Struggling with Chemistry or Biology?I genuinely do know how that feels!
If you’ve ended up on my site the chances are you’re not having the best time with your Chemistry or Biology, right?
Well stop panicking, you’re in the right place!
This is me, Gemma. I’m a full time private tutor and I spend 6 days a week working with people who are really struggling so I know exactly how you feel.
And I used to feel like that myself!
My first graduation. My science teachers definitely wouldn’t have predicted that I would have ended up with two science degrees!
How I used to feel…
At school science didn’t come naturally to me AT ALL (don’t worry, I’ve improved since then!). I struggled my way through science GCSE and I absolutely hated it. I always had the impression that science was for the ‘smart people’ (i.e. not me!) and it never even occurred to me that I could do well in it if I just tried. Plus, my teachers were really unsupportive and never attempted to convince me otherwise. They devoted all their time to helping a few students who were good at science and never missed an opportunity to tell the rest of us that they weren’t going to bother teaching us something because it was ‘too hard’. Thanks, school!
After scraping a ‘double C’ (again, don’t worry, I’ve improved since then) I left science behind. I ended up working in the sales office of an electronics company. I was extremely bored and the used the company catalogue and my time in between calls to teach myself basic electronics. It was then that I realised I might actually not be thick and I might be half decent at this ‘technical stuff’.
I decided to go to college to study my A levels as an adult learner and I picked Chemistry and Biology, along with French and Psychology. Despite the fact that I learned absolutely nothing in my science GCSEs (except that potato tubers are a ‘thing’)) I took to it straight way. I had to learn everything from scratch and I struggled a fair bit with things like balancing equations, basic maths, knowing what an organelle was etc… But I could do it. And I left college with straight As!!!
I then started a Microbiology degree at Leeds University but as a mature student with all the adult stuff going on at the same time I ended up trannsferring to The Open University and I graduated with a first-class Bsc (hons) Open (Life sciences) and MSc Science (Medicinal Chemistry and Education). I also studied a Post-graduate Certificate in Science Education studies, which taught me about curriculum design, theories on learning the barriers to students succeeding with science.
How did I go from being useless at science to getting a Master’s degree?
Well, I didn’t just suddenly become smart, that’s for sure!
Two things happened that totally changed things for me.
First of all, at college I had tutors that were very supportive and encouraging, intentionally taught the content in a way that made it easy and gave me the feeling that I actually could learn this stuff. Having such great tutors really made a difference and it led to a massive change in how I saw myself and my abilities. I had stopped thinking it was too hard for me and put my heart and soul into doing well.
But this wasn’t enough for me to totally change things around and go from getting Cs at GCSE to As at A level.
The other thing that happened was that I realised for myself very quickly that to do well at A level you have to play the game. And this was the reason why I got As but my classmates didn’t. It was very clear to me that it’s not good enough to just understand the content, you have to know the exam board’s version of the content, you have to know all the extra stuff like how to handle graph questions and you have to know what to say to get the marks. This is where most people fall down (and it’s very likely that this is what your problem is if you’re finding you understand things but still get crappy grades).
Why am I telling you all this?
I want you to know that when I say “I know what it feels like to struggle, feel discouraged by your teachers and feel like you just can’t do it” I really do mean it.
When you’re choosing a tutor I think it is really, really, really important to pick someone who will ‘get’ you. And most tutors haven’t had the experience I have of going from being totally useless at science to getting a Master’s degree.
That’s not to say they’re not great tutors, it’s just that someone who has never struggled is not necessarily the best person to help someone who is finding it hard. I’ve worked with loads of students who had had tutors who had made them feel really uncomfortable and even had them in tears when they had struggled to do something basic or failed to understand something the first time around.
Though I can’t make grand promises that I can help you go from an E to an A (though you wouldn’t be my first student to do this) I can promise that I will never make you feel bad for not knowing something or not being able to answer a question and I have lots of ways of making it easier for you.My own experiences have taught me that no matter what your struggles are (and no matter what your teachers tell you) it is perfectly possible to succeed.