Tailored Support for Students: How to Overcome Anxiety & Stress and Ensure a Love of Learning Can Flourish, with Lauren Johnston: 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?

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Ludo Millar 1:48
Hello, and welcome to the on 131st episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, the host of this podcast. Welcome back to regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to the Qualified Tutor Podcast and a very warm welcome to our guest today, Lauren Johnston. Lauren, welcome to the podcast.

Lauren Johnston 3:02
It’s great to be here. Thanks very much for having me on.

Ludo Millar 3:05
It’s great to be welcoming you on. I know that you’ve been following Qualified Tutor and the Love Tutoring Festival for a while now, and we have been following your journey on LinkedIn. I think there’s a term for edu-influencers on LinkedIn. I’m not quite sure what that term is. But if I did know what it was, that would be you, Lauren. So for any of our audience who haven’t come across Lauren, she is the founder of Lauren Johnston Tutoring, an organisation that helps students meet their their individual requirements, helps them become the best student that they can be. She is also a recent MSc graduate in Business Strategy, Leadership and Change which is a really helpful programme to be studying to form what Lauren does today as part of Lauren Johnston Tutoring, and also more widely understanding the business needs of tutoring companies, which is something I hope to touch on a little bit today because obviously that’s so pertinent to many of the listeners in our audience today. And Lauren is also an ambassador for Make Your Mark, which is a coaching programme designed to give young people confidence, presence, communication skills, that kind of thing, to speak up and, as you may have guessed, to make their mark in their field, whatever that field is. So that’s a really cool addition to what Lauren does. But Lauren, thank you so much for joining us today on this Tuesday morning. What’s giving you reason to smile today, Lauren?

Lauren Johnston 4:43
I think for me it’s the fact that I’m doing what I love every single day. I’d never ever have thought growing up that alright, I’m gonna get a job, I’m gonna do this and you kind of have that thing in your head. You’re gonna get a job and you’re gonna love everything about it and I am so lucky to see that I am one of the very minority people in life that has that. So I am very, very happy to be here. I love chatting to like-minded individuals and just want to share my story.

Ludo Millar 5:10
What a great start to this podcast! I’m sure that’ll run through the rest of what we have to talk about because there’s a few different angles to approach this conversation from. I’m really, really looking forward to it. Now, regular listeners of this podcast of which I gather you have kind of become in the last few weeks, probably in preparation for this episode, but maybe not. We like to kick things off with a little look back to those early years. And I gather that your mum was able to rifle through some old boxes even while she was in the midst of moving house. There was a little something that she was able to pick up on passing over, wasn’t there?

Lauren Johnston 5:48
Yeah, so I had an amazing English teacher at high school, Mrs Armstrong. If she’s listening, shout out to you, because she was just the best, and will always be the best teacher to me. And she was more than that. She always said to me that, you know, you’re gonna make it and I sort of shrugged it off a bit. But she actually wrote something. And she said, in my report and this was just before I was leaving school. So this was after she had taught me, she had known me for three years. And she actually said, ‘Go on, thrive and do you because I know who you are, and you know who you are’. And for me reading that, at the time, when I got it, I kinda was like, ‘What does that mean?’. You know, who am I, I didn’t know who I was at that point, you know, I was very, I was struggling to know what I wanted to do. And for me, her having that belief behind me, as a teacher, I’d never had that before. So when she told me that, and when I look back now, I was just so humbled by her opinion, and what she thought about me and what I’m doing now. She is very much a big reason as to why I’m kind of sitting here today, like, honestly. And I think, for me, having a strong figure in your life like that is incredibly, incredibly important. So when I started tutoring, I wanted to do the same thing that she did for me. And she’s just an amazing woman and I know she’s still teaching to this day, and I know that she’s inspired so many people’s lives, just simply by taking that extra minute to understand you as a person.

So yes, she was all about her English, and all about our punctuation. And I can still hear in the back of my mind, saying, ‘God, that’s the worst way to say that. Do not say that’ [LAUGHS]. Hearing her in my head. And you know, sometimes I think I used to question, ‘Why did I do that?’. And actually, it’s just because she had so much influence over me. And very much shaped the person I was. So as I say, I’m so thankful to read to be able to go back and find that and to read that and to actually sort of reaffirm the reason I’m here, and I have done well, and I’ve worked hard and you know, I am doing and hoping that I am spreading the word, the wisdom that she’s given me and passing that on, because I think that is what’s missing, really, in today’s world.

Ludo Millar 8:22
Yeah. I mean, you talk about that very much from the heart and very much as a fundamental set of beliefs about who you are and the business that you run today. I mean, would you say then that those beliefs form your why behind your mission, behind Lauren Johnston Tutoring?

Lauren Johnston 8:41
Absolutely. Yeah, my why is so simple. And a lot of people used to say to me, ‘Well, your why should be everything and anything around everything that you’re doing’. Absolutely. But my why is simple. I love helping others. I have always loved helping people. Now, a lot of people would say, well, that means you never put yourself first. Absolutely not. I’m putting myself first by learning developing in order to then help others. So I recently did a LinkedIn post on that, because somebody asked me that, they said, ‘Why do you tutor? Why do you do what you do? Why did you leave the corporate world? Why didn’t you use your degree?’. Well, actually, the simple answer is I am using my degree, I run a business. It was that simple way I am using it. You know, and behind all of it was actually that, in business, it’s a transaction, isn’t it?

So this idea of you give somebody something, they give you something in return. And the way that we view that in business is obviously or always or majority time, monetary. And for me, I didn’t like that. I didn’t like it. I didn’t see very much value in doing that. So the way I’ve reframed and the way that I run Lauren Johnson Tutoring and always have done, is that actually it is more about value that you provide A to B or between parent to child or parent child and myself. And it’s about that packing that I put behind that. And it becomes of a transactional value rather than money. So the other day, actually, I was talking to some of my parents about that. And I said, ‘Why is it that you come back to me? Like, why is that?’ and I tried to get that through. And they said to me, because you put absolutely everything and anything into everything that you do. And for me, if I can help one child, every single day, that small, tiny, little bit, that’s enough for me, that is more than enough for me. And when I build their confidence, and I see them change as a person, when I see their grades go from zero, often a lot of them that come to me are basically, absolutely- and a lot of parents say, ‘They’re a lost cause’. No, they’re not, no child is a lost cause. We can build them back up to where they’re comfortable, and then give them that push that they need.

So for me, it’s everything and more than I’ve ever wanted, so my why is simply, I want to help others. And in this way, I am changing people’s lives and I have heard that so many times. And for me when I hear that, and every time I hear that, I never get sick of it. I never get sick of people coming to me and saying, ‘You changed my life, you’ve changed this, you’ve changed the way I think. You’ve changed the way’ and change is what I studied for five years. So these people that are telling me you’re not using your degree, I am. I am using it every single day of my life. I am implementing strategy behind how do we get this child to here. I’m implementing the changes that they need to get where they need to be, because I honestly do believe that every child requires or needs that support once at least once in their life, whether that is at the very early stages, or at the most crucial times when they’re sitting those exams. You know, we’ve all been there, we know what that’s like. And for me, because it’s so recent, I can thrive on that and kind of say, I know how you feel.

Ludo Millar 12:20
So I mean, that all sounds like leadership to me. Leadership in Lauren Johnston Tutoring. Leadership in this space, in education. Leadership in every single moment that you interact with parent or student. But I’m kind of asking myself if, you know, an MSc in Business Strategy, Leadership, and Change is what you studied, why education? I mean, there could have been plenty of avenues to go down. Why did you go down building a tutoring business, going into education, that kind of thing?

Lauren Johnston 12:55
Because, honestly, university was the best time of my life, genuinely. And a lot of people say to me, or people have these skewed opinions of, you know, you went right from school, you were never out of education, so you didn’t know any different. Okay, fine. But at the same time, I built everything in university. I built the skills. I built the network that I have. The people that I am tutoring often came through somewhere within that university network. So I’ve tutored lecturers’ kids. I’ve tutored friends of them, I’ve tutored family friends, and everywhere it all came out of this idea of, you know, she did well in this area, she always enjoyed being at school. And when I say to people, ‘I didn’t enjoy school’, that shocks them. Because they think right, well, how can you be a tutor then? Because you’re teaching people how to love school. No, no, it’s much more than that. For me, I love learning. And I think that’s a big reason why I went into education because I believe that you should always be learning every single day. There never should be a day where you’re not learning something new. And I think what’s difficult is when we go to school, we are sitting in these, you know, 7-8 hours a day, and you learn certain things. And that’s fine. And that’s great. And we need to do that. Absolutely agree. But when we leave that space, we almost go into that limbo of what do we do know? Like, what’s next? How do we do that?

So from a personal experience, for me, I went out of university into a corporate 9-5, and it wasn’t in my degree, it was meant to be the perfect dream job. It wasn’t. Because I stopped learning. I learned the job in a month and that was it. And I thought I can’t do that. I can’t because this isn’t- I’m not building anything. I’m not continuing to improve. There was no continuous improvement. There was no journey, that all stopped. And for me, having that comes from education. We have our journey, we start in primary one, and we go right up to wherever we end up going. And our education journey for everybody is absolutely different. And that’s what I love about it, is that we can meet individuals and I continually meet individuals that are keen to learn. And this is something that I really want to hone in on. And my business is actually looking wider, so expanding out to parents now. So giving them some type of education as to this is how the child is learning. And this is how you can support them to do that. And what they then will realise is that actually, they are then learning again.

So it’s this continuous cycle. So for me, it’s finding that place where we can all as a team and I very much view, you know, when I have students and parents, we are a team. We are not a three-way transaction, it’s a team effort, we all work together in order for the child to do as best as they possibly can. And I think the biggest lessons I have learned are from the children I teach. So I will always and I don’t think I’ll ever come out of education for that reason, is because the kids will teach you more about yourself, about the world, than you could read in a book, than you could get in the world because they are so incredible. And the kids I’ve got just now, if you’re listening, I’ve told them about it, I truly mean that guys, you’re doing incredibly well. And I’m so proud of what you’re doing. So, for me, it’s a passion. And that forms my why as well.

Ludo Millar 16:48
Look at that, cycling back to the start, that question. This is a great little learning loop you’re showing us, it’s like a little tutoring session here. I feel very lucky, Lauren. But no, I really like the way you’re touching on not just helping the student but helping the parent and helping the parent to help the student. And that cycle continues. I mean, we as the tutor are never going to be there forever. And the student will have to learn how to cope with those things themselves, of course, but you know, you hope that their parent or parents will also be there throughout their education journey. So equipping them with those skills that you know, is an equally as productive task. I absolutely agree.

Now, in every single episode of this podcast, it seems, all 131 of them, there seems to be a moment where we dream big. I don’t know whether that’s just because of the person I am or the kind of person I invite on or whether that’s just the product of these kinds of topics and conversations. But I want you to dream big for a moment, Lauren, because I know that that is something that you do as well as the day-to-day work that you carry out. But how do we ensure that our students are not prevented from achieving what they can achieve through the classic anxieties and stresses of life and of the education system? How do we make sure that they are not bound by those?

Lauren Johnston 18:18
Yeah, I think this is such a critical question. And I think the big thing for me, always and always will be, is giving them that support, is telling them and reassuring them that  it’s all gonna be alright, is the first thing to do. Every child that’s ever ever come to me has always had some form of anxiety, confidence issue or lack of belief. And that’s not through any fault of their own. And a lot of the time it tends to be because they either don’t believe in the ability that they have, because they have it, they do. They absolutely have it. No child has not got that, I’ve never seen a child that does not have that. And for me it’s built in around that. How do we get them from A to B. So a big thing that I’m working on at the moment is a course which we can build for students that they can take instead of that traditional one-to-one support or group support that as tutors we’re used to, because often I think some children are just not cut out for that one-to-one interaction or that one-to-group interaction that they maybe get at school. And I think, for me, I want to be able to fit every hole that there is, there’s holes everywhere. And I think for me is building something that every child, I can offer a child, everything. Everything that I have to offer will fit somebody somewhere.

I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet. But what I do know is that everything that I do in my day-to-day, in my tutoring job is trying to get them away from that anxiety. And for me, I was a huge sufferer of anxiety at school. I very much got through school through anxiety, worry, panic, fear. I don’t want the same for any other child, I want a child to come out of school and recognise that they are working so hard and be able to take that time away. And a big thing for me is to stop that anxiety and that worry, is actually telling students and getting parents involved in that and saying, ‘Take a break. Go away at the weekend and do something that you’ve always wanted to do for the last six weeks, but you haven’t because you’ve been stuck with your head in a book. Go and take a day, don’t take the phone, don’t take any device with you. Just go and take that day’.

And a prime example of that is actually a student I had and we were talking about it last night, they went away at the weekend, and there was no wifi. First reaction, the student panicked. ‘Oh, what am I gonna do? How am I gonna get my game? What am I going to do with this? I’ve got homework due for Monday, for my tutor, blah, blah, blah’. And he was worried that I was going to get mad, because he hadn’t done his work. And do you know, I actually sat down and said, ‘Did you have fun?’ ‘Yeah, yeah, I loved it. I had the best time, it was the best holiday, I really needed it. I feel energised and ready to go back to school’. That’s fine. And he was shocked because he was like, ‘But you sent me working, and it was meant to be done … ?’. And sometimes it’s just actually recognising, he enjoyed himself without fear without stress, because he took himself out of the situation and forgot about everything for a second. And I always say that to my students. And when I set them work is that I’m setting you this work to help you. But if there is fear, anxiety and stress behind it, do not do it. Don’t do it. I would rather focus on the deadlines, the exams that are coming up and finding a way that you can do it without having to stress, worry, anxiety, people on at you every so often, and we’re all guilty of that, like I even set some days and I think, ‘Oh, the to-do list is never ending. What am I going to do? I’ve got this to do, then I’ve also got to prepare sessions, and I’m out till eight o’clock, what am I going to do?’. And what I always think about is pull myself back to reality and go, ‘What is actually mattering today? What is important today? If it is that I do one thing off my to-do list, that’s fine. And that’s enough.

And I say that to my students all the time is that you’ve got that piece of homework for Friday and I’ve given you some work to do as well. Get that piece of work done first for school, let’s get that fear out the way, let’s get that sorted. And then let’s do that extra. Don’t push yourself to a point that you’re doing extra and you’re causing more anxiety. Just do what you can and take it in chunks. And that works so well for students is when I say, ‘Take it one step at a time.’ It works like a dream. It’s so simple. But it’s just that case of reminding them and insuring, it’s okay. If you need to take extra time, that’s fine. And give them that support and reassurance that everybody around them, including the school, and so I’ve got a lot of home education students at the moment, it’s that actually no one’s going to shout at them if they are not understanding what’s going on. It’s okay, we’ll then take time to do X, Y and Z. And I can assure you every parent, teacher, whoever it may be, has always said to me, ‘I would rather you take an extra week on that and do it with confidence, than stress to get that done’.

So yeah, absolutely. It’s so key and I really wish that we could abolish this whole anxiety thing. But it’s a very long road. And I know that it will take time and I know that things don’t just change overnight, because I’ve studied that. And I’ve studied that there’s factors that come into that, and I’m aware. But we can make small changes and that will change and often with students, that’s enough for them. It’s just that one small little thing.

Ludo Millar 24:12
Yeah, it’s funny, isn’t it, that we’re saying that you recognise the simplicity of that. And actually that’s the thing that catches in the student’s mind when you lay it out is actually how simple that is and how you’re not providing them with some unattainable, unreachable task or goal. It’s actually taking it back a step, making things easier rather than harder, which is something they don’t always see at school. Everything seems to be harder, harder, harder.

Now, I want to get all of what we wanted to talk about in before we reach the half an hour limit that I like to set for this. But there are some key things that you were saying in there about how tutors and students are having to respond to the changes, or having to respond to forces that they see in the education sector at the time, there are some things we can’t change at the moment. And we have to respond to those, we have to be able to be flexible and agile. Are there some changes that you can see to the organisation of how we do schooling at the moment that we could improve for our students? And if so, what are those changes? Can you identify a few of them?

Lauren Johnston 25:30
Yeah, I think the big one for me is they need more tailored support. Every single change that comes to me and I pride myself on providing that tailored one-to-one service or group service, whatever they need is always tailored to their needs. I think that’s what’s difficult is that numbers and the lack of resources they have in schools is why they’ve not got that. So it’s almost showing them that, given that one-to-one support, when it’s needed, it’s not all the time, children don’t need that all the time, but just when they are having that wobble and that fear and panic is when we can avoid them getting to that stage of going in the opposite direction. And I think then the only other thing would be that encouragement, and understanding that and telling them it’s okay to worry, it’s okay to have a wobble. That’s what I missed as a student, is that I panicked and panicked and panicked and made myself very ill. But that didn’t really set me up well for going into university or further learning. Because then I had to think, ‘Oh, right, now what do I do?’ and learn all over again. So it is back to the cycle of we need to keep that cycle going and there’s no breaks in that chain. When we need support, we give it. When we don’t, and we just need that wee push, we give that. The key thing for me, and I think it is, it’s about tailoring things. That’s what we need to do. And that is hard. And I know for expense and resources, that’s not going to be easy. But that’s the key thing we need.

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Ludo Millar 27:10
And now a few words from last week’s guest, Isabel De La Cruz.

Isabel De La Cruz 27:18
I learned that it is important to share your message with everyone because you never know who would be interested in hearing it and even sharing it. So my target audience is technically teenagers but Ludo thought that it would be very important to share my mission with other tutors as well. So thank you Ludo. What did I enjoy about being a guest on the podcast? Well, I loved how Ludo makes you feel so at ease and is totally stress-free. It is literally just two friends talking about a topic that matters to them. And what would I say to a future guest? Well, go in there with a mindset that you are there to have fun. Even though this is a business setting, the more energy you bring to the table, the more fun you’ll have with Ludo because he’s such a cool guy.

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Ludo Millar 28:12
Lauren, we’re just coming to a close here. There’s been so, so much that you’ve said. It’s really been- you have such an inspiring way of talking, very eloquent and very passionate, which comes out immediately, which no doubt is very helpful when you are speaking to students and you are speaking to parents and you are speaking to other tutors, I imagine, because it’s that kind of confidence that you speak with that, that helps others, both in an academic and pedagogical sense, and in a kind of B2B, peer-to-peer way. I think that’s a really important mix you’ve got. But we like to look towards the future, because that’s always exciting. So we like to end the episode with a little look at what’s next for you. So I mean, what is next for Lauren Johnston?

Lauren Johnston 29:04
So, that big project that I was talking about we’re working with parents in building an online course, is what is in the pipeline, so I’m starting work with this this week. And so I’m really excited to be doing that. And I’ve also just recently joined an amazing network who I am going to have a meeting with today and I’m very excited to get started with that because I just think it’s going to give me that even more powerful network to build on and grow and I guess what’s next is to continue what I’m doing and do this for as long as I am me because I am loving this. It’s growing, it’s expanding and I’m so excited to see what comes because I believe there’s so much more we can do and using our contacts, you know, within Qualified Tutor, within LinkedIn, that is all working together because I think the more we work together, the better we’re going to become as tutors because it’s clear, it’s already happening.

Ludo Millar 30:08
Lauren, thank you so much. That was a bit of a rallying cry there for other tutors to come together, to share, to collaborate, something that’s right at the heart of the Love Tutoring Community, this big community that we run to provide exactly this kind of space for tutors just like you. So if you’re listening in, do come and join Lauren and ourselves in there. Of course you can follow Lauren on LinkedIn. She’s previously referred to as her ‘second home’. I don’t know if we’re going to hold her to that [LAUGHS]. But it’s certainly somewhere that Lauren is very active and very informative. So that’s really your next step. But other than that, Lauren, is there a really good way that people can get in touch with you straight after this? Is LinkedIn the best place to go?

Lauren Johnston 30:56
Yeah, absolutely on LinkedIn, or I have a Facebook page or an Instagram page. And it’s simply just ‘Lauren Johnson Tutoring’ that’ll come up. I’d love to have a chat. Anybody that’s wanting- maybe starting out as well. A lot of tutors have come to me before and kind of said, ‘Do you want to chat?’ and I would love to chat to you all, just get in touch!

Ludo Millar 31:15
Awesome. That’s really great to hear. So that’s your next step. listeners. Thank you so much for being here for this episode number 131. And we will see you all again next week. But Lauren, for one final time. Thank you very much, and we’ll speak again soon.

***

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.

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