Learning to Unlearn & Learn Again: How One Expert in Training & Development Can Create a Powerful Approach to Progress for You and Your Students, with COO of Eximus Education, Misbah Iqbal: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
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 1:58
Hello, and welcome to the 132nd episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, the host of this podcast. Welcome back to regular listeners. Welcome for the first time to any of you for whom this is your introduction to the Qualified Tutor Podcast and a very warm welcome to our guest today, Misbah Iqbal. Misbah, welcome to the podcast.

Misbah Iqbal 3:13
Thank you Ludo,

Ludo Millar 3:15
It’s been a lovely journey we’ve had so far with with Eximus Education of which you are Chief Operations Officer. It’s been great to get to know you and and Haris, the founder. And I think there’s a lot more to be shared between the organisations and for expertise to be delivered to our community, to our audience. So thank you very much joining us.

For those of you listening today who haven’t come across Misbah or Eximus Education before, they are a wonderful London-based agency who provide really very high-quality tuition to their network of clients, here in the UK and also abroad. They have tutors from all over the world delivering really top quality tuition, both online and in person. Misbah herself was previously a director of business optimisation at a green energy supplier and the training and development manager at a digital outsourcing firm in Pakistan. So really, with this strong background in finance and management, but also a really strong professional development and training understanding. And the last time we spoke, Misbah admitted that she was a self-confessed disciple of of the great Tony Robbins and also one of our favourites here, Simon Sinek. So really a deep shared understanding there. And Misbah speaks so eloquently about humanity and empathy in education, something that’s right at the core of our values here at Qualified Tutor. So I think Misbah’s tone will strike a real chord with you today, our cherished audience and of course don’t forget to let us know your thoughts on the podcast by heading to our Community, the Love Tutoring Community, or emailing me at ludo@qualifiedtutor.org. But without further ado, Misbah, thank you for coming on to the podcast. What’s giving you reason to smile today?

Misbah Iqbal 5:12
Thank you very much Ludo. So smile, of course, I’m speaking to you. Every day brings up a new beginning, new opportunities, a better life, a lot of optimism. So every day starts with a smile and it’s got to end with a smile. And this is how I start my day, a lot of gratitude.

Ludo Millar 5:32
What a wonderful intro to you, to our podcast, Misbah. Thank you. Now, regular listeners will know that we like to invite our guests to cast their minds back to their school days to reflect a little bit on how teachers once perceived them and how, necessarily, they perceived themselves. It’s often a really amusing way to see where a guest has come to in their career. Now, I know as you’ve been saying, Misbah, that you weren’t able to find any school reports, but do you mind telling us a little bit about your reflections on what you were like as a school child.

Misbah Iqbal 6:09
I think a lot of what I am today is, of course, because of the time that I spent as a child in the school and with my parents, and, of course, being from the South Asian culture, and I don’t know how much that resonates with the West, but in the South Asian culture, the eldest child, there’s a lot of burden. And that burden may not be of monetary value, but a lot of it is about creating values. So, the eldest child has to be the best at everything, the best, the best in integrity, the best values, you know, [LAUGHS] because you’ve got to be an example to anybody who’s coming behind you.

So, probably, this is how I grew up with a lot of expectations from my parents, a lot of expectations from my siblings, and I had to be the best one. So I was extremely studious, working with some development projects as well, even in school. When you’re the eldest, it’s like you’re teaching everybody. So even as a child, I used to teach my siblings and their friends, and the cousins, something or other. I’m very blessed in that because my parents had, of course, a lot of expectations. But the first child, you put in everything that you want that person you want everything to go into that child. So I got a lot of values from them, which I was supposed to pass on course. And then I was blessed in the fact that I had some amazing teachers. And I cannot forget anything ever that they’ve ever taught me, by my passion for reading, my personal vanity, my integrity that developed, you know, simple virtues of right and wrong, and truth and false. And I understand there all these grey matters, but I grew up with a lot of values in me, and all of this and whatever I did after that is- the credit goes to them, my amazing, amazing, amazing teachers, and my wonderful parents.

But yes, a part of that, I was extremely introverted. So, where everybody would go on a sports week, I would go and study in the library [LAUGHS], and yeah, a lot of reading of history and culture. So this is something that had been a part of my life. And probably that is the reason why my love to impart knowledge, and to travel and learn more and go into the smallest streets and those learning, those cultures, and telling everybody adapting those, you know, bringing changes to whatever I do in my life, but unlearning every time, you know, bringing myself to zero, create a brand, make something of yourself, then bring it down to zero again, learn from the big thing, and I guess that is how I’ve been able to achieve new heights every time.

Ludo Millar 9:28
It’s amazing how often guests on this podcast talk about the impact of their teachers in shaping who they become and I think that’s an amazing, if not slightly, you know, frightening part of being a teacher- or not frightening, but you know, this responsibility that we have as educators to take that role. I mean, as I mentioned, your background is in finance and business management. but you have this real clear understanding of what education means and how best to make it effective and enjoyable. What skills and learnings do you think you’ve been able to take from your career in finance into tutoring?

Misbah Iqbal 10:17
I think finance, financial management itself brings in a lot of structure and logic to what I do, because I believe in doing things from the heart, so anything I do a lot of heart, and a lot of my soul is there. But I think that logical path has to also come in step in and say, Okay, let’s structure it, you know, and that comes from my Excel sheets and financial models that I had made. And those numbers that I worked on to forecast, you know, at times on stock valuations. So I used to be an Investment Analyst at one time. And, you know, understanding reading a lot of newspapers comes from there. So what’s happening in the economy and how is it going to affect the financial markets, and whatever affects the financial markets eventually affects simple households, us, our spending patterns. And probably that is also one of the reasons why in Eximus, we work on creating affordable education solutions for lower income households as well, because there’s one thing that we believe in, and as an educator, I’ve worked, I’ve trained a lot of people in my life, worked with a lot of students who are underprivileged as well, to help them attain at least you know, some- because, you know, with us, probably in South Asia how education levels that people do not have access to even basic education. And I’ve done that all my life. And now Eximus also comes up with a lot of the objective and intention of because, of course, we work in the UK, mainly. And even in the UK, around 45% of households have and this is the up to April 2021 by the way, I suppose survey, around 45% of families had a weekly income of only less than £600.

And inflation that we read, I think we’ve hit an inflation of 10%. We’ve never done that before, since a very long time. So I think all of that and understanding how economies work and how demand and supply work, how inflation is affecting households, would they be still able- of course, you know, school is free, so they can go and study. But would they be able to get tutoring? I mean, even the least probably out there is £30 an hour, but has told that earns less than £600 a week. And let’s say even if the child is in GCSE, and even if you take, let’s say, for the most difficult subjects, let’s say, Physics and Chemistry and Maths, andBiology, you know, 30 into four is £120 a week. Earnings less than £600, where you also and this is before tax, by the way. How would they be able to afford a £120 tuition for most important subjects and grades.

At the end of the day, the way education is structured all over the world, and I believe in celebrating efforts, but grades are important at the end of the day for university, and how are the kids, unless extremely motivated, extremely self-motivated, how will they be able to afford those. And I’ve been speaking to a lot of parents and I think my finance background has helped me understand all of that, and not being a complete, you know, and that is where my humanistic approach comes in, that logical part and the humanistic part does not make me a complete, you know, cut-throat businesswoman and that’s what Tony Robbins also says: What is the need that you want? Are you really there to help people? Because the moment we start sending out abundance, it just comes back multifold and it helps us help more so this is what we believe in, Haris and us, both me and others.

Ludo Millar 14:21
It’s beautiful. You’ve built something on such solid foundations, both practical, both of your backgrounds in professional life, but also, you know, theoretical and sentimental values that you’ve built this on. And one of those other values that you hold so dear is caring truly for the professional development of your team. And that is truly admirable and something that we’d love to touch on here because it’s obviously something that’s so key to who we are as an organisation. But why are training and development so key to success in education, Misbah?

Misbah Iqbal 15:10
Okay so, as I said before, unless you ready, and I believe everyone has the abilities, I will not say ‘unless you have the ability to learn’ because everybody does, you just don’t want to tap into sometimes. But unless you’re willing to learn, unlearn and learn, I would say, because you know, at times, and a lot of resources have proved this, after a certain time in life, a child doesn’t learn anything new. So because the base is already there to 5-6 years of age, and whatever new comes in, just has to go through, pass through that filter. So whatever new comes in, you actually evaluate, does it make sense to me? Or why doesn’t it make sense to me because I have certain clear, rigid values in my mind. And that is the reason I’m not open to take up new concepts.

So unless you are ready to let go of this filter, empty it and then learn again, you will never be able to grow further. And I remember one of my mentors actually told me, you know, ‘You’ve created a brand for yourself. And you need to let go of this’. Because what happens is when you work really hard on your life, and you bring some air over here, yourself somewhere over here, and then you say, ‘Okay, alright, no more and more successful’. And all of a sudden, right in front of you, there are people who are like here, oh my god, they had things. So many people, they’re changing lives, and you get inspired and you’re like, ‘Okay, why am I not able to go up, I’m not able to go’, because you’re not ready to, you know, let it go. So the moment you let your brand go, come back down, to spring up to better heights.

And this is where training comes in for everybody.

For everyone, the tutors, specifically, because I’ve been a teacher for a very, very, very long time, like more than 20 years. And I tell you, when you get a teacher, and then you learn so much, and for example, you know, I did not do my PhD for a lot of reasons [LAUGHS]. But, you know, I have seen, then you’ve made certain concepts of yourself. And it’s very unlikely that you’re ready to learn and because of that, somewhere you become stagnant. So you’re only ready to learn something that is a part of your area, which is what I do not believe in. I believe, unless you- okay, fine, you know, I know finance, something new in finance, I will learn but let’s say something new in marketing, I will not learn, it doesn’t make sense, right? Because nowadays, it’s not like finance works separately, marketing works separately, team management works separately, it has to be an integrated approach, only then you become successful, only then you can help more people. And unless you’re ready to do that, either as a teacher or as a tutor, or as a person, you will not be able to impart that to the child. And the child who’s coming has to be handled with a lot of care, you know, they’re like those very delicate assets of everybody’s life, you know, probably the parent’s most important asset.

So, they have to be handled with loads of care, where yes, they will be exposed to the toughness of life. But with that, they have to know that somebody has their back. And that can only happen with- very less people are ready to jump, because they know that there is nothing on the back. So probably not something monetary at the back. If you read the back, if they have the values from you, you know, if you had the right energy from you, if they do not have the rigidness from you, only then they will be able to to take chances in life, take risks in life. So unless you’re ready to do that for yourself, unless you’re ready to learn new concepts, unless you’re ready to unlearn whatever you’ve learned and adapt new ideas. Because every generation is bringing up new ideas.

I mean, you know, probably when we were kids, we did not even know what a smartphone was. And now, I mean, you know, a small two-year-old child will probably download an app on your phone [LAUGHS]. It’s crazy. My nieces will do that. My nephew will do that. It’s so beautiful. So if I’m not ready to unlearn and learn those new ideas, because I started with very less probably professional in tech and of course my team is full of younger people. So they’re very good at tech, besides all other things, but yes, I probably have more experience and other things. But unless I was ready to sit with them, and learn from them new things in tech, I wouldn’t be able to incorporate those into the tutoring as well.

So the child who’s coming up is very good at tech. And if they cannot resonate with us, how will they learn, you know, they will look at us as something like an idol over here, and they will never be able to learn from us, because we will just be there. You know, I have to come down to their level and learn.

Ludo Millar 20:40
So it’s being open to that. And it’s about having the confidence to know that taking a step down means taking two steps up. It’s so powerful, what you’re saying. And I know it comes from a real grounding in both the theory and the practice of this, you’ve been doing training in several businesses and organisations for, as you say, for many, many years. So any tutors with Eximus Education, you’re very lucky to have Misbah as your head of training and someone who’s caring for your professional development. Misbah, you mentioned when we last spoke that, as part of your training programmes, tutors at Eximus take part in reflection and empathy exercises. What role does this self-reflection that you’re talking about there play in an educator’s development? And how is this important for students as well?

Misbah Iqbal 21:40
Okay, so everything that I’ve spoken about up to now is self-reflection, honestly. Somebody who I learned from the most used to always say, ‘Wherever you get stuck, check yourself’. And wherever I got stuck in my life, I would always do that, check myself. So this checking myself does not have to come occasionally, whenever I get stuck. It has to come with everything that I do. So after this, probably after this podcast, you know, I will sit down and write that I could have done better or that I could have said better. And probably next time when I talk, you know, those things would have improved. This is, again, related to the same thing that we said earlier, being open, as you said, being open to take a step back and learn again, unless I’m ready to because you’re the best self critic, right? So the best critic to yourself would be you just so if I’m not ready to do that, if I’m not ready to take feedback from myself, I take feedback from others. And if I’m so rigid, and not ready to change, what reflection would that be on the student who comes.

So it’s not only about teaching 2 + 2 = 4, right? Because even if you’re teaching 2 + 2 = 4, the way you teach it changes a child’s life. So unless you write to self-reflect after every class that you’ve done, and I know that they’re very busy and have a lot of classes in a day, probably this can happen after a week. Or I would rather suggest at the end of the day before you sleep. So you write down all the activities that you’ve done up to now and whatever courses, whatever classes you’ve taken, and you think of each child as you do, as a very important project of yours, even if you’re just teaching them, 2 + 2. And then when you start doing that, and you’re reflecting on how you can make things better, things will change. And the best activity that I have learned since past few years is writing down. So you know, saying things orally, you’d usually forget, when you start writing things down more ideas. And this really helps, it has always helped me since these years that I’ve been doing it. So yeah, did I answer your question?

Ludo Millar 24:15
More than enough.

Okay, so just before we finish here, Misbah, because I’ve got one more main question that we always ask our wonderful guests, but I just want to focus on that little point, just a little bit more, because what you’re saying, I feel that what you’re saying is self-reflection can and should be built into an educator’s routine a little more often. And you’ve given one little tip there, which is to write things down after you complete a task or an activity or a session about what you can improve on and also what went well. Do you have any other tips for an educator who’s sitting in now listening to this podcast about how to embed self-reflection into their routine? Are there any other tips that you’ve learned that can help that happen?

Misbah Iqbal 25:07
So see, I tell you what I usually do, I usually write the things down at the end of the day. And then think of how things can be done. But better think of the next day and write things down. Again, this is what I’m gonna do, this is how I’m going to change what I did yesterday. That’s one thing that I do. One more thing that I’ve learned from, I guess, from every book that I’ve read, and from the most successful people in the world, and it’s crazy how the most successful people in the world bring in meditation into business. And that there’s a difference between imagination and visualisation. And this is something that I do first thing in the morning, I try to wake up early and do it in the morning, but I do it anytime in the day, and that is visualising how the class will be. And if you pick any [sportsperson], even Muhammad Ali, you know, anybody who’s been a great sportsman, actually visualises the whole match before and, you know, the whole match, but the winning, and it’s actually so that really works before doing anything.

So if I think that is one thing, very, very important if you visualise how that child is benefitting from what you thought. So it’s like, okay, so you imagine the class going on that a child is learning everything, absorbing everything. And at the end of the day, getting good results, becoming a better person, as well as getting good grades, and extremely happy and the parents are happy. And when you visualise this before, that energy passes on, when you’re teaching your child and ask me, I mean, you know, if you can even pick up signs, you can pick up studies, it has worked for everybody, if you do it with the right intention. So that is something, it’s an amazing tip. And if somebody can do it, it’s going to change the game completely.

Ludo Millar 27:05
Yes, absolutely. And I know that the Eximus tutors are imbued with that sense of hope and that sense of practice, that sense of knowledge about how to improve that within their child. You’re not just improving the grades, you’re improving their ability to learn in the future, as adults, which is such a huge skill as well. This is really very powerful stuff, and hopefully will be things that educators listening to this can build into their then tutoring sessions today, tomorrow, you know, as soon as they’ve come to the end of this episode. It’s not a huge step that you are teaching or educating here. These are small, simple, repetitive steps that will go a long way. So thank you.

***

Ludo Millar 28:05
And now a brief word from last week’s guest, Lauren Johnston.

Lauren Johnston 28:08
I think, for me, what I learned about being on the podcast was that, actually, I have so much to share, and all the work and effort that I put in every single day deserves to be recognised. And you guys as a network have provided me the pillar to do that. So I’m really, really, really thankful for that. I loved being a guest because it’s totally out of my comfort zone, my first thing that I’ve ever done. I’ve never ever done anything like this before. So thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. What I would say to a future guest is be uncomfortable, you have to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to be in that space, because I have learned so much from being in that space. Please, if you’re on the fence about thinking about it, just do it. It’s such an incredible thing to do.

***

Ludo Millar 29:16
Just before we finish here, I’d love to ask, Misbah, because there’s so much that you have conducted in the past in your career and I know that there’s so much more to come but could you give our listeners a little insight into what’s next for you. What’s next for Misbah Iqbal?

Misbah Iqbal 29:35
So Eximus is about me. So if you say what’s next, Misbah, it’s taking Eximus to every household in the UK. And when people say, ‘The sky’s the limit’, for me, the sky’s not the limit. There’s much of the sky and I completely believe in it. I have a lot of faith in it. Me and Haris do things with a lot of good intention, with the intention of helping people and we really want to take into every household just like Julia said the other day, when you speak to a parent, they should ask: are you a qualified tutor? In the same way I was telling her that the other day, remember I told you that every household will know Eximus and every household with Love Tutoring, you know, will want their kids to learn from the tutors. I guess that’s one thing that I really have the vision of.

Ludo Millar 30:36
Well, what a vision as well, and one that’s already in motion. So listeners, thank you for tuning in and checking in with the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Once again, it’s amazing to know that there are people out there who are taking something from these conversations and hearing from you in the Community or even just privately is something that really encourages me and motivates me to keep doing these conversations. Misbah, you’ve been a fantastic guest, thank you so much for joining us. What is the best way that people can get in touch with you straight after this?

Misbah Iqbal 31:15
I am available on email all the time. It’s misbah@eximuseducation.com. I’m available on email all the time. I’m very, very, very active on LinkedIn and on Facebook. So if you see ‘Misbah Iqbal’, you’re gonna find me on social media except with Instagram.

Ludo Millar 31:41
There’s always time for that one [LAUGHS]. Yeah, no, absolutely. LinkedIn and Facebook. And you can always contact Misbah by email. Next week, we’ll be speaking to the wonderful Arthur Moore from the TAndTeaching Podcast, looking at partnerships and collaborations in education podcasting, and also a little bit about the role of teaching and the interplay between teaching and tutoring, which is something that is so, so crucial in today’s education environment. But, Misbah, for one final time. Thank you so much for joining us on this podcast.

Misbah Iqbal 32:16
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity though. Thank you very much.

Ludo Millar 32:21
And we’ll see you listeners next time. Bye.

Misbah Iqbal 32:23
Bye. Bye, everyone.

***

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 qualifiedtutor.org/transformational-training to find out more about our CPD-Accredited and Ofqual-recognised courses: the first of their kind in the tutoring industry.

Related Posts