How to Balance Your Business Needs with Those of Your Student: The Tutoring Business Talk with Shola Alabi: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar 0:56
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?

***

Hello, and welcome to the next episode of this, the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar. And today we are very, very proud to welcome on Shola Alabi. Welcome Shola.

Shola Alabi 1:58
Thank you very much, Ludo. It’s really nice to be here. Thank you.

Ludo Millar 2:01
Thank you. Now, before we dive into the questions, I would just like to introduce Shola. Shola is a qualified teacher with over 20 years experience in the education sector, mastering the art of classroom teacher, teacher trainer, private tutor, university lecturer, tuition centre director, author, and motivational speaker all at the same time. Shola has, in addition along the way, built a dedicated following to whom she shares, tools, tips and secrets to support and encourage tutors and parents to get involved in child’s education and make a difference in their child’s success. Now, having set up both a tutoring business and the tuition centre around 15 years ago, Shola is I’m going to say pretty well placed to provide in-depth knowledge of the process of both running starting and running a tutoring business. Now, Shola, you and your husband, Kenny, were recently awarded a prize in community leadership and service. Is that right?

Shola Alabi 3:11
Absolutely. Well, you definitely have done your homework. Well, Ludo, yes. About a week ago, actually. Yes. Sunday. Not last Sunday, but Sunday before. Yeah, 31st of October. 

Ludo Millar 3:23
So, what was that? Community and leadership and service?

Shola Alabi 3:29
Yes. Because apart from Bob, what we do, what I do, and of course, what my husband does, my husband’s a driving instructor and he does quite a lot of football coaching, well not as much as he used to. What we’ve also done is we also support within the church family. So we do Sunday school. So all throughout the pandemic, it was Sunday school classes, just to keep the mental capacity and the mental stability of the children within the church family. So I guess that’s one of the reasons and also for showing up every day and serving your community.

Ludo Millar 4:08
Absolutely. Now, I’m in a great mood. It’s a wonderful day here where I am and I’ve just discovered a new type of pastry called, and forgive my German I think it’s called: mohlstollen. I remember reading it on the little counter and in the bakery. So I’m in a great mood. I’m really really excited for this podcast because we’ve been following- myself and Julia and the rest of the Qualified Tutor team have been following your work and your career on LinkedIn for a while now Shola, we are so, so happy that you actually agreed to join us on this podcast because we thought our show just got far too busy to find time to come onto a podcast like ours.

Shola Alabi 4:55
I’ll do anything to support whatever is going on, you know, support the children, support the tutor, support the parents. Oh, gosh, yes. I’ll do anything to contribute.

Ludo Millar 5:06
So on that note, that ‘supporting the tutors’ Shola, the first question we’d like to ask you is: what is your WHY as a tutor?

Shola Alabi 5:18
Very good question. I remember many years ago now, I’m not going to give that away. When I started out, during my training days I was at a school in a part of London, I’m not going to give that away either. And I sat back observing a lesson. And this is like a normal classroom setting. And I saw an incident. And that incident made me really go away and think I was a young mom, then I had just my two-year-old daughter. And I actually saw my daughter in that room that day, you know, obviously experiencing that incident. So I left that day thinking, it’s either I chicken out, you know, because I was just going into observe, going to see what you’re going to get yourself into. Or, you’re definitely going to go in and make a difference.

So that day, I decided I was going to go in, both in teacher training, and then make a difference. So whilst I was in school, you know, as a classroom teacher, I also noticed- and Ludo that there are a number of children who get lost in the crowd, you know, not because the teacher is not a good teacher, but you know, children learn at different rates, or they make progress at different stages. So I then decided to help out in smaller groups. And that did it for me, because, of course, the school where I was, that was a big improvement in the grades that year. So I then decided, ‘Hey, I am definitely going to be taking this on’.

So those are some of the reasons; there’s quite a number of other ones, but I’ll just keep it really brief for the basis of time. So those are some of the reasons why helping to support children, individually, or in smaller groups, so they can achieve the success that they deserve to, success that they would not be able to achieve in the classroom setting. So that’s some of my ways to make sure that children excel and become the best that they can be.

Ludo Millar 7:33
Yeah, so true. I mean, every child wants to do well. And it just so happens that because of certain factors in their life and in their work, that becomes more of an obstacle. So tutoring can just be that release.

Shola Alabi 7:49
Yeah, and that’s happened year in, year out not just by myself, because of course I don’t run centres alone, but we don’t do the tutors, you know, a child comes in, one of our mottos is: this child has to make progress, no matter how little so that the child can actually become a lot more confident. And that’s where the secret is, Ludo, when a child has confidence. And they know that ‘Yeah, I can actually do that’. It helps them, you know, in their mindset to want to do more. So that’s why I do what I do.

Ludo Millar 8:24
And there we go. Thank you, Shola, for the end of the conversation, that’s perfect. We’re all done! [LAUGHS]

No, I’d like to hear a little bit more about one of the projects, one of the kind of ideas that you’ve created in order to facilitate this, this way in order to facilitate this, this attitude, and that is the Parent Box, can you tell us, me and our listeners a little bit more about the Parent Box?

Shola Alabi 8:54
Parent Box also came from a place of walking with the children and of course, being aware of as a parent myself, the extent to which a parent would have to, you know, put into helping support their children apart from what they get from school or from the tutor. So, just before I’d reached a certain age, and because of the demands for obviously sitting with parents and talking through and supporting them, so they can then pass on that support their children, I decided to just create something based on the questions that I’ve had over the years from parents, you know, what can I do to help my child to move from one level to another? How can I make the right school choices for my child? How can my child attain back in the day Level 5 image matching because all the questions that I’ve had over the years from parents, I decided to just put that together and create Parent Box so Parent Box just in a nutshell, because I mean Parent Xox is a tool that caters for a child, right from the start of school. So from the cradle, I like to call it all the way to walking them into their career.

So it has resources, the skills that a child would need to develop the insight for the parents to help support their child, right from Key Stage 1, all the way to Key Stage 5 to walking into university. So I’d always like to say it’s a tool that a parent would need to help them from the cradle, all the way to their career. So that’s what Parent Box is. And it’s an online programme so parents can access it anywhere, you know, at any time.

***

Ludo Millar 10:57
And now, a word from Diego Melo, CEO of the newly-announced lead partners of the Love Tutoring Festival 2: Nudge Education.

Diego Melo 11:06
We are Nudge Education, a movement of like-minded professionals trying to eradicate chronic disengagement from the face of the education sector, one child at a time. And point every chronically disengaged child towards a life that is worth living. So if you want to find out more, please go to nudgeeducation.co.uk/workwithus and get involved with the movement.

***

Ludo Millar 11:37
It seems to be such a comprehensive service. Yeah, that kind of encompasses Parent Box and it comes from someone who’s been through that before and I think that’s the real power of it, is it’s not someone stabbing in the dark trying to think about what parents a child is, if it’s just a kind of imitation of a single parent’s own journey through parenthood and trying to understand their child’s education.

Shola Alabi 12:07
Yeah, it’s interesting you say that, Ludo because I mean, I have got mommy my older, I’ve got two. So that’s why I said older, is just finished university and is venturing into the world of having her own enterprise. So I remember as we walked that journey, as well, because I am one who documents things. I’ve got journals all around here. So it also came from that, you know, questions that parents do ask all, what’s the next stage? Once of course, you know, ‘Oh, how do I that? So all of those A’s, what is also impairing? So I mean, it’s interesting you said that to me. That, yes, it’s from a personal experience, as well as the experience of working with the children, and as well as their parents and the questions over the years.

Ludo Millar 13:00
So, you’ve talked about there, you often talk about parents needing to understand or wanting to understand their child, their child’s education a bit more. I’d like to turn now towards the tutor side of things, how can a tutor understand the needs of a student if they aren’t kind of around them 24/7, like a parent?

Shola Alabi 13:22
I always say this, Ludo that, well, I mean, a good tutor would actually just go beyond just the showing up on a week by week basis, to teach the child.

So what I always tend to do is just get to know a little bit more about the child and their background, their cultural background, and just finding out how we can support them better. So, I always say to my parents, you know, I’m not just there to teach, I am a mentor, I’m a role model. So I mean, I tell my children, when I’m going around, I have to be on my best behaviour, because we could come in contact with any of our parents, all the students. [LAUGHS]

So it’s just finding out a bit more about the child. And going down to the academic needs or the just trying to assess the child’s needs as well. So not just the academic needs of the child would also go in a little bit more, I mean, going the extra mile to find out about the child and sometimes having a conversation with a child. I know quite a number of my friends say to me that, ‘Oh Shola, you’re so great in that area, you know, speaking to a child for about five or 10 minutes, you will be able to have an idea that there are some additional needs, there are some missing dots’, so I would say just taking on that extra beat on trying to find out about the child, not just the academics or the depths, in the child’s learning,

Ludo Millar 15:01
Yeah, it’s such a- it will do wonders for the value of that unlocking of tutoring sessions, if you put time in, at the beginning, rather than just diving into the first worksheet or whatever, you know, the first piece of teaching. And it’s also I find – I’m a tutor myself – I find those are some of the most rewarding sessions, those first ones where you’re really starting to build and you can sense some quick willingness and quick wins that the child is feeling like they’re making quick progress. And it’s not just that they’re feeling like they are making quick progress.

Shola Alabi 15:35
Yeah, and of course, making that clear to them as well, you know, that, in as much as, and sometimes you would get to know the child’s person. I mean, for me, maybe because I’ve actually done quite a lot of research, because when I published my first book, Parents, Understand Your Child, or had to do some research, you know, so understanding the child’s person. So some children, we just take things with a pinch of salt, and then you know, that there’s some children that at the slightest ‘Miss?’, you know, it’s kind of like all hell would break loose.

So just knowing that, understanding that child a bit more as a tutor, does help. So as a tutor, as parents, you know, I also think me, my husband teases me most of the time and says to me that, you know, ‘Because you’re a woman …’, but I’d say ‘No, because there are men who are tutors as well’ [LAUGHS]. So, we want to, and then they will now so yeah.

Ludo Millar 16:34
Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s yeah, there’s so much in that, really, I think, getting to know if one of the things that we want to help a student with when we do get to know them, as well as the academics is learning the soft skills, the real skills that are needed later in life and relationship-building is one of those and showing them how a good relationship is started, is formed, then you send them on the path for life, even if they never come back for another tutoring session. Yeah, I think that’s really key to remember.

Shola Alabi 17:11
Yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, I agree. I was on a Zoom session yesterday. And there was a lady who came to talk about etiquettes, you know, for young people. And some of the things that she was saying, actually alludes to the fact I mean, to what you’ve just said, Ludo, that these things in those relationships gets built from that interaction, you know, with people so I mean, she was just talking to the kids about what would you like people to say about you after the first meeting that they’ve had with you? And it really got me thinking as well that things we do without thinking about them, you know, and what message it passes on to the other party. So yeah, I fully agree Ludo.

***

Ludo Millar 18:08
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 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.

Let’s raise standards in tutoring together.

***

Ludo Millar

Now, Shola, you have wonderful experience in training individuals how to run their own business, that’s something that you’ve positioned, you’ve been able to get to through your experience and your expertise in setting up your own businesses especially in education. The million dollar question that I’m going to ask you: what is your number one tip for someone who’s looking to set up their own tutoring business?

Shola Alabi 19:45
That would actually take me to when I started. I just went from classroom teacher straight into running the tuition centre. I know some of the mistakes then was, of course, as a classroom teacher, there are things you actually do in school that would not work as a business owner. So one of them is just that transition from teacher to business owner. And then the other thing that I always say to those that I work with, who I have had the opportunity to work with, is just hone in on your strengths, and get support from others.

So say, for example, with regards to the numbers, you know, I’m not an accountant, you know. And, of course, you obviously want to make sure that the figures are doing okay, I mean, I remember the very first year, and I’m thinking, ‘Okay, this is definitely not a charity, this is a business’. So just making sure that you work with your strengths, your teacher, you do that very well, and source out the other parts of the business. And number two, just get support, you know, get somebody to work with you, get somebody to mentor you, you know, because as I said teaching, and one in the tuition business, that there’s a bit of a gap between the two, so get somebody to support you in that regard.

Ludo Millar 21:20
Yeah, and then you have kind of in that final point you made, you have people to support you? Thurrock Tuition was one of your tuition centres and Exam Success Education, you know, that’s not just you, is it?

Shola Alabi 21:37
Absolutely no way. Gosh, I mean, we do have a number of students,over 200 students on a week by week basis, I’ll be dead if I had to do that on my own. [LAUGHS]

So I do have a number of tutors, as well as the centre manager who is actually designated. Last year, we had to appoint an assistant centre manager as well, because the numbers were increasing. And because we also had to transition from some face-to-face to online. So yeah, definitely put my hands off. Yep. Yeah.

Ludo Millar 22:10
But it’s a sign of strength actually, isn’t it, to work with another. It’s a sign that the whole business organisation doesn’t have to be just embedded with your thinking, you’re willing to open that up to other people’s thinking and ideas and ways of doing things. And also, as you said, it’s just you won’t give a good service across the board of your organisation, the sales, the marketing, the relationship-building.

Shola Alabi 22:39
What we always say amongst ourselves within our team is, ‘Teamwork is what makes the dream work’. You know, so we call ourselves the Exam Success Dream Team, or the Thurrock Tuition Dream Team. So it is teamwork, at the end of the day, Ludo that makes the dream work. And if you really want the best for the children, and of course, their families, we would have to just own our strengths, you know, identify the areas that we’re not good at, and just, you know, let those who are good at that, carry that burden.

Ludo Millar 23:15
Talking of our, you know, making the dream work and thinking about dreams and visions. I’m going to ask you a question, which is: what would success for tutoring look like in 2030? What are your wildest dreams, Shola, for tutoring?

Shola Alabi 23:39
I’ve always wanted to, I mean, I remember when I decided to become a teacher, and I started as a biochemist, by the way. And I went through that experience, and I wanted to make a difference. What I always wanted to have, was to have a school. But of course, tuition was one of the ways by which I could start off. So I really had the idea of having a virtual school. Now, you know, things are moving towards or things are the hybrid system. So having a virtual school is one of the things that I’m really looking forward to. So that we can- I mean, as much as I do, we do cater for quite a number of businesses in Qatar and in Nigeria, but of course, being able to help children all over the world, you know, and support their learning is something that I’d really, really want to get into. Ludo, one thing on my heart, of course is to make education accessible to as many children worldwide so that is a dream, and I believe that will be realised. Yes. So, yeah.

Ludo Millar 25:06
Who’s with Shola? Hands up! [LAUGHS]

I can’t see you. I hope to see those hands up, because that’s the dream. That’s a an amazing, but also realistic and achievable, goal, is opening up, you know, with online learning, that goal has become achievable.

Shola Alabi 25:29
Oh, yeah. And, of course, puts in a lot more, you know, I mean, one of the things that I’m actually doing, sorry to do I know, we have to go, is just supporting children’s school uniform, disadvantaged children, because as I say, I always want education to be accessible to every child, because I believe that, as Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the weapon that we can use to change the world’.

So I am on a mission, you know, between now and December to raise some funds, which is why I’m working. Not only because of that, of course, was my fitness, you know, to raise funds to actually get school uniforms across the world. So that’s another you know, dream. Yeah.

Ludo Millar 26:23
Well, you predicted my question. My next and final question, which is: what’s next for Shola?. As you just described, The Uniform Project that Shola is raising funds for, you can find the GoFundMe link for Shola’s page here: gofundme.com/f/ujpdr-the-uniform-project.

And you can also next hear Shola Alabi in the context of Qualified Tutor and Love Tutoring as a keynote speaker at Love Tutoring Festival 2, on Wednesday 26th of January 2022 to 10am is Shola’s slot and we are delighted that Shola will be kicking off our our Teaching & Learning day on the Wednesday. So all information about that can be found at qualifiedtutor.org/lovetutoringfestival. We are so so excited that Shola, you’ve agreed to speak at the Festival.

Shola Alabi 27:25
I am so looking forward to it, Ludo, honestly. As I said, you know anything to do with teaching and learning, tutors, students, parents, I will be there.

Ludo Millar 27:42
Showing up, you’ll be leading just as you always do, Shola.

Shola Alabi 27:46
Thank you for that opportunity as well. 

Ludo Millar 27:49
And thank you for joining us today. There was- we fit in I think as much as we could have done in 25 minutes. But really, this conversation was bursting with more ideas and we will get you back on after the Festival because there’s so many more threads there that I want to pull on from your years of teaching and tutoring and running a business.

But no, thank you very much. 

Shola Alabi 28:28
Thank you so much. Thanks for the opportunity.

Ludo Millar 28:30
Bye then everyone. See you next time.

***

COMMUNITY INSIGHTS

Ludo Millar

As you may have seen, those of you within the Qualified Tutor Community, we are rolling out a new feature which will allow you, our members, to become involved in the Qualified Tutor Podcast episodes. We want to hear your voice. And so this week, we opened up the questions and topics that we discussed with Shola just now to the community.

Here’s what they had to say …

Victoria Burns 29:04
Hi, my name is Victoria Burns from VB Tutoring. I’ve been asked to talk to about what a tutor can do to meet the individual needs of their students. So for me, it is to interact with them, to get to know them personally. Get to know some background information from their parents. And ask the students themselves, what do they want to learn? And how do they learn best? What strategies do they think work? Engage with the student on an individual basis and try to meet their individual needs and goals. So an individualistic style is paramount for me. Know your students as a person.

Ludo Millar 29:59
And now, we hear from Kayleigh Rapson …

Kayleigh Rapson 30:01
As somebody who’s recently set up a tutoring business, my top tip for anyone who is thinking of doing the same is to surround yourself with people you trust, whether it’s friends, family, or other tutors. Have someone that you can bounce ideas off and who can keep you sane. And also people that can be truthful with you and keep you grounded as you move through the first few months. It’s a really difficult job. And I wish that I’d had somebody more knowledgeable than me to guide me through it. But now that I’ve connected with other tutors, and I’ve connected with friends and family, I feel much more supported and more able to expand and grow.

Ludo Millar 30:49
Now if you’d like to have your voice heard on the podcast next week, simply visit speakpipe.com/QualifiedTutorPodcast and have a go answering the questions that I’ll be asking next week’s guest, Crystal Weber, which are:

  1. What are your top three tips for online language tutors?
  2. What will language tutoring look like in 2030?
  3. And how will the recent legal changes in China affect the global online tutoring market?

So have a go at answering those questions and send in your answers to speakpipe.com/QualifiedTutorPodcast and we’ll show the best ones at the end of next week’s episode!

***

Ludo Millar

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Whether you’re a regular listener of this podcast, or you’ve just stumbled across it, join the Qualified Tutor Podcast Group within the Qualified Tutor Community. To stay up to date with our latest news offers workshops and of course, simply to meet other tutors like you, whatever your level is as a tutor, our training courses will be the next step in your professional development. Visit qualified tutor.org/training to find out more about our CPD-Accredited and Ofqual-recognised courses: the first of their kind in the tutoring industry.

 

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