Photograph of painting by interesting Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, Courtesy of the Artist.











 Additions have been made to


to help Students, and everyone else, learn techniques to relax and get to sleep.




February 2019 Update





Iseult Catherine O'Brien 

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer tutor with Second Level Students |

A Member of The Tutors' Association









The following are some ideas and techniques, I have developed over time, to help working with a Student on a one-to-one basis.


They include building the Student's resilience, and self-reliance, and encouraging mutual understanding to assist in designing Student-led Work Plans.



Many students at second level in Ireland, and elsewhere, shall be facing 'Mock-Exams' in preparation for State Examinations relatively soon.  These often take place before Easter.  Please run through your Work Plans to make sure you're both on schedule, and that nothing has been overlooked.






Each Student is Unique.


Spend plenty of time getting to know your Student's ways; how she reacts if unsure of an answer; or when she wants to say something but is still not confident enough to take the chance.  Not only must a tutor listen very carefully, the Student must be confident she has your full attention. 

Saying 'that's an interesting point' while checking one's watch, is very off-putting!


To be a teacher in the right sense is to

be a learner.  Instruction begins when

you, the teacher, learn from your learner,

put yourself in his place so that you

may understand what he understands

and in the way he understands it.

Soren Kierkegaard



Learn what are the things that make your Student's face glow as she talks of them.  The Student should know that you are interested in his or her life and what is important to her.   One doesn't ask personal questions, one is finding out what music, films, books, poetry, have made her catch her breathe, and sigh.  Apart from showing a true interest in your Student, these conversations will be the basis of how the two of you work together in designing the Student-led Work Plans.


Confidence, especially with teenagers, can be very fragile. One has to be careful and vigilant.  One must learn the Student's parlance, as a word meaning something 'good' to you, may have a totally opposite meaning for your Student.  Be open enough to say 'I don't understand what that means, could you give me an example to explain it?'


If a tutor hopes a Student will be open and trusting with her, then the very least a tutor should do is match that openness and trust.   Even as confidence seems to be blossoming, it can wilt because of a sudden dip in self-belief, or a momentary embarrassment.


Do not quiz a Student, but try to find out where a misunderstanding, or a different meaning for a word or phrase, could have led to a loss of self-belief or embarrassment.  One has to say straight out that there appears to have been a misunderstanding.  Say something like:

"One or other of us seems to have the wrong end of the stick. Either or both of us could be mistaken so, let's go back and try to find how and when the misunderstanding arose".


The dual purpose of this is, firstly, to show your Student her feelings and ideas are both important and respected, and an effort will always be made to uncover how a misunderstanding may have happened. 



Secondly, once the Student knows that every detail is thought to be important, and open to questioning, he or she will feel a license to take more chances with ideas and propositions, knowing everything will be considered and taken seriously.  Also, she shall become more confident in questioning your ideas, and looking for supporting evidence from you for your own opinions.



The Student must know that there is no such thing as a silly question, and nothing is sacrosanct.


Every student needs support, encouragement, and the knowledge the tutor is present because she wants to be there, to help however she can, and do all that is reasonable to assist the Student acquire the skills she needs.



[GOOD QUALITY DICTIONARIES are frequently available now in charity and discount shops for a very reasonable price, as many people become more reliant on their 'spell check' and 'grammar check' facilities on computers and laptops. I believe an old-fashioned dictionary giving a broad range of uses for a word, its etymology, its first known use, and other nuggets of information, cannot be beaten as a source and resource. One can be led into reading further, and discovering gloriously odd words. 

I believe strongly 'spell checks' only works properly if the user is an almost flawless speller, and very few of us is that!]




Metacognition is rising in importance as educators realise its significance and develop learning experiences to complement their existing assignments. “Exam Wrappers”, developed by Marsha C Lovett, ask students to reflect on the questions they got right and wrong, what was effective in their studying and what was not, and prompts them to use this reflection to improve their habits for the next exam.

[Metacognition – the process of thinking about thinking, and Growth Mindset – the inner belief that abilities can be developed through hard work.]



There is no reason that these reflections should be limited to exams, but could be used to help students reflect on homework, projects, collaborative work with classmates or extra mural interests, by highlighting the meaningful questions and scaffolding self-reflection.  A Student can often start more easily reflecting on the contributions of fellow-students to a joint project.  That can seem a more objective route to starting taking things apart and putting them back together, to work more smoothly, more immediately. As with re-using a Student's homework, originally prepared for the School teacher, in co-operation between the tutor and the Student, as discussed below, this helps the Student to see where she might have made an idea or opinion clearer and more forcefully.



Meta-learning activities involve reflecting on:

*  What one already knows, what levels of skills one has, and what character qualities one has developed: prior knowledge, skills and character qualities

*  What one needs to know, what levels of skills one needs, and what character qualities are required for the learning task at hand: required knowledge, skills and character qualities

 Which learning strategies are best for the task: learning strategy choices

 How the learning processes are going: on-going formative evaluations

*  What learning achievements and outcomes have been reached from the learning experience: summative evaluations.



Above posted by C M Rubin, 12 Dec 2016, added to by I C O'Brien.



The list of Meta-learning activities above, is really what the Student and tutor work out for themselves together, developing skills, and practising them. They discover together the Student's best learning style, and how she develops with a good deal of practise, plus support, a process to evaluate her own work, which are parts of the basis of how their partnership works.


A tutor does NO favours to her Student by NOT pointing out errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax etc.  One has to have the courage to tell the truth.  It is part of the job ~ a Student needs to know you are watching out for the errors she does not yet recognise.


Equally, a Student should be encouraged only to ask someone willing to make a in-depth, critical, evaluation of her work ~ the good and the bad ~ to read and respond to her compositions. Asking someone who likes to be thought of as a 'nice' person, to give a true evaluation of composition, is of no use to a student who requires honesty and clarity!


Students need to learn critical self-examination, using an open mind, to assist them in evaluating their own work.  This is not just a skill necessary for secondary school, from first year onward, but it should be developed as a life-long skill, for further education, for work life, and for general living.


Students do not always get sufficient, insightful, feedback on their homework and projects.  Teachers are frequently under time pressure, and may not be able to give the level of response to students' work that they would wish to.


Tutors can have the opportunity to watch a Student use a complete session, to take apart a piece of her own work in a forensic way, to rearrange sections to provide a more enticing introduction, a better arrangement of the known facts or ideas (whichever is appropriate to the exercise) ensuring that full value is drawn from each, and concluding with a punchy winding up of all the data detailed previously.   This degree of objectivity of one's own work is the result of writing, writing, writing.   Nothing else sharpens the style like constant, and constantly edited, writing. 


Every Student, and anyone who wishes to become educated, needs a broad vocabulary, which is best gained from constant reading from a wide spectrum of material, not just that on the syllabus or curriculum.  


Working with the syllabus and for pleasure, we all have to be able to enter into worlds unlike our own ~ in era, in location, in social stratum, in accepted mores, in ideas of equality or inequality, and the consequences for those who transgress the rules, written and unwritten.  To understand as well as possible the subtleties and meanings of these works from societies different to our own, we need to have developed a broad-ranging vocabulary, and to check in a good quality dictionary every word we are not certain we understand fully, as we read through the various texts. At Honours Level in the Leaving Certificate, it is presumed a Student will read works around the syllabus, and not just stick to the listed text books.



If a Student declares she cannot bear "Hamlet" or The Industrial Revolution, your relationship should be sturdy enough that a request for a reasoned argument from the Student to be made for dislike of the poet, wholesale, and a specific period or aspect of History; both of which are frequently on the Irish Curriculum for Honours Leaving Certificate English and History.


"I just don't like it" is clearly not a reasoned argument, and if the Student says she needs to come back the following week with her prepared answers, that should be encouraged, and suggested if not forthcoming.  The tutor should also ask for a use of quotes from the texts to support the Student's answers.  This exercise will apply to this specific piece of work, but is also a continuation of on-going honing of skills for use in answering exam questions, and developing a critical facility.


The habit of quoting from texts, or using examples of the behaviour of characters in dramas, short stories, novels or films, should become second nature.   A student should get into the habit of reading, listening, or watching with a pen in hand, ready to make note of an observation which she believes shall prove useful in future written work.




Just as no-one really knows what goes on in another couple's marriage, no tutor truly knows the influences, obstacles, and adversities a Student may face in everyday life.  Resilient students and young people are those who are able to adapt positively to a situation, despite past or present negative experiences.   This is not learnt on one's own, one needs help, support, and constant affirmation.



If young people receive support and encouragement to keep trying until they master a task, from family, their peer group, and people they admire, they are much more likely to stick to a task and see it to conclusion.  Not everyone has that level of support.



If everyone around her, in the family, and in her social groups, are all aiming to produce the best work they can, the Student is in an atmosphere where she breathes in aspiration. 



As a tutor, one can and should encourage a Student to have higher than previously imagined expectations for herself, presuming the tutor truly believes such encouragement is reasonable.  Perhaps a tutor is the first person to tell a Student that she is bright, clever, with interesting ideas, and that with application and commitment to consistent work, can make a success of education opportunities. On a one-to-one basis, a tutor has an excellent opportunity to learn the strengths of her Student, which a teacher with a class of perhaps 28+ pupils, may not achieve.


Each Student should be shown respect by a keen and interested tutor.  No responsible tutor would dream of suggesting a Student will get A*s across the curriculum in examinations, knowing this to be beyond the capabilities of a Student. It would be stupid and cruel.  However, every Student is capable of more than she is currently attaining, using carefully tailored Work Plans, designed by the Student and tutor in co-operation.



As a tutor who is outside the Student's School structure, it is more difficult to assist a Student develop resilience in the School setting.  However, a tutor can encourage her Student to join sports, debating, or community work clubs, associated with the School.  These would foster a sense of belonging in the School, and representing it, which should help build SELF-RELIANCE.   Once a Student learns he or she is quite capable of working out a problem, SELF-CONFIDENCE blossoms.



All of this will lead to the Student gaining the confidence to develop critical thinking, and learning how to mount an argument in defence of a stated position.  Original ideas and viewpoints start coming to the Student as text is examined in-depth with this new confidence ~ sometimes coming as a pleasant surprise to the Student!



A young person with hope and constant encouragement, is much more likely to stick with study, and to withstand negative pressures from friends or others.  She has a goal of  better than previously imagined results, opening exciting new prospects, and as the work output improves, this goal becomes self-fulfilling.



A tutor needs to help steer her Student gently through the Work Plans as designed together.   A Student has a great deal going on in her life, and helping her focus on her work with the tutor, will ensure she fulfils her Plans, and the tutor ensures the job is being done for her Student.



A regular assessment of how the work is progressing, within the always limited timescale available, and being of the highest standard the student can produce, re-energises both Student and tutor, and helps keep Work Plans on schedule.  Encourage your Student to makes notes of ideas as they come to her, as she notices things that could be improved upon, or changed in the Work Plans, and in how the two of you work together.



There is a glorious balancing act going on when a student is stretching her ideas, vocabulary, and use of imagery, to burst out with new ideas.  Ideas new to her, even if thought of by others previously, are what set a session alight.  This is one of the great reasons for tutoring, and one hopes the Student gets the same blast of headiness!




RESILIENCE is nurtured in class situations where students work in various groups on specific projects, each group working out for itself who will do which part of the project, through negotiation.  There will be an appraisal within the group as to the strengths of the various members.



Learning how to promote oneself for a particular role in this work is a tricky lesson to learn, but very well worth doing, as it shall be of great use to the Student for the rest of her academic, working, and social life.  Equally, learning to acknowledge gracefully that one member is outstanding at a certain task, and is the obvious candidate for the work, is a worthwhile social skill to acquire.




Frequently, a person is quite unaware of his or her greatest strength(s) because it / they has / have never been apparent to her.  As a Student begins getting involved in Class Projects, she shall need to know where her strengths lie.  If, while a Student is talking about, or reading a piece she has prepared on a syllabus item, and giving her view as to the nature of the main protagonist / or historical event and how it impinges on the lives of everyone around him / or the society of the time, a tutor should be taking note of her insights, her views on portrayal of character and incident, the language she uses, and how well it suits the topic.  If a tutor can tell the Student she showed a deep understanding of the way the author portrayed characters in the work or has grasped the author's implied and overt ideas, and delineated it in clear language ~ the Student has been handed an insight into the quality of her own work.  There shall always be elements each of us needs to improve upon. 


However, specific achievements as they appear, should always be acknowledged in the moment, as well as noted in the Student's on-going Evaluation.  We all need a confidence boost, and a Student should always be told when she does particularly good work, and why you think it is worth mentioning.  A compliment is of little use unless the reasoning behind it is given at the same time. You should then ask the student if she sees the point you are making, and ask her for another example.  This request has a twofold aim; it reinforces the gain, and clarifies that the Student does, in fact, know which piece of her work is being lauded and why.


RESILIENCE is also nurtured in sport, art, drama or music groups, who meet outside school hours, frequently a mix of classmates, fellow school pupils, and young people from the neighbourhood.   These are particularly useful situations for building resilience, as there will be varying degrees of acquaintance between the members of the groups, and young people will have to learn to balance friendships with working towards the best outcome for the group, which can sometimes be a problem, as young people find themselves in situations where they have to make choices they may prefer to avoid.



However, learning to voice one's view in a firm and friendly way, and managing to underscore one's stance with reasonable and politely phrased arguments, is a significant experience and opportunity for a young person in which to flex her resilience muscles in a low risk situation, where most people in the group are known to each other, to a greater or lesser extent.



All these ideas and suggestions are aimed at developing social skills, intellectual self-criticism, vigour of argument, self-evaluation, learning to share tasks and praise, and thus develop self-reliance, self-confidence, and resilience in the Student.




Photograph of painting by interesting Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, Courtesy of the Artist.







The initial focus of working with second level, or any students, should be to build the self-reliance and self-confidence of the Student, to ascertain her most urgent requirements early, and to encourage her to believe a fair degree of success with work  is attainable.




Often, introducing a sense of calm is sufficient to help your Student become open to new ideas.   Always start the session with some relaxed chat, as both the Student and tutor relax, and leave the rest of the world to get on with its business, while you two prepare for your  work together. Check if your Student needs a drink or a snack.  She could have been working flat out since lunch-time.  


A five minute break could be essential.




Make it clear from the start you have taken on this work because you WANT to work with the Student.  The tutor must spend a good deal of time listening closely. If the tutor is talking the majority of the time, the balance is wrong. The Student needs to TELL, and the tutor needs to HEAR.



Once the Student realises that she will dictate the study regime, with supportive input from the tutor, based on her perceived most immediate requirements, the Student is empowered to feel that these study sessions are 'for me and about my needs'.



Also, consider five minutes of MINDFULNESS at the beginning of every session if the Student is open to the idea.  Hopefully, Mindfulness will work for the Student and tutor, as it is very helpful in times of stress, and to assist in relaxing sufficiently, after a hectic day, to achieve sleep.



Learning the basics of Mindfulness would be of benefit to anyone, as it aids the reduction of stress, helps one to focus, and teaches one how to deal with difficult times. Please see the Section below, WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!  on avoiding overworking, possibly leading to ill-health, and missed school days.



From there, the sense of engagement from a Student is tangible. The Student starts to bring her own ideas, suggestions, and new approaches, to the subjects of the sessions.  This is a total blast! ~ and what makes one look forward to every session, as well prepared as one can be ~ with as many fall-back positions as possible in place. The tutor works hoping some of her material will set alight the imagination and enthusiasm of her Student.



Discover early in the first term, firstly, what is the type and content of the curriculum to be followed by the Student in the subject(s) you will be working on together and, secondly, the quantity of homework the Student is given in the subject(s) you share.



Some students get a great deal of homework, and some are not set a single essay all year. There is a delicate balance between finding out where one's Student needs extra support, and never giving a suggestion of criticism of a school teacher. A tutor is there to help, encourage, guide, build self-reliance and self-confidence, and offer another perspective on styles of studying; but she is NOT on the school faculty, and should keep very clear of anything teacher-related.



There is no point in wasting time pushing a piece that does not work for the Student, and it could possibly cause frustration or distress. The whole arrangement is supposed to be about helping the Student find and develop her own skills.  Therefore, your Student should be writing from as early as possible.  Asking for written work early shows your commitment, and encourages the Student to believe that you are really serious about this job, and want her ideas on paper at the soonest opportunity. 


Write, Write, Write! Check, Check, Check!



It is a good idea to have three or four discrete pieces of work to show the Student at each session.  Sometimes, the first of the exercises one has prepared, even if based on what the Student has requested and what was mutually agreed, just does not click with the Student.  On being certain that explaining the idea a second time will not make it clear, just file it!



There is no such thing as too much preparation! 

Produce one of your back-up pieces, again based on what your Student and you had worked together on designing, plus material you have used previously which might give a different perspective.  If a piece is a success and makes immediate sense to your Student, always take the opportunity to ask what was it about the piece that worked.


Having got a positive reaction, and with a Student feeling positive, this is a good opportunity to ask why she thinks the first offering did not work.



These are important exercises for both Student and tutor.  

They help deepen mutual understanding, evaluate how the joint planning is working out, and are an indication of the techniques that may work best for your Student. Both parties should be learning, all the while, what is and what is not working.  One cannot presume to have the ideal layout for constructing an essay.  Each of us has an utterly different worldview, and so we all respond differently to a given idea.  One can never be complacent, or presume to know a 'fail safe' technique.




It is always better to be flexible than to be correct.  

There is no point in showing your Student your idea of a beautifully crafted way of constructing an answer, when he or she works better with Mind Maps, or uses lots of colours, or doodles, and is left cold by your neatly arranged arguments.



The tutor does background work, but the Student should be to the fore.  Getting a Student to spend almost a full session, very early, using any of her techniques that help the flow of ideas, and ending up with the Student's version of the answer  to a given question, is a great experience for both Student and tutor.  You can then go through the piece together immediately, giving and getting feedback. With everything fresh in both minds, it makes the relevance of the styles used by the Student easier to access and understand.



The tutor gets to see the evolution of ideas, rejections, revisions, plus the occasional very odd notion! ~ and is blessed to see her Student's mind at work. These are the situations that weld the working relationship between Student and tutor.


Behind the scenes of these sessions, a good deal of time needs to be spent by the tutor designing a range of differently styled lesson plans,  and trying to develop work ideas to appeal to the specific interests and style of working of the Student.  Sourcing relevant material for the Student to examine is a very important part of a tutor's job.  The Student may choose to use or reject it.  Always initiate a discussion on why source material is rejected, perhaps one will find it is the presentation of it that is at fault, and not the actual content.



When one identifies the basic channels to a Student's way of thinking, one has found a way of introducing ideas for working together.  Once both understand what the Student needs and wants, development of the ever-evolving Work Plans together blooms, in relation to the syllabus.



Due to possible gaps in a Student's schooling, it may be that she is quite unaware of some of the basics of comprehension and written requirements.


Students can make it to half-way through their second level education with no knowledge of the fundamentals of grammar, spelling, punctuation, or syntax.  Clearly, at some stage, a Student has missed out, possibly due to absence resulting from illness, or family difficulties, or material not having been covered in school. 


Whatever the reason, the tutor has to be aware, waiting for this realisation to hit the Student.  Sometimes, the Student's carefully nurtured self-confidence can take a shuddering jolt.





My photograph of gloriously full & perfectly white Cherry Blossom, mid-May, in the Garden of the Museum, Stroud, Gloucestershire, England.









It is at times like this that continuous notes taken by the tutor on the progress being attained by the Student, from the first meeting, can be very useful.  Always tell the Student that you wish to keep records, emphasising they are solely to help gauge her progress, and will be kept private between the Student and tutor.  If the Student refuses to have notes taken, that is her prerogative.



One can set up a fairly simply designed scheme for note-taking, using headings such as Student's Requirements for Work / Attendance and Time-Keeping  Comprehension / Concentration Levels / Timely Production of Written Work  / Elements Showing Improvement / Overall Improved Standards of Work /  Elements Requiring Special Attention (other headings will come to mind depending on the Student's needs).



Some students need help developing even a very basic type of daily structure.  For some, turning up on the correct day, on time, is a huge achievement.


If a Student suddenly feels she has utterly overestimated her general standards, and panics, the tutor can gently and reassuringly show the evidence of steady improvement, and help the Student overcome this knock.


One has to be very clear with a Student from the beginning of working together, that where one sees gaps in the basics of literacy, they will need to be addressed immediately and repeatedly. Lifelong habits are difficult to change, and the Student will slip back into these habits, until the new ways are embedded. REPETITION of use (not rote learning) is the only way to learn the correct use of capital letters, grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, and learning how to construct well-written, well-argued, work, using as many different examples and circumstances to help the requirements sink in. Make sure your Student knows you are not judging her, just stating that marks are docked for every single error, and you and she are in the business of gaining marks.  




Reiterate often, that constant, frequent, production of good quality, as error-free as possible, written work, is the best possible preparation for a written exam in English, Irish, French, Chinese, or any other language, in History, Geography, Social Science, Home Economics, Business Studies ~ in fact, with the possible exception of some very Pure Mathematics (and I am open to correction here), a certain amount of clear, accurate, writing, shall be required for every subject on the Exam List. 



The more comfortable a Student feels with fluent and correct written work, resulting from plenty of practise, the more time she will have to consider the contents of the answer she wants to give to a specific question.  If a Student is not distracted by wondering if she should use 'practise' or 'practice', or 'affect' or 'effect', she will be considerably less stressed, and will know her concentration can be on producing the information required, and not having to worry about its presentation.


Write, Write, Write! Check! Check! Check!



Continual Assessment is becoming a more frequently used way to gauge a Student's progress in school, and is becoming part of the State Examination system shortly. Project Work will also play a greater part in a Student's workload, as part of the State Examination system.  Students and tutors will have to face these challenges together, as they arise, and learn what is the best way for the Student to rearrange her working style, to make sure she is up-to-date in required work.


The tutor must be au fait with the syllabus from the start of the year, so that she can help by having basic nuggets of ideas developed sufficiently to be used as possible foundation of forthcoming work.


A tutor does NOT do the homework, but she will need to know what is set for homework, on the broader scale, and will have to do some fundamental work to ensure a grasp of the subject matter.   We all have our 'blank' moments, when we have lost track of what we are doing.   If a student has a 'blank' moment, he or she must feel confident that the tutor will jump in with some questions, or juicy information, to kick start the session.


A Student and tutor never have enough time to work together, and getting written homework from one's Student can be difficult, especially if her homework load is heavy enough already.


It would be helpful to suggest to the Student that she brings in written homework already prepared for her class teacher.  A great deal of useful work can be done between the Student and the tutor, analysing, deconstructing, and reassessing the given topic for this homework.   A Student may well offer deeper and more relevant insights into the topic during a quiet session with her tutor, and so the homework can be used as a tool by both.  We are always being told to "Reuse, Recycle", let it apply to homework also!




Students may need extra help and support with their sleep patterns, and to learn how to manage a regular getting-up time in the first weeks of the new school year. Please see my Post, "STUDENTS! This Will Help Your Studies & Your Well-Being", which gives very good advice on an easy to manage simple exercise habits and nutrition suggestions, to help everyone, especially at stressful situations, such as building up to exams, and the exams themselves. Many people, not just students, stop looking after themselves properly when caught up in an increased workload.



There is evidence showing that writing about one’s worries before a stressful exam BOOSTS PERFORMANCE in the actual exam. Students need all possible support during their studies, and especially when coming up to examination, particularly State exams.  This simple tip is pure gold when it comes to de-stressing any student.


Students are still growing.  They need lots of sleep ~ nine to ten hours sustained sleep nightly, a good breakfast, a proper lunch, daily engagement with exercise and / or sports, and time with friends.  It is understood that 90% of bone growth takes place during sleep, when the growth hormones are released.  They also need structured time from when they walk in from school, into which to split homework into sections, separated by healthy snacks. Try to ensure a student starts a habit of getting up and walking away from her work at least once an hour for 10-15 minutes, especially if working with a computer. 



Please see my Posts, "BEWARE THE LIGHT!!  and "Care 4 Young Online - PARENTS NEED TO MONITOR CHILDREN'S INTERNET USE", which are always being updated with the newest studies.



If a Student comes to a session, clearly exhausted and incapable of concentrated work, the plans for the session have to change.  A tutor has to be flexible: such a situation can be used by the tutor to go to her research and talk about a significant character or episode in a piece on the syllabus, as if telling a story.  The Student need not take notes, the tutor has them to hand.  With time, the Student may  become more actively engaged in the session, asking questions, making comments.   There are times when taking it easy is best for the Student.



A surprising amount of what she heard will be absorbed, and she can read the notes at a later time. This would be a very good time to point out to your Student the Section at the end of this Post, 'WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!'


Students must be observed to check if they are over-tired regularly, or beginning to lose interest in the sessions, possibly coming late or starting to miss the odd one, or have stopped producing work.


There could be any number of personal reasons why a Student loses interest.  A tutor cannot and should not ask directly personal questions.  However, it is reasonable to ask the Student if she is having sufficient sustained sleep, proper breaks, or is she finding her general workload too much pressure.


Always make it clear to her that her welfare is your priority, and all necessary changes will be made. Ask her if she wants to discuss her general workload, or the work she does with you, or to discuss how to manage her school day / homework / friends / chores / possible part-time job, and still find time to eat and sleep.


Students can become very stressed  if they feel they are losing control of their homework, research, study balance, plus including time for the rest of their lives. A cold eye could be helpful with re-scheduling activities, to give her back a sense of having sufficient time to do all she needs to do.


Let her know that your Work Plans can be rejigged, nothing is set in stone, and stress everything necessary shall be done to help her.


REALLY IMPORTANT No television, computer, iPad, laptop, Kindle, Tablet mobile / cell phone should be on in the bedroom after 9.30pm, or earlier, depending on the Student's age.  A Student requires nine to ten hours sustained sleep nightly, according to the best recent research on the subject.   Eight hours are not sufficient.



Please see my Post, "BEWARE THE LIGHT!!" for further information on the serious problems which can be caused to everyone by overuse of electronic items with screens, especially late into the evening ~ including inability to get to sleep, chronic exhaustion, sleep deprivation, problems with concentration, and unattained goals.


Enthusiasm can move Mountains!


Never lose heart, the day comes when the basic work done clicks suddenly, and the spree begins!





Photograph of painting by interesting Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, Courtesy of the Artist.





We all have to recognise when we have hit our limit, and must stop work for the day.




There comes a time for everyone, and especially an enthusiastic student who is immersed in his or her work, when one has run out of energy; when one has read the same paragraph three times, and still doesn't know what it says.


You haven't suddenly gone stupid, you are exhausted!


PLEASE don't have a cup of coffee, or an energy drink.  They won't clear your thinking, but they will retard your sleep.  If you want a drink, chamomile tea or hot milk help one relax. Paradoxically, if one is exhausted from homework, studying, and possible project work as well, it can be very  difficult to get to sleep.


The Number One thing to do is to save your work, and then turn off your computer immediately. If you work in your bedroom, close the curtains, lower the lighting, turn off your mobile ~ or set it to silent if you use it as an alarm clock. If you have worries or queries stuck on your mind, make a note of them now.  Writing them down is a way of shrugging them off your mind, and helping you prepare your mind for sleep.



You should create a personal, relaxing, bedtime ritual; every element of it aimed at getting you a good night's sleep.



Please read my Post,   as it contains important information for you.  In short, it takes a minimum of one full hour for your brain to stop its busy synapsing after using any electronic device ~ laptop, iPad, mobile, Smartphone, Kindle, Tablet, watching television, etc.  While these neural connections are happening at speed, you will not be able to sleep.  Use this hour for self-care.



Consider your current night-time regime  

Do you have a bath or shower at night, or a shower in the morning?   Use this evening hour to do everything to make you feel relaxed and comfortable.   If it's chilly, turn on your electric blanket or fill a hot water bottle, and put your nightwear in the bed to warm up.   Essential oils of lemon, sweet orange, orange, and bergamot, all assist the mind and body to relax, lifting the spirits.   A few drops in bath water or in a bowl in your bedroom with hot water added will help your overall sense of well-being.   Sprinkle lavender, geranium or sandalwood oil on a tissue, and lay it on your pillow.  These essential oils assist relaxation, and will, added to other measures, help you get to sleep.  Sandalwood is a scent at the base of many men's skincare products, including shaving balm and body lotion. 



You may have to come to an arrangement with other family members as to when anyone uses the bathroom.  Try to work it so the youngest use the bathroom first, and you will then have sufficient time later to do all the things to help you get to sleep.



Take a few minutes to put out your clothes for the morning, and check if you need to polish your shoes ~ another job done, stress lessened now and in the morning!



If you bathe or shower at night, add lavender, geranium or sandalwood oil to your body oil or moisturiser, or sprinkle some on your skin over the oil / lotion and mix them in together.  Put your oil or moisturiser bottle in a bowl or jug of hot water to heat up while you bathe or shower, this makes it more pleasant to use, and it sinks in quicker.  Everything you do should be done gently, slowly, and relaxedly.


While using your face cleanser or facial scrub, spend a few minutes massaging it gently and calmly into your face and throat, and rinse it off gently, with tepid water.  If you have a bath or shower, use your body wash and bath brush or scrubbie gloves to massage your neck, shoulders, lower back, and upper arms.  You are relaxing your muscles, which have probably stiffened during hours of work, sitting in one position.  Try to avoid soap, especially scented or medicated types ~ they are very harsh on the skin.



Rinse off, dry off, and then gently massage in your warmed body oil or moisturiser. Pay special attention to your neck, shoulders, and lower back. Massage the liquid in with circular motions; sometimes the neck and shoulders may need some deep massage to release the tension.  



Body oils or moisturisers are for everyone.  We all spend too much time in dry or overheated atmospheres, which dry out our skin, leaving it vulnerable to becoming super-sensitive to types of fabric, detergents, scents or aftershaves, and the possible resultant habit of constant scratching especially at the bend of the elbow and behind the knee.



After you've done all your night-time ablutions, get into bed and, if necessary, use pure wax ear plugs if traffic or other noises are audible and cause you distraction.  You will still hear the alarm in the morning!



Also, wrap and tie loosely a folded soft, silky, scarf, covering your eyes if you cannot achieve a dark room due to the weight of curtains or blinds, or a bright street lamp shining into your bedroom. This is much more comfortable than black-out eye masks, as it can be difficult to adjust their narrow elastic straps which may be too tight, causing headaches, and leaving marks on the temples. Turn off the light, and lie on your back, under the covers.



If you share a bedroom, as most of us did or do, you need to come to an agreement with your room mate(s) about the time the room becomes a bedroom, and therefore there will be no music, no television, no laptops, no mobile phones, or iPads.  One person using an iPad interferes with the sleep of anyone else in the bedroom.  A bedroom should be quiet and darkened, to make sleep easier to attain.








You are going to give yourself a

Mindfulness Body Check!



This will relax your body, starting with your toes

and all the way up to your head.




Breathe in slowly and gently.  You're not trying to hold your breath, you just want to be aware of the air as it enters your nostrils, and as you exhale through your mouth.  Are you conscious of the scent of the lavender, geranium or sandalwood on the tissue, or the citrus essential oil in the air?  If not, move the tissue to lie on your upper chest, or stir the bowl containing the citrus essential oil and hot water.  Spend a couple of minutes concentrating on your breathing and the scent, and then carry on as follows.



Keep your gentle, easy, breathing going.  Concentrate on your toes, wriggle them gently, and say to yourself "there are my warm, relaxed, toes ~ feeling good".  Move your attention to your ankles, gently and very slowly, move them in circles, saying to yourself "my ankles are moving smoothly and easily, no stress, no strain, no pull".


Be body aware, and notice how every part of you feels.



If you are feeling relaxed, try straightening your legs by pointing your toes very slowly and gently, and then curl the feet so that the toes are pointing to your head. Keep your gentleeasy, breathing going.  If there is any resistance, STOP this exercise immediately.  You do not want to risk a cramp after all your prep!



Breathing gentlymove to your hips and lower back, image you are moving with a hoola hoop, with the slowest possible circular movements. Move from left to right until you feel your left hip is feeling relaxed and loose. Repeat the movement from right to left. Is the strain in your lower back released?  Can you settle your hips on the bed, feeling lovely and relaxed?   Repeat until relaxed.  



Keep the gentle  breathing going.  Move up to your shoulders and upper arms.  Roll your shoulders and tops of your arms backwards very slowly, in deep  circles.  When you feel the stress on the front of your shoulders has ebbed, roll your shoulders and tops of your arms forward as above, until you feel all the stress has been released  from your shoulders and upper back.



Breathe gently.  Your head should be supported by the pillow. Now, you will use your neck veryvery, carefully.  Roll the back of your head in a circle on the pillow so that there is a very slight  pull on your neck from the 360 degrees turns; move leftwards first, and then rightwards. When you feel your neck has loosened, lift your head slightly off the pillow and let your head drop gently to your right shoulder, and rotate your neck a few time. Take your head back to centre, and let it drop gently onto your left shoulder, and repeat as above. Then, gently move your chin down as if to lie on your chest. Raise your chin slowly, and dip it again a few more times.  


We are nearly finished!


Breathe gently and slowly, and recognise the all over sensation of looseness and calm.  Smell the scent of the essential oil, and close your eyes. Very slowly and gently, roll your eyes round in your sockets. Do not pull your eyes or stretch them. Just roll them round gently.  Stop when you feel relaxed.



If you make this Mindfulness Body Check part of your routine, most especially when you are tired ~ brain tired, you will gain the benefit of quicker, easier, sleep. 


You will have concentrated on your body and everything else shall have faded away.



If you make this Mindfulness Body Check part of your routine, most especially when you are tired ~ brain tired, you will gain the benefit of quicker, easier, sleep. 





Best of Luck!

Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien






If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.


My website,, "Education Matters" is where my Posts originate and are updated as necessary.



I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.


See my Linkedin site for further information


Thanks to Dublin artist, Neil Douglas,, for kindly letting me use copies of his vivid, vibrant paintings.





If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.  


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear unambiguous text and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!