Tutor Training – The Genius Paradigm Shift
“Training for the GI tutor position was an intense experience. After passing my interview, I arrived at the Genius offices expecting a pat on the back. I was greeted instead by the heavy thud of a pair of tutor training manuals on the table.”
Why did I choose Genius?
After nine months of “the new normal”, I was starting to realise that the tutoring positions I usually filled at the university weren’t going to be coming back any time soon. This led me to a casual Google search: “Tutoring jobs, Johannesburg”, and eventually to filling out a job application for Genius Premium Tuition.
There are two things that pushed me to fill in that job application. Firstly, Genius stands out from the other companies in that they are active participants in the whole education process. Instead of acting as a middleman between my students and me, Genius is a real business built around managing and providing a great educational experience to the students. Secondly, the salary from Genius would adjust my financial situation enough that I would be able to move to an apartment that my boyfriend and I had had our eyes on for quite some time. It was incredible to me that a tutoring job (which seriously was one of the only jobs that were realistic for me to take on alongside my schedule) could make such a significant difference in my lifestyle. The opportunity was too good to say pass up!
My initial impression of Genius was: This is Serious. I spend most of my time in a relatively relaxed academic working environment. My focus throughout my testing and interviewing process was honestly just on making sure that I behaved right – my interpersonal skills had grown rusty over the past year! On the day of my interview, I carefully planned my outfit. This consisted of my one-and-only pair of “work pants”, a button-up shirt that I stole from my boyfriend’s side of the cupboard, and my nicest pair of Converse (thank goodness that Genius eventually provided me with a uniform!). I was really intimidated, to say the least. However, once I arrived for my interview and got over my culture shock, I began to recognise and appreciate the other aspects of Genius that led to me sticking around: a passion and commitment to education and learning. In the interview, Dean (the MD) prompted me to talk about my research and paid careful attention as I shot off on a tangent about unifying theories of physics. I felt some of my anxiety waning – yes, Genius is a high-performance, professional environment. But, it is also a place that values and encourages academic endeavours and an enthusiasm for learning. As Dean says, it is a company of nerds.
The Tutor Training
Training for the GI tutor position was an intense experience. After passing my interview, I arrived at the Genius offices expecting a pat on the back. I was greeted instead by the heavy thud of a pair of tutor training manuals on the table. I spent the next week preparing for the policy and pedagogy tests. The studying was difficult, and writing the policy and pedagogy tests was quite challenging, but I was happy to be through with them so that I could start teaching!
Not so fast, of course. Next, I met with my trainer, London. I was taken aback by how friendly and welcoming he was. He explained everything to me and provided me with a comfortable environment to learn and make some mistakes in. Through this part of the tutor training, the plethora of techniques, systems, and Big Ideas from the tutor training manual was brought to life through interactions with my trainer and the subsequent supervised lessons with two of the advanced tutors, Dayna and Tawanda. The guidance of these people was extremely helpful, and the feedback they gave me still returns to me in my lessons to date.
Looking back on the tutor training now, it was more valuable than I gave it credit for. The Genius philosophy trains all of us Genius Instructors to construct and provide effective, high-impact lessons for all of our students. The tools I learnt here are (still) taking quite some time to sink in, but I am confident that they will stick with me for much longer.
Aside from making me a better tutor, working for Genius has succeeded in making me a more well-rounded individual. I have quickly had to get better at managing my schedule. The tutor training programme also made me think a little bit more seriously about goal setting and working on systems to achieve those goals. Anyone who knows me knows that I am openly sceptical about anything ‘SMART’, or ‘WOOP’, or any other clever acronym. Of course, these things exist for a reason and acknowledging how these systems could help my students made me realise how they could help me too. Admittedly, I now have a couple of my own SMART goals posted above the desk in my home office.
Some unexpected fringe benefits of working for Genius are the improved everyday life skills! I am a supremely nervous driver, so I would usually stick to familiar routes or driving at quiet times of the day. I quickly had to get over that, however, since I now need to travel all over the city to visit the homes of my students. I am swiftly becoming a pro at navigating the crazy roads of Johannesburg (although parallel parking continues to evade me). I have also had to overcome the millennial dread of a ringing phone and learned to deftly answer calls from all of our Education Managers.
Another unique aspect of the Genius culture that I have been adapting to is the weekly meetings – called syndicates. This is an opportunity for the tutors and management to gather and discuss various aspects of the Genius philosophy, as well as a platform to discuss the current events in the company. It can be quite difficult to drag yourself out of the house on a Sunday morning to attend these meetings, but the Education Managers always make it worth our while. So far, in the syndicates I have attended, we have discussed the important concepts of active listening, proactivity, and the different learning styles. They have also made it clear that we should feel comfortable coming to them with any concerns or whenever we need help – it is great to be in an environment where feedback is heard and acted on. Of course, the one thing that sends the Syndicate experience over the edge is that the EMs always provide snacks – most notably, doughnuts (!) at every syndicate.
I am now just over halfway through my first twenty hours at Genius, and I have been thrilled at all the students I have so far had the opportunity to meet and interact with. I love teaching content to students, and I especially love how seeing something from the student’s point of view can shift my perspective on topics that I long thought myself an expert in. It is really refreshing, as someone who is in their 6th year of studying post-school physics, to have a student tell me that they simply do not believe that springs work the way that their textbook says they do!
An especially rewarding experience has been constructing and performing a GEM (Genius Extension Module) with a student. One GEM I facilitated involved doing some really fun experiments with lasers – that’s what physics is all about, right? I loved being able to extend teaching physics out of the classroom environment. This really highlighted to me the intellectual benefits of working with Genius- I am not just helping students pass their exams; I am sharing with them my love of the subjects and getting the opportunity to create some truly impactful experiences.
To conclude this very long-winded post: all I can say is that joining Genius has been a wild, paradigm-shifting rollercoaster. I look forward to having my worldviews further warped, my comfortable schedule further disrupted, and my knowledge further thrown into doubt by countless more curious and challenging students!