Sometimes, boosting someone’s self-esteem and confidence can unlock an array of doors that lead to other opportunities that one couldn’t see without being given a stepladder first. A Team Tuition’s Academic Personal Trainers embrace this idea that simply knowing school content does not suffice to be able to tackle the challenges that arise at school. A large part of our service surrounds mentoring our students and giving them a helping hand to abridge their confidence, motivation and self-esteem gaps. Our Academic Personal Trainers focus on developing relationships, foundational techniques for schooling and academic strategy to create a mindset where students are able to function efficiently both at school and at home. To us, it’s not all about the grades – in fact, we consider a student’s inner development to be on par, if not more significant, than helping a child improve academically. For year 3 student John Butera, he demonstrated remarkable development almost entirely from mere mentorship before the academic accolades followed. John has had what one could describe as a ‘turbulent’ schooling experience. He found the transition into mainstream schooling from home-schooling difficult and only attending school regularly from Year 1 to the middle of Year 2 until his teacher took maternity leave. John’s connection with his Year 1 teacher allowed him to overcome his anxiety around schooling but her leaving had a significant impact on him. He struggled with the social dynamic and instead spent recess in a specialised school program designed to tackle his anxiety where he would do arts, crafts and gardening. However, this did not allow John to transition smoothly into Year 3 and he was only able to attend school between 9am and 11am before eventually, not attending at all. John’s parents realised that they needed to find an alternative way for John to receive the right educational and personal support that would allow him to jump back into regular schooling again and connect with his peers again. John was matched with Academic Personal Trainer Antonella Russo, who undertook the challenging task of rebuilding John’s shattered confidence. “John needed someone to help build his confidence and get him back on track at school in order to be able to ask questions when he doesn’t understand, keep calm and keep going when he makes mistakes,” recalls Antonella. While Antonella noticed within the very first session that John’s writing, spelling and reading had taken a significant hit as a result of his absences, Antonella knew that she could not begin to build his foundational English knowledge without first addressing why he was unable to attend school and how he could overcome his fears. “We focused on his own learning process, understanding the reasons that caused him to lag behind and have those anxiety symptoms. He did not think he could improve in English and he was afraid of making mistakes so every time he tried to spell a word, he would hesitate.” Antonella divided each session into two parts; the first to focus on John’s mindset and the second, to focus on his content knowledge. They started every tutoring session with breathing exercises to calm John’s nerves before discussing his challenges for the week. Antonella’s focus was putting John in a positive mindset before attempting to teach John any content. After the first session, Antonella had already noticed a distinct shift in John’s attitude towards school by using this method. After their Saturday session, John went back to school that Monday and attended every single day for three weeks! For John’s mother Maria, she felt that for the first time in John’s schooling experience, they had found a solution. “As a parent, you go searching the web and asking around if anyone can help as a tutor to provide the right level of confidence building needed for John. Antonella developed a level of trust with John. They started the lessons with breathing exercises and went from there. The focus was never just maths or spelling.” Antonella used certain coaching strategies to change John’s mindset to view school as a place to develop friendships and expand his horizon’s rather than a place of intimidation. “My strategy started with asking open-ended questions to help John think of possibilities instead of limitations. I asked him to imagine an ideal day at school, describing the interactions he would have with his teacher, his classmates, how he wanted to feel and what he would like to learn.” This method was accompanied by developing study habits for John. Antonella, alongside Maria, created an everyday routine that started with school, homework, followed by tutoring and independent reading. Antonella integrated games, iPhone apps, YouTube videos and inspiration stories into sessions to keep the atmosphere upbeat and fun. The use of iPhone apps increased John’s understanding of phonics and being able to sound out all the letters of the alphabet by being able to hear the sounds at the touch of a button. This combined with using worksheets and library books to familiarise John with his spelling words, has seen John jump from receiving 3/10 on his spelling tests to 8/10! After 15 sessions with Antonella, John has displayed an all-around development. “John has improved in his spelling tests and his writing. His writing is faster which was an issue before as he would only get the question down and not the answer because he took so long to write the question. Now, John’s confidence in himself and his writing has improved so much. He wants to complete all homework, the tasks that Antonella sets and the school homework. He feels a sense of achievement.” John also received the Star Achiever Award at school for outstanding attendance and was elected as the class representative for the school council. He no longer participates in the specialised school program during recess and instead, loves to play soccer and basketball with his friends. For John, however, he’s just proud of his new-found confidence. “I am more positive and confident and believe in myself. Antonella helps me to be positive and have strength. I feel happier going to school than I did last year because I feel better about myself, my maths, my reading, writing and spelling.” Antonella and John are now focusing on getting him up to speed on Year 3 content and maintaining his progress to date, but John is not the only person to have grown from his weekly tutoring sessions. “John has made me grow as a professional and as a person. He showed me that I could be more creative than I thought,” reflects Antonella. “He made me find my inner child that we all have inside, in order to learn together.” One aspect of the tutoring process that Antonella attributes John’s success to is his family support system and particularly his parents who trusted Antonella every step of the way. “John’s parents, especially Maria, were very receptive to all the advice that I gave and were totally willing to help out and accompany John throughout this process.” John’s family are equally pleased with the support provided by Antonella. “So many positives have happened and there are many more to come. With confidence, the fun study and through the support of Antonella, A Team Tuition has allowed us to smile more as a family.” We can’t wait to hear what this dynamic due achieves next!