Hi, My name is Ryan, and I am one of the founding members of the GCSE.CO.UK Study Group community, and I want to give you a warm welcome. Study Groups is part of GCSE.CO.UK platform, and it is a community for students (and tutors), and within the community, we have workshops, study groups, tutoring support, and so much more.
The Study Group community is FREE to join for students and parents. You can participate by making a "Request to Join", the button on the top right. We manually approve students so that we can filter out people who could be using the platform to post rubbish. DON'T BE DISCOURAGED by request to join the system. We approve 95% of requests. I think you would want us to have the good in "your" community, and for us to keep the bad out. So, please click here to Request to Join.
We prefer to be honest and upfront about things, and I want to tell you that some elements of the Study Groups platform are for paid members. Although we provide a free community, we have to pay teachers, so the premium features like live workshops, study groups, structured learning etc. are only accessible for students who have paid membership plans.
If you are in a rush, and you can see the positive of what we are trying to do, then go ahead and join. However, if you are like me, and like to know the people behind an organisation and what they stand for, then please keep reading 👇.
I am sorry if it's a bit long, I got a bit carried away. Separate note: we were here before COVID-19. Thanks, Ryan
My name is Ryan. The most important thing I need to tell or the thing that I am a proud father to an amazing daughter. Notable not because she is a genius or something. Remarkable because she is turning out to be a well-balanced, loving human being. And that's all I ever wanted.
I want to tell you all that I was an A-Star student that I didn't struggle with my GCSEs, and that's the reason we started this platform/community. However, that is not true. The truth is I struggled academically. My siblings were more academic, but for some reason, I found it more challenging than most.
I grew up in a council estate in East London and went to an inner-city Comprehensive School where most students ended up in either hard manual labour jobs, on drugs or in jail, generally in that order. The truth is, in those days, my family wouldn't know what a "decent school" was if it knocked on the front door. We simply didn't have "that" world opened to our eyes.
However, this is not a sob story. Nor is it a story of rags to riches. I am not your Mark Zuckerberg. What nobody tells you is that the Mark Zuckerberg's of this world are the 0.001 per cent (probably even less). I am very ordinary. But, I consider myself one of the lucky ones in one life. I grew up in one of the best countries in the world - the UK. And because I grew up in the UK, I had at least a chance of making something of my life, and I feel I did!
I got opportunities to start my business, in IT, and I made a comfortable life for myself and my family. Some may even say I did very well out of it. But I wouldn't go that far. However, fast forward a decade or two, and I woke up one day not being able to walk - for no reason. I ended up in the hospital for several weeks, and I eventually recovered. I had at least 12 specialists look at me (no exaggeration), and to this day they don't know what caused it and why. However, they did diagnose a few other issues. As a result of all the poking and prodding, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. I now have to live with Crohn's and a few other conditions - for the rest of my life! Nowadays, I end up visiting the hospital on average once a month, but that's okay. It could have been far worse!
My health situation forced me to change what I do. My wife works in community education, and through what I thought was a coincidence, I got asked to help a student who was struggling with his GCSEs. I believe my family wanted to keep me occupied. I was reluctant at first, but I decided to help Ben with his studies. We are calling him Ben to respect his privacy.
I tried to find learning resources that would aid my helping him. And the truth is I struggled with finding adequate resources. I found a mixture of free websites which bombarded me with advertising, and sometimes even porn! And I found paid sites which were glorified textbooks. There was no support as such, no asking questions to tutors, no showing how they cover the syllabus or anything. No community or fellowship!
Anyway, I didn't think much of these sites, so I decided to create my own learning and revision plan. I suppose I saw a bit of me in Ben and wanted to do him justice. I realised, if I was to help Ben, and tutor him, I need to get familiar with the syllabus as well. After all, I was no teacher; I wasn't an expert; I wasn't even academic. So, I designed a learning and revision plan that covered the syllabus from start to finish. I spent several days mapping out the syllabus and learning plan - all on my wall! It wasn't easy. However, it wasn't as tricky as I had imagined it to be.
To make matters worse, Ben suffered from attention issues and had trouble retaining information. So, I researched and looked into the best ways of learning and retaining information. I was amazed by what I found. I grew up on the misconception that 'the more time you spend revising, the better you'll do'. And I was about to embark on the same journey with Ben! The other one that we were told as children was that "memorising as much as possible is the best way to guarantee success in exams."
I learned that those misconceptions are COMPLETELY FALSE! The best way to learn and retain information is through questions, through quizzes, by making it fun and exciting. And you don't have to spend 24/7 studying to achieve success. However, fear kicks in for most of us, and we fall back on the old ways!
Anyway, I worked with Ben for the next 18 months. I made a pact with him that I would send him work 3 times a week, and he would do his best to answer the questions. I explained to him each set of questions should take him 20-40 minutes to do. And that it was okay if he didn't know the answer to every question, and that he should simply go online (or look in a book) and try and find the answer. If he still couldn't find the answer, he should call me as his "mentor or coach".
At first, there was some resistance, and he stumbled, but he eventually found his way. And he started to make tremendous progress. He learnt to use his initiative and to find answers. He slowly learned how to be independent and not always depend on others for solutions. If he wavered or struggled, I would be there to support and motivate him.
After some time had passed, once things started to settles and the "romance period" was over, he began to doubt himself again. Ben was questioning whether everything he was learning was staying, whether he would be able to remember what he was studying and learning? So, I decided to try something with him. I started setting him mini-exams every week and month so that he would be able to see what I was seeing. What we got was hard evidence, he was scoring better and better every month. I didn't go easy on the monthly exams. There was no opportunity to cheat, as I screen recorded everything and timed the exams. And it was real exam simulation with open-ended questions. And although he passed his first months exam, the results weren't impressive. However, we realised this was just nerves; he wasn't used to the exam environment. After 2nd and 3rd, the results were huge enough to put a grin on his face.
I learnt a big lesson through those mini-exams. Students, like the rest of us, need positive reinforcement to know that what they are doing is working.
Ben went on to get A-Stars in one subject, 3 A's and 3 B's and one 1 C. The results were terrific for a student with expected grades of C's and D's. More importantly, this was an inner-city kid who had to catch up so much in such a short amount of time. He didn't have parents who could help him at home, so considering everything, his grades were spectacular. Ben went on to college and university.
When his grades came out, I was grinning for the whole week. I felt it was me who had achieved it. The truth is, it wasn't me; it was all him. However, it made me feel valued. I felt I mattered. My health situation had nocked my confidence, and I wasn't willing to acknowledge or accept it. By helping Ben, I felt I was getting back more then I was giving.
As a side note, there is this one saying that is said in the 12-step programme, that I always assumed I understood, but I didn't, not properly. It goes something like "We keep what we have only by giving it away". The experience with Ben helped me appreciate this 12th step a bit better. After my experience with Ben, I was approached by several parents to help their kids. As I took on a few more students, I realised that I was just one person, and for me to help many students, I would need to scale this up. So, I decided if I was going to do this programme justice, then I would need to do it properly.
I tell my daughter that success doesn't have to mean getting straight A's. It genuinely doesn't. I want my daughter to be a creative person of some kind, like an artist, but what I want is not important. We all have our version of success, and it doesn't have to be what society pushes on to us. However, to students who are reading this: you need to be happy with yourself and feel you have done your best. And if your best is 5 B's and 3 C's, then that's awesome. Don't let me or anyone else tell you any different.
Whether you want to be a doctor or a cartoonist, if you're going to succeed in life, then you need to learn to play the game. And while you are at school, this means passing your GCSEs. However, once you are an adult, make your own rules, or rewrite the rule book if you wish! Until then, let's have some fun learning and get the best grades we can!
Students just like you are joining GCSE.CO.UK to learn more efficiency by being part of Study Groups community that bring students and tutors together through learning, workshops, study groups, conversations and a bit of fun. So, join us if you're going to part of something greater than yourself - a more engaging learning community.