“Life is like riding a bicycle to keep your balance you must keep moving” - Albert Einstein
Whether this is truly the “second wave” or just the back end of the first remains to be seen, but what we do know is that the numbers are going up across Europe. The kids are back at school as they need their lives to go back to “normal”. However, given the number of classes they had to miss earlier on in the year, a lot of families are concerned that their children aren't getting the most out of their education.
There are plenty of teachers who are doing their best under these new conditions, but it's hardly surprising that a lot of parents are looking for private tutors to help make the most of a bad situation.
There are measures in place to mitigate the risk of infection in schools as well as across entire areas where infection rates are higher. Libraries are also generally open but also with rules to ensure the spread of coronavirus is reduced.
As a tutor, you may be looking to replace students you lost during the start of the coronavirus pandemic or bolster your earnings with new students, but while the rules are supposed to be clear for public places such as schools, what do they mean for private tutorials? What do tutors have to do during the pandemic?
Teaching Private Tutorials During COVID-19: Simple Precautionary Measures
You may have thought that your life might be back to normal by now with the schools reopened. There’s no overriding ban on teaching private tutorials or offering academic support but there may be local or regional restrictions on whether or not you can teach.
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If you can teach in your area, there are still some precautions you can take. We recommend you follow the same procedures as in schools, which have been planned with teaching children in mind.
Let’s start with the simple measures that you should do almost everywhere you go be it a yoga class or to the supermarket.
Regularly wash your hands, especially if you’ve been travelling on public transport, using cash machines, or touching anything in high-traffic areas.
When you cough and sneeze, do so into your elbow or into a tissue to be immediately thrown away. When you arrive at your student’s home, greet them without shaking their hands or making physical contact. The same goes for their parents.
In enclosed spaces such as a room, you need to try to stay 2 metres away from them. If the room allows for it, leave the necessary space. When outside, physical distancing isn’t as important though it is still recommended.
Of course, the parents should inform you if their child has shown any symptoms of COVID-19 such as a fever over 38ºC. The same is true if anyone else in the household has symptoms.
The same applies to you. In this is the case, you should cancel the lessons and look to get tested. If the test is positive, you will be told for how long you need to isolate and when you can start going out again.
Wearing a Mask
No matter how annoying you think masks are, they are one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the virus. While outside, their benefits are less obvious, but, according to the scientific community, they’re very effective in enclosed spaces.
In closed spaces, especially those with poor ventilation, the transmission of the virus through droplets is greatly reduced through the use of masks. Someone with the illness will produce droplets which can hang in the air and be inhaled by others.
When you teach a student, it’s unlikely that you’ll be teaching them outside and given the length of time that you’ll be in a room with your student, you should wear a mask. This mightn't be great for tutoring languages, especially where communication is key and pupils often need to see the shape of your mouth to replicate pronunciation, for example, but you can invest in transparent masks that allow learners to see your mouth.
Should you ask your student to wear a mask?
According to the government recommendations, children under the age of 11 don’t have to wear a mask and those under the age of 3 should never wear a mask (for health and safety reasons). Very young children can’t (and often won’t) wear a mask correctly and are also at risk of suffocation or choking. For primary school children, wearing a mask isn't recommended, but they can if they want to and can do so safely.
From 11 years old, it’s recommended that they also wear a mask. The same rules that apply to adults should be applied to them during your tutorials. Feel free to discuss this with the parents as masks are recommended alongside physical distancing.
You can choose either disposable masks that you can dispose of after one use or fabric masks that can be reused after being washed in a washing machine. In any case, masks should be changed at least every 4 hours.
Think of the virus in the same way you’d think of cigarette smoke. Outside with air circulating, the smoke is spread out and less noticeable. When sharing a room inside with a smoker, you’ll very quickly notice the presence of smoke. Outside on a terrace or in a beer garden, you might notice if your neighbour is smoking. You need to consider the droplets of this virus like you would second-hand smoke. If you’re in a place where lighting a cigarette would be immediately noticeable, you probably want to be wearing a mask.
Hygiene: A Prerequisite for Private Tutorials
Much like other viruses and bacteria, we can spread the SARS-CoV-2 on our hands. Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, mouth, and eyes throughout the day and regularly wash your hands.
It’s recommended that you wash your hands with soap and water for around 30 seconds ensuring that you clean your palms, the backs of your hands, between your fingers and thumbs, and under your fingernails by rubbing them against the palms of your soapy hands. Clean all the way up to your wrists.
Wash your hands before you leave the house, when you arrive at your student’s house, and before you leave to head back home. Dry your hands with paper towels and throw them away immediately. Avoid using a towel and dry them in the air instead. Similarly, in public places, the hand-dryers can spread bacteria that settle on your hands so just shake it off.
Avoid touching anything on your way out of the room. Where possible, you can operate light switches and handles with your elbows.
If there isn’t any soap available, use hand sanitiser.
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Cleaning and Airing Out a Room before Tutorials
Airing out a room is a good way to reduce the spread of the virus. Before you arrive, ask the student or their parents to open the windows in the room for around 15 minutes. At the end of the lesson, they should also air out the room for around 15 minutes to reduce the risk of contamination.
You can also disinfect the materials that you’re going to use before and after the tutorials. To do this, you can use disposable wipes. If you want a more ecological solution, you can use 70-90% alcohol on washable cloths. Alcohol disinfects just as well as bleach but isn’t as bad for your respiratory tracts or the environment.
Clean the table and chairs that you’ll use as well as the stationery and equipment (pens, book covers, door handles, computers, etc.). You can do this before you leave, too.
We recommend bringing your own equipment and having the student use their own to reduce the risk of infection.
We know that things haven’t been easy for any of us, but with a bit of planning and organisation, you should be able to continue offering private tutorials or academic support to the many students who’ll probably need them. If you can’t do this, you can always offer tutorials via webcam!
Most students in the UK haven't had a proper lesson since March and even though the schools are back open and teachers are back to work, they're not really getting the education they need or deserve.
There's a lot of information and educational content available online for them to study, but tutoring can really help families whose children are struggling in school or at university. While you mightn't be able to teach classes or offer your tutoring services in the same way that you used to, by adapting, you may end up teaching even more lessons and classes than you did before all of this!
By changing the way you work, you may also find resources that you wouldn't have come across previously. There may be a website or video online that you wouldn't have considered using in your classes before but now is your go-to for teaching a particular lesson.
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