Wellbeing, Support and Mindfulness for Our Profession: How to Get Involved in World Tutors’ Day 2nd July 2022, with Sarahlynn Hodder: 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 1:19
Hello and welcome to the 119th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Today will be ever so slightly different to previous podcasts because this week is the week of the Love Tutoring Festival and we are delighted to be welcoming on someone who has been and who will be taking a leading role at the Festival throughout several events and will also be leading the topic around today’s episode which is World Tutors’ Day 2nd July which is taking place this coming Saturday. So a huge welcome to Sarahlynn Hodder,

Sarahlynn Hodder 2:53
Thank you so much for having me, Ludo. I’m really excited to be on this podcast.

Ludo Millar 2:59
There are so many things we could talk about to do with Qualified Tutor. There are so many ways you have been involved with Qualified Tutor over the past 6-9 months or so. But today we want to talk about what World Tutors’ Day means and what that is. So just before we dive into that, a brief background for those of our listeners who haven’t come across Sarahlynn before. Sarahlynn is and was the Hub Leader for our hub, the SEND & Wellbeing Hub. Sarahlynn is also the Founder of Bettering Youth, which is her wonderful tutoring business. A retired teacher as well and a personal trainer, Sarahlynn does a whole lot of things and all of them are to the benefit of her students and those around her, always looking out for the wellbeing and the mental health of her students, her colleagues and herself of course.

So really, that fits in very nicely with the theme of World Tutors’ Day 2022, the global awareness day for tutoring and tutors this year. So Sarahlynn, I think the first question really to dive into before we get into World Tutors’ Day itself is a little bit about you, a little bit about your background. And the way we love to do that here on this podcast is asking you about your why. So what is your why as a tutor?

Sarahlynn Hodder 4:32
I love this question. I always talk to my students about their why power, because I think your why is definitely what propels you forward. So I think on a subconscious level, I’ve always known that I would be an educator. I think my childhood and my experience with educators was a really big part in that decision. So as a child, I moved to 11 different schools before high school. And so my teaching has played a really big role in helping me to acclimatise and to process moving so frequently. And it was also at school that I felt like I got a lot of extra pastoral support, because I was a carer from a really young age. And so I believe that because I had the fortune of having such amazing people really allowing me to lean on them, I knew that I wanted to be able to provide a very similar opportunity for others. I just didn’t quite know how I knew that I was really fortunate. And not everyone would have that opportunity. But I thought more students needed it.

So I went to school for my five year teaching degree. And then I confidently moved myself across the world, from Canada to the UK. And very quickly, I realised that the demand often outweighs the capacity in the classroom. And I felt like I was faced with two very difficult choices: I can either show up as best as I could for 30 students, and constantly go home feeling like I’m letting them down. Or I could step away from the classroom and everything that I knew, and show up for possibly less students, but hopefully give them that one-to-one support and make a little bit of a bigger impact. And it took me a while to make that decision. But really, it was my pastoral lead role in my last school that really helped me see that one-to-one really does have a lasting impact. I felt it myself and I could see it in the students I was working with. So that was my main reason that I confidently started Bettering Youth and left the classroom.

Ludo Millar 6:43
So do you think that why is something that developed, as you say, during that pastoral role at your previous school? Or do you think that’s something that has always lived within you?

Sarahlynn Hodder 6:55
I feel like my real why is because I know that education can and should be a place where we don’t just teach to a book. And I think when I was in the schools I was working with, I was really fortunate because I had the chance to experience a variety of different schools and had the support of a variety of different types of headteachers. But I think that my initial feeling that school should be and could be about more beyond the classroom has always been there. But I think that pastoral position really just gave me the confidence to know that it was a possibility.

Ludo Millar 7:36
Isn’t it funny how those early ingrained ideas crystallise in the roles that we take as adults, even if we don’t realise it at the time. So you’ve done so much for educators in your career as a professional, and it feels like over the last couple of years, you’ve really stepped into that mentor role leading others, leading the hub and leading Bettering Youth. Obviously, you’ve been a personal trainer for some time now and that very much is a role of leading and corralling and encouraging others, isn’t it? And this year, you’ve agreed to take on the promotional, the leadership role for World Tutors’ Day and the initiative itself is very proud and very grateful to you for that. But I wonder if you could just give our listeners a bit of an idea about, talking about your why, why World Tutors’ Day? Why does tutoring need a global awareness day?

Sarahlynn Hodder 8:45
I think this is such a multifaceted question. So if I can kind of just break it down a little bit, I feel like that’d be really helpful. Firstly, I absolutely adore the fact that we now have a Tutors’ Day that we can stamp into the calendar. I think it’s really appropriate. Globally right now, there is a big shift in the mindset towards the role of tutors. Prior to the pandemic, the role of tutoring felt really separate from the role of teaching.

Even as a teacher, I never really considered moving into the tutoring space until I was faced with that decision. And I even had parents come to me when I was starting my tutoring company and say look, ‘I really want to work with you. We really want you to tutor our child’, but they would never dare admit it to the school. There was such a belief there that it was almost offensive or it was undermining the school. And I think it’s wonderful right now in the state that we’re in because there seems to be a lot more acceptance and celebration of the role that tutors bring forward. You know, we’ve seen the support of 1000s of tutors through the National Tutoring Programme here specifically in the UK. It’s actually allowed over 1.5 million tutoring courses to start since 2021. 1.5 million. And that’s just because of the support of tutors being celebrated and acknowledged and welcomed.

So this day really does celebrate that education can and should be delivered in a variety of different ways through a variety of different avenues by a variety of different specialists. So I think that’s the global approach. As a professional body, tutors, we are really benefiting from this global awareness, because it’s helping to elevate our role, not only to celebrate the efforts, but also to make it more accessible. There might be a lot of different individuals who are sitting on the sidelines thinking about joining this profession, but not necessarily knowing if it will sustain their livelihood, or who they can turn to because there’s not really a staff room. And for the longest time, there were really high standards that everyone needed to abide by or pull themselves up to. So I think having this day dedicated to tutors of the world, I believe it further echoes all of the advancements that we are making as a profession over the past couple of years.

And then if I could add, for me personally, for this day, specifically, like the second World Tutors’ Day, following on from our first full year back to school exams, I was really excited actually, when I was asked to develop something. When speaking to tutors, as the Wellbeing Lead for Qualified Tutor, I hear very similar comments constantly. I hear, ‘I feel burned out’. ‘It’s been nonstop’. ‘I sometimes feel alone’. And ‘who do I know? Like, who can I turn to?’. ‘I feel like everyone feels like a competitor’. Those are very common threads of inquiry that I keep hearing. And so to be able to create an event that provides time to actively participate in self care, for showcasing how this profession is really interconnected. And it can be really welcoming. And ultimately to help facilitate great relationships amongst individuals. I really do feel honoured. So I hope that it creates this big board of honouring the humanness that we all have.

Ludo Millar 12:33
What a fantastic point to end on there. I mean, I think with the rise in technology in tutoring, some of it, our hands being forced by the pandemic, there was a threat, potentially, that humanity and humans may be lost from education. And what we know as tutoring professionals and education professionals is that that is the key link to creating the connection with the student, isn’t it?

Sarahlynn Hodder 13:03
The only way. It really is the only way. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We need to feel connected before we’ll be able to do that self actualisation.

Ludo Millar 13:14
Yeah and what better way, in a world where we do work from our computers still, to feel that connection and to hear from 1000s of tutors around the world. Literally tutors who you would never have come across if it wasn’t for the computer, and you can share those insights with them. And not only can we share insights, we can actually share day-to-day challenges, day-to-day activities that we do. How is that tied into this year’s challenge?

Sarahlynn Hodder 13:43
So we’re about halfway through 2022, as you know, and I feel like the challenge right now is the balance between the catch-up culture and the what I’m hoping will catch on so spread the word, “rest culture”, because for so long, you know, we’ve lived in this fast-paced world. We’re always striving towards the future as a society, we’re looking to bridge the gap and prepare for the next revolution. As educators we’re always looking to the future and planning accordingly, as tutors are doing the same. But we’re also adding an extra layer of looking at sustainability as a business. There’s always something on the to-do list, and we always seem to be running out of time. So having spent the last two and a bit years in a heightened state of being, I don’t think our bodies have caught up yet. I feel like we’re still dealing with increased levels of cortisol, which is impacting our health and our sleep cycles and our immune system, there’s still a threat to our immune system. There are various external world events that are pulling our attention in 100s of different directions.

And yet we’re still constantly going for that grind. We’re not putting in the rest and and so it makes complete sense to me, when parents come to me and they’re breaking down, and they’re telling me how low their children’s mental wellbeing is. And it makes sense to me that tutors are messaging me for wellbeing support, because they’re feeling burned out, and they have nowhere else to go. And it makes sense to me that everyone is living for the weekend, and just craving that rest. To me, it’s like we’ve ran a marathon and then we’ve just jumped in the water, without any idea of where land is, we’re just going to keep swimming. We’re actually just causing more and more overwhelm for ourselves by not pausing and planning and reflecting. And so I think our biggest obstacle is acknowledging like, ‘Hey, we are human, we are not an energiser bunny’. We will have a moment where we will need it to pause and honour our wellbeing because without it, we can’t continue showing up. We can’t continue to push this profession to the highest standards, we can’t continue supporting the next generation, if we’re not modelling it ourselves.

Ludo Millar 16:08
And we can’t keep turning up and doing the best for the students that we work with, can we, if we are not functioning? Absolutely. So we will see some pretty incredible tutoring sessions on Sunday 3rd July, I believe … the day after World Tutors’ Day. [LAUGHS]

So do you mind telling our listeners and hopefully everyone who’s going to partake in World Tutors’ Day 2022 about the challenge that we have set people for Saturday 2nd July?

Sarahlynn Hodder 16:42
Absolutely. I’m so excited for this one. So we’ve already mentioned that it’s going to be grounded in wellbeing and so the belief is that if we can take care of our minds, our body and our being, then we can show up to be our best selves. And so we are looking for 2 activities, because it’s the second World Tutors’ Day: 2 activities x 20 minutes each, one that will be about honouring your wellbeing for your mind and then the other will be about honouring the wellbeing for your body. And then we added a little cheeky bonus of encouraging you to be outside for a minimum of 22 minutes, because it’s 2022. And being outside helps to release those positive vitamins and endorphins. So that is your three step challenge.

Ludo Millar 17:33
Okay, so you can be thinking about your challenges that you’re going to be partaking in on Saturday 2nd July, and I believe, Sarahlynn, that we will be encouraging tutors and really anyone who takes part in this challenge, it’s not just for tutors, it’s just integrating the world of tutoring. This can be children, parents, friends, colleagues, whoever, to be posting your examples and photos and videos from your challenges with the #WorldTutorsDay and #WorldTutorsDay2022. So plenty of ways for you to see other people’s activities, get some ideas, but also to celebrate yourself and as Sarahlynn says, to honour your own wellbeing.

I don’t think this is a day where you should feel guilty about going for a run or showing off that you’ve been able to do this or that, you know, I think it’s really about sharing those ideas. So Sarahlynn herself came up with this challenge. She’s far too modest to say that. [LAUGHS] But I think it’s a wonderful challenge: 2 x 20 minute activities and a minimum of 22 minutes outside in the open hopefully in the sun wherever you are in the world. If you’re in the UK, I think you might be lucky. You may well have beautiful sunshine for the entire weekend.

So, Sarahlynn, just looking then at really this, I guess it’s probably become a bit of a buzzword, this word ‘mindfulness’, and it means lots of different things to different people. But what does mindfulness in tutoring mean to you, Sarahlynn?

Sarahlynn Hodder 19:15
If I could explore that with an example, Ludo. I think that might be one of the best ways that I could explain it because you’re so right, it means different things to different people. But yesterday, actually I had one of my students show up. And he looked ghostly, absolutely just white as a ghost. And he had mentioned that he’d already written three exams that day, and he still had two more to write the next day. And at first, I know, at first I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, why are you still here?’ and I was shocked that his parents still brought him to our session. Because sometimes you know families will say it’s too much and they pull back because they worry about it being too much but to be honest, I was so honoured. I was so honoured that this parents knew that Bettering Youth was all about blending wellbeing into our sessions. And she really did trust that we wouldn’t do business as usual, and that we would tailor the session to what that child needed in the moment. And so that’s what we did.

I immediately brought out the games. And we spent time playing and chatting and talking through the emotions of the exams and getting his mindset right about the future exams, all while playing some Maths games. And so for him, he was like, ‘This is the best session ever. We’re just hanging out. We’re sitting on the floor, we’re playing games’. But to me, as an educator, I’m thinking, ‘Perfect. We’re cementing his mental maths, we’re practising retrieval of past learning, we’re looking at problem solving and creative ways’. So I felt like in that instance, everyone won, but really what was going on, I think, was something much bigger than that. We were actually showing him that even though he feels overwhelmed or tired and tense, he’s at a point where he would normally probably just completely sign out or sign off of everything and just go play Playstation. We showed them that being tired doesn’t mean you have to check out 100%, you really can look at the intensity of what you have to do and change it. It means that you can pivot the methodology to make sure that you’re enjoying it, or you’re taking it on board in a different way. So you’re keeping your mind and your mental wellbeing in mind. So mindfulness, I guess, to me, and tutoring, means being aware of the current headspace, encouraging and modelling conversations around emotions, but then also being able to provide skills that will support them both within and also beyond the classroom.

Ludo Millar 21:57
Yes, yes! That’s the best definition of mindfulness I’ve ever heard. And with the example as well, I think, really consolidates it in the mind of a tutor, especially that example we’ve all lived through as tutors, you know, hundreds of times the student who for whatever reason, is not in the mental state that’s necessary for effective learning. And that’s a great way around it. So you’ve solved lots of students problems in one fell swoop.

Now, just bringing this conversation to a close, I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation. Because World Tutors’ Day means a lot to me, and you’ve taken what Julia Silver and I launched during the first World Tutors’ Day in 2021, you’ve taken it to the next level, and I think the focus on mindfulness is so, so vital in where we are now, the summer of 2022 after two long, hard years. So with that in mind, and looking ahead, which we always like to do it at the end of an episode, what do you hope then is the legacy of World Tutors’ Day?

Sarahlynn Hodder 23:13
Yeah, I think the legacy for World Tutors’ Day is all about connectivity. So we’re at a time right now when as a society, we’re focusing on what’s different, and we’re trying to label it. And I think that that’s where we’re coming from with the dichotomy between teachers and tutors and and my hope is that World Tutors’ Day will erase some of those lines that are drawn in the sand, and they will really help fa ew people to feel more connected. You know, being part of a community is incredibly powerful for our wellbeing, our professional development, our personal growth. So for me at the end of the day, I would hope that World tutors’ Day acts as a flagship, as a marker that will allow tutors to feel welcomed to the profession and encouraged to come to a profession that is making huge leaps and bounds to create a profession that is holding itself to a very high standard but also there for one another as well.

Ludo Millar 24:22
What more could we hope for than a profession that at the same time moves forward its professionalism and keeps that up with wellbeing and tutors looking out for other tutors, which perhaps other professionals that have moved very quickly maybe haven’t done quite so well.

So I think this flag you’re flying, the drum you’re beating, Sarahlynn, is absolutely the right one. So massive, massive gratitude to you for taking this on and for spreading that message to not only myself but certainly so many members of the Qualified Tutor team. I think your energy, as listeners you can hear already, just from this audio display of Sarahlynn’s energy, you can really hear that coming across. So, listeners, your next step is to go to worldtutorsdayorg. Simply type that into your search bar and check out the challenge for this year, make sure that you keep yourselves free on Saturday 2nd July, that’ll be the day after the Love Tutoring Festival 3 ends, for a little wind down after a long week of the Festival and a chance for you to connect with other tutors in a way that’s different to how you might have connected with tutors in the past, which is professionally; this is much more in a wellbeing, personal capacity. But Sarahlynn, thank you very, very much for that. And I know some of you listeners will want to catch up with Sarahlynn, you can do so within the Community or via email wellbeing@qualifiedtutor.org. Sarahlynn, thank you very much. Have a wonderful rest of the day.

Sarahlynn Hodder 26:05
You go and enjoy some sunshine!

Ludo Millar 26:08
And yeah, what a wonderful week it’s been already with the Festival and some really cool events to come as well.

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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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