Jemma Zoe Smith is the Director of the Education Hotel. She holds 3 degrees from Oxford University and is a qualified Teacher who also has 8 years of experience with online tutoring. Jemma has worked with students from different countries including the UAE, UK, Turkey, Kenya, France, USA, Italy and China. She also has experience with helping students to prepare for competitive exams. Let’s get to know more about Jemma and how she helps students:

WikiExpert: What subjects do you tutor online? What are your core subjects?

Jemma Zoe Smith: I am a full-time private Tutor, but I also run a tuition agency, The Education Hotel based in Oxfordshire. I personally help ambitious students aged 9-18 with UK school entrance exams and GCSEs. I work either online or I travel to students all over the world. I mostly work with students who have an international background but are taking UK exams. They have often started their schooling in a different education system but then have moved to boarding school in the UK. Lots of people would class me as an ‘Exam Tutor’ but I prefer to think about myself as helping children and their families achieve their goals.

WikiExpert: How do you help students who are struggling with these subjects?

Jemma Zoe Smith: My major subjects are math and science (my first degree was Biochemistry at Oxford University and I am a qualified secondary school science Teacher). In these subjects, the key is confidence and practice. The UK exams have a pretty strict syllabus and once you know everything on the syllabus, you just need to practice using that information.

WikiExpert: You also help students to enter top universities. What is your number one strategy for helping them to do this?

Jemma Zoe Smith: Love your subject! – so many students tell me that they want to go to Oxford/Cambridge but they don’t care what subject they study. That is not the way to go about choosing a university. Admission Tutors are looking for passion for the subject, they want to know that you will not just sit in the lecture for an hour, but then go to the library and spend another 5 hours researching the topic.

WikiExpert: Not too long ago, you published very interesting articles on WikiExpert, Continuing Your Studies Amid The Coronavirus and Studying with COVID-19: Dinosaurs. Which made great reads and really captured readers. Many find it difficult to study during this time, how do you encourage students to keep up to date with their education so that they don’t lose out?

Jemma Zoe Smith: Our Tutors have been looking forward to our students and asking them what their legacy from this time will be. Some students are using the time to catch up with their studies, and others have been doing independent projects, others getting ahead, moving onto A levels and GCSEs. However, they all have a clear and achievable goal during this time

WikiExpert: For younger children, who would you advise parents to help their kids to study and not to fall back?

Jemma Zoe Smith: If they are struggling to engage with traditional schoolwork, consider a project. Choose something they are interested in (we chose Dinosaurs for our first project) and then think about how to bring math, English, science, geography, history, etc into the topic. I run a Homeschool Help Facebook live every Friday and I keep reminding our viewers to remember that learning can be found anywhere – they are probably sick of me saying it so much! But it is true. Instead of just baking a cake, make the ingredients into sums (e.g. you need 2* the amount of butter as sugar)  so that they can solve the puzzle and then bake.

WikiExpert: Tell us how both younger and older students can benefit from online tutoring during this period?

Jemma Zoe Smith: I think an hour of online tuition is equivalent to about 3 hours in class. The 1;1 attention means that a child gets the chance to ask when they don’t understand – without fear of the rest of the class reacting. In tuition, I focus solely on my students working alongside them and often doing the questions at the same time, so that I can see why they make the mistakes that they do. They also get the lesson tailored to them – my students love seeing their names and their sibling’s names in math questions or having a whole lesson based on their favorite football team.

WikiExpert: Do you use any games or activities during your online sessions? If so, please explain how it is beneficial?

Jemma Zoe Smith: We play hangman (spelling) Pictionary (science vocabulary) hit the button (math numeracy) – all as brain breaks in an hour session. Children often can’t focus for an hour 1;1 so these 5 min breaks reinforce learning and also make it fun.

WikiExpert: In addition to taking online tutoring sessions, how would you advise students to keep up good grades during this pandemic?

Jemma Zoe Smith: Read, schedule yourself (even if a school hasn’t) exercise, check-in with the Teacher if you don’t understand. It is often a key misconception that Teachers and Tutors don’t get along but with many of my long term students, I check in with their teachers regularly. All students should check in with their teachers to say if they found something too easy or difficult.

WikiExpert: How would you motivate these students?

Jemma Zoe Smith: For the older ones, I check in often about ambitions – if I can introduce them to someone who does the career that they want to do, then I find that person and set up a supervised meeting. I do the same for university, or even if they want to go to a particular school. Then work backward – consider what you need to be able to achieve to get there.

WikiExpert: What do you love the most about your career?

Jemma Zoe Smith: Seeing my students achieve their goals – a few years ago I took a student from a school that he didn’t enjoy in the USA to a top boarding school in the UK. It took about 6 months and was quite intensive (they had to sit common entrance exams in English, math, history, geography, Religious studies, science) but he did it. Now he wants an academic scholarship!

WikiExpert: What is the most challenging part of your career and how do you deal with this?

Jemma Zoe Smith: I am always honest with parents – it needs to be a 3-way relationship – me, their child and them. It gets tricky when either the parents aren’t on board, or they try and shut me out. I tell parents up front. I am not a miracle worker – but if we work together, we can work magic.

WikiExpert: How do you envision the future of learning?

Jemma Zoe Smith: I would like to see more recognition of individualized learning. In the last few years, I have started to work with more families who homeschool/world school and those who have SEN’s (dyslexia in particular). The UK education system does not cater to everyone. It can often be focused around exams and many children struggle with the pressure of this. I hope that COVID helps families appreciate that there are many types of schooling and no one type is better than another – it is about what fits (NOTE – lockdown schooling is nowhere near many families homeschooling – which involves co-ops, museum trips, visits to art galleries, etc)

WikiExpert: What is the most fun part of tutoring online?

Jemma Zoe Smith: I have tutored online for 5 years now and I love being able to have my whole library of resources with me. When I travel with Clients my suitcase is mostly revision resources. Online tutoring also means that I can reach students all over the world!

Now, let’s get to know more about Jemma:

WikiExpert: When you’re not tutoring, where can we find you? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Jemma Zoe Smith: I’m based in Oxfordshire with my partner, Josh who is a musician. I run my business The Education Hotel which pretty much rules my life at the moment – but I love it. In summer, we like to travel in our campervan called Trevor.

WikiExpert: In your opinion, what has been your biggest success to date?

Jemma Zoe Smith: Every child who gets the goals that they have been aiming for is a success. But outside of work, my biggest achievement was probably my first degree. I was diagnosed with dyslexia in my first year at university and that made it more of a struggle. Biochemistry is examined almost entirely through essays and I really struggled to put my thoughts down in a coherent way. A few years ago I went back to Oxford to qualify as a teacher. This meant more essays and dissertations which was something I never thought I would do. But I really wanted to be a qualified teacher!

WikiExpert: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Jemma Zoe Smith: Still tutoring, running my business and working with ambitious students. But I also want to take time to volunteer more over the next 5 years. A few years ago I traveled with a student to Kenya. It is a girl’s orphanage run by an amazing woman – Kate – who has just recently built a school there. I would like to go back and help out however I can.

WikiExpert: If there was anything you could change about your life, what would it be?

Jemma Zoe Smith: Everything has taught me something about how to live my life. But I wish I had become a full-time Tutor earlier. I have found a career that I love and it makes Monday mornings so much easier.

How can The Education Hotel help?

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