Best Tutor Interviews | Languages | Elvish

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

Our multi-part series by Toby (our Chief Assessor) starts with a look at one of the strangest but most wonderful interviews he's seen, in which he learned — yes, you guessed it — Elvish!

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As an interview assessor for Titanium, my job is to evaluate the teaching ability of new tutors applying to join the team. In order for me to do this, the applicants need to teach me a model lesson, which I then write a report on. Applicants are sent an outline of my CV, including my hopes and aspirations, and are asked to come up with a self-contained lesson, lasting no longer than ten minutes, that they think I would find enjoyable and perhaps useful. This gives them a remit that is both extremely broad (I'm happy to learn about pretty much anything!) and at the same time challengingly narrow — ten minutes is not a long time to play with. The resultant lessons have introduced me to a breathtaking range of teaching styles and subject matter. A few interviewees stick out for being especially successful in the way they approached the lesson.

One lesson that springs immediately to mind is the time an enthusiastic young maths teacher, smiling and bespectacled, abandoned his putative subject, and decided instead to teach me how to write in Elvish. Eric (not his real name) had read in my notes and saw that being severely monoglot, I am keen to learn foreign languages. This is true. And although the entire Elvish-speaking population of the world is confined to a few Tolkien buffs and fantasy geeks, who probably meet at some annual convention in the middle of nowhere, dressed in flowing robes and fake ears, Eric gambled (correctly) that this invented language might provide a fun way of winning over a new student.

Teachers of languages are divided over where beginners should actually begin. Do you start with basic vocabulary (hola, buenos días), with a point of grammar ('-er' verbs go like this...) or with the alphabet (α,β,γ,δ)? Eric went with this third option. He provided me with a chart of all the Elvish characters, and their equivalents in English letters and taught me a couple of quirks of writing Elvish script. For instance, vowels are written floating above the consonants they are used with, and double letters are marked by underlining. We then went onto write a few words in English, culminating in my own name, the Elvish “o” resting precariously atop the “t” and the “b”.

This may all sound terribly silly — obviously I'm never going to be required to transliterate from English into Elvish — so why am I holding this up as an example of an excellent first lesson? To answer that question, we should think about what the aims of a first lesson are. First and foremost, you want to establish a good rapport between student and teacher. An exercise that is fun and interactive is much more likely to do that than a ten minute lecture. Moreover, because Eric was far from fluent in Elvish and therefore made one or two mistakes himself, this task was something of a leveller for student and teacher. Students are often intimidated by their tutors, especially the first time they meet them, so a little silliness can go some way to dispel this.

Finally, in a very real way, Eric was able in this lesson to find out what kind of a learner I was, and what sorts of stimulus I might respond best to in future tuition. He could see how quickly or slowly I picked things up, the pace I liked to work at, whether I learned better by manual participation (writing things down) or by oral discussion, and more generally, what sort of person I was. Having thoroughly broken the ice between us, and established a hands-on, interactive, and enjoyable tutoring atmosphere, at the end of ten minutes Eric was very well-placed to teach me about any 'serious' topic I wanted to learn about.

Blog Post Crafted by Toby

Toby is one of our top English and Maths tutors, as well as our Chief Assessor, and he also works on our Admin Team. His proudest moment was when he tied Christopher Lee’s (AKA Saruman’s) bow-tie!

Toby is in charge of recruitment of new tutors. He conducts interviews with prospective tutors and assesses their lessons to get a feel for whether they have the teaching style we're looking for. As a member of our Admin Team, Toby advises applicants on the application process and books them in for interviews. He liaises with clients about their tuition enquiries and discusses potential jobs with tutors.