-Glenn about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and about some of the work that Nudge Education has been doing in that area. So don’t miss out on that either. That will be the final podcast before the Festival, at which point we’ll take a break from the weekly podcast. But of course, there will be four Late Night Live Podcasts at the Festival to make up for a lack of weekly podcasts. So tune in for those, definitely come and see Jemma at 2pm on the first day, and a huge, huge thank you once again to you, Jemma.
Jemma Zoe Smith 28:24
Thanks for having me. It’s been great.
Ludo Millar 28:26
I hope you’ve enjoyed talking about it. It’s something that very much is your passion project. And I think that shines through very, very clearly. So we’ll see you all next time. Thank you, cheerio.
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