Chara Vlachaki joined The Brilliant Club as a tutor on The Brilliant Tutoring Programme in May 2021. She tutors English alongside studying for her PhD in Linguistics entitled ‘Art, affect and mind: Inferring the ineffable’ at the University of Brighton. So far Chara has tutored Year 7, 8 and 9 students virtually at 8 different schools across England, including in Liverpool, Whitby, Sheffield, Bristol and Leicester.
We had a chat with Chara about her experiences at The Brilliant Club and what The Brilliant Tutoring Programme means to her and her tutees.
The Brilliant Tutoring Programme was set up in 2021 to contribute to the national education recovery effort and supports the students most affected by disrupted learning during the pandemic. The Brilliant Club is offering The Brilliant Tutoring Programme for the third year from September 2022, and you can find out more about the programme here.
‘Education is for everyone’
As the first in her family to go to university, Chara feels connected to The Brilliant Club’s ethos: “I can relate to those pupils from underprivileged backgrounds who have fewer opportunities than others as I struggled myself getting where I am now.”
“Education is for everyone regardless of your background, if your parents went to university or not! When the university informed me about The Brilliant Club, the mentality behind it immediately piqued my curiosity and I applied to become a tutor.”
Chara recognises her role in The Brilliant Tutoring Programme as being part of a wider drive towards a more equal education system.
“It’s a driving force for my teaching career. Educational inequality is saddening; you have students that want to bloom and blossom but are left behind. Students need someone to believe in them and then… they flourish!”
Chara believes the steps towards change in education do not happen in isolation. It takes a sense of belonging and community that is essential to support tutors and students alike. “I like to make my students feel they belong somewhere, similarly to how I felt when I joined The Brilliant Club. This sense of belonging is pivotal in boosting their confidence and both our performance.”
“Through The Brilliant Club, I see the big dream that ‘education is for everyone’ can come true.”
Using technology to tackle educational inequality
The pandemic challenged communication for us all in an unprecedented way. This was made clear in schools and that impact on education put inequality at the forefront of the national consciousness.
Chara sees the results of The Brilliant Tutoring Programme’s contribution to education recovery after school closures: “Unfortunately, the pandemic has been a challenging period for schools, teachers, students and their parents. Within this context, The Brilliant Tutoring Programme has significantly boosted pupils’ confidence in core subject areas.”
Crucially, Chara is based in Brighton, so the virtual aspect of The Brilliant Tutoring Programme has helped her access and meet students all over the country.
“With everything going digital, I like to think of The Brilliant Club as an intellectual net that covers the whole country supporting students from less advantaged backgrounds.”
“Everyone deserves the chance to thrive in education … After all, knowledge is the only commodity that by sharing it freely, it multiplies almost instantly.” As a tutor on The Brilliant Tutoring Programme, Chara gets to see this actualised. She teaches her students and gets results in real-time. For Chara, opportunity is the key ingredient to progression.
Teaching and learning at The Brilliant Club
“What I love about teaching, and The Brilliant Club in general, is that it gives you the opportunity to be creative.”
As an English tutor, Chara finds ways to connect her postgraduate research to the literature she covers with her tutees. Her thesis looks at how we communicate thoughts, feelings and emotions when words don’t quite work, especially when it comes to artworks and poems. Chara brings this into class with her by encouraging her students to interact with art alongside their learning, to help them explore humanities alongside the creative arts.
Chara also finds joy in seeing her teaching contribute to the growth of learners: “It might sound selfish but when pupils excel, I feel I shine with them as well. Their smiles at the end of the programme wash over me…and this fuels my day!”
Chara reports that having such a positive environment is due to the rapport that is built between her, as a tutor, and her students, “I am impressed by the resilience the students show during our tutorials, how creative and bright they are, and most importantly how they embrace me and each other with kind words”.
As well as student success, there is also growth for tutors, “I’ve learned how to adjust my sessions based on students’ needs and I further develop my teaching skills every term so I can contribute more to The Brilliant Club community”.
Interview by Halima Mukhtar, External Affairs Intern.
You can find about more about becoming a tutor with The Brilliant Club here.