One of the cornerstones at Red Bird is our emphasis on talk.  We think it’s super important in so many ways.  As communication on a hundred levels, as therapy, as a damage limiter and as a confidence tool.  And sometimes so we can have a good laugh.  

Let’s explore the role of talk as we see it.

Saying Hi

Lesley is our fab centre manager in Dunstable and the first thing that happens when our learner’s come through the door is they see Lesley and have their first talking experience.  It’s a hello, a quick conversation about how they are and what they would like to eat and drink today.  It sounds simple, but it is mighty!  So much is wrapped up in these few sentences – care, thought, consideration, love – it’s all there.  No-one arrives or leaves without at least one interaction about their well-being and how we can look after them today. Find out more about our obsession with food at the centre here.

Find out how the land lies

Once at their tables or online, part of the session is dedicated to chat to ascertain how everyone is feeling.  This may result in a longer conversation, or it may need some more specialist coaching support so that the student can focus on the session.  Periodically at the centre, each student will be spent time with, encouraging them to ask questions, open up and stem anxiety before it gets a grip. 1:1 this is a natural part of the sessions. I liken this to an old fashioned pressure cooker: you have to keep letting the pressure out a bit at a time, otherwise you end up with cabbage all over your kitchen.  By talking frequently and purposefully, you can avoid a person’s metaphorical lid exploding.

Find out what they know

People often ask if their child will do an assessment before they start.  I always say, “No, we’re going to talk to them,” which sometimes catches people off guard.  Many of us are conditioned in this test and target driven society we are currently living in, to expect test after test.  I always explain that we are here to teach and reduce barriers.  Again, I am reminded of the archaic adage, ‘Weighing a pig doesn’t make it heavier’.  We leave the weighing to other people.  We have the privilege of concentrating for up to 90 minutes with a few eager souls.  That gives us the luxury of time, a slower pace and patience, which is often not afforded to children and staff in schools. We can ask the students what they don’t understand, we can explain with equipment or point them in the right direction for self study. Sometimes, just saying something out loud can be enough.

If you can say it, you can write it!

One of the luxuries that we have is that we have time to allow students to verbalise their thoughts before they commit to paper.  This greatly improves the chances of writing something good.  It’s a practice if you like, before they commit. We also encourage participation in the sessions so that they can’t ‘zone out’ and they definitely don’t get away with a shrug or the verbal equivalent!  Hearing their own voice saying something good and useful may be the first time in a while in a busy, fast-paced classroom.

Opening up

Both our students and tutors know that one of the management team are there if they need to talk.  This can be a simple question asking for advice, or it can be a much deeper coaching conversation where we listen and question.  Occasionally, the talk turns to us needing to draw in other professionals or liaising with the schools we work with.  We have links with some wonderful talk therapy services who we highly recommend.  Everybody needs to talk sometimes!

On a final note, being able to hold your own in a conversation is a skill that sometimes can get lost in schools. We want to mould our students to be great adults.  Let’s keep the conversation going!


Owner of Red Bird Tutoring

Sue launched Red Bird Tutoring in 2018, combining her 20+ years experience as a teacher and school leader with her interest in coaching.

Since its launch, Red Bird has helped hundreds of learners achieve success!