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Tutoring service grows to meet demand

Teacher Keisha Allen-Smith working with a student at Target Learning (Photograph supplied)

The first year Keisha Allen-Smith set up tutoring service, Target Learning, she had only three students.

But she stuck to her guns and the numbers started to grow.

“Information about it spread through word of mouth,” said the Berkeley Institute teacher. “I never formally advertised.”

Seven years later Target Learning has eight teachers working with 48 students, aged five to 17.

Students, from public and private schools, work on English and maths, and other subjects on request. Target also offers preparation help for the Scholastic Achievement Test, the International General Certificate of Secondary Education and the International Baccalaureate.

The programme, which operates out of the Berkeley Institute library, also offers 24-hour access to online tutoring videos.

“We are finding that students nowadays are more engaged with technology,” Ms Allen-Smith said. “Parents have said they watch the videos too, so they can better help their children.”

An online diagnostic assessment details each student’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing tutors to personalise their approach to each student.

“Some of her students have learning disabilities, and some just need a little more one-on-one attention in order to understand a subject.

She said subjects like maths, build on themselves, so failure to understand a concept, can lead to a student falling behind very quickly.

“We work with children of all ranges so we can help them build up gaps or fill in deficits,” she said. “Or we can take students and push them further ahead.”

Target Learning also offers workshops on parenting, mindfulness and growth mindset.

“With mindfulness we are trying to give students tools to self regulate,” said Ms Allen-Smith, who practises mindfulness meditations herself, daily.

“The world we live in today is full of distractions. In our day, when we came home from school there wasn’t as much to distract us.

“Now children are going home straight to the TV, iPad or video games. On top of everything else, our high school students have their mobile phones pinging constantly.

“Mindfulness is teaching them how to focus. It’s about being present in the moment.

“The growth mindset piece encourages them to understand that their brain is like a muscle. You have to exercise it to build it.

“Some children feel like they can’t do maths, not understanding that you can change that with practice and a different mindset.”

In her late teens, Ms Allen-Smith thought she’d become an actuary, but a summer spent in the industry quickly changed her mind.

“I needed more interaction,” she said. “In the actuarial role, it was me and my computer and numbers. I am more of a social person. I love to work with and help people in general.”

She decided to go into education instead. She’d taught summer camp in the past and loved it, and teaching ran in her family. Her mother Marva Allen, and her late great aunt, Ianthe Pearman, were both well-known teachers in the community for many years.

After university, Ms Allen-Smith taught in the school system, then decided to step away from it for a bit.

“I went to work as a relationship manager at the Bank of Butterfield for four years,” she said. “The whole time I was in that position I continued to tutor on the side at home.

“When I came back into education I thought why not use what I have learnt in business, along with my teaching? How can I offer my assistance to more students, not just to the few that come to my house in the evenings? I said ‘well, let me try’.”

Target Learning was born.

Ms Allen-Smith loves it when students come back and tell her how they did in an exam.

“Sometimes they say I walked into class and the teacher was teaching something we’d already covered in tutoring so I could handle it,” she said.

“My greatest success would be the reward of students gaining confidence in themselves as learners and understanding they don’t have to be the best at everything but if they put in the work and effort they can improve.”

During the first two weeks of July, Target Learning will be holding a summer programme at Berkeley for students from P4 to M3, focusing on maths, English and growth mindset.

“It helps to reduce the summer learning loss,” Ms Allen-Smith said.

The programme is $300 for two weeks, and runs from 9am to 12pm on weekdays. Students can also sign up for just the online English and maths programme, which they can do at home at their leisure, all summer, for $100.

For more information see Target Learning on Facebook or call 334-7145