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On Set with BrightSparkz Tutors

Lights, camera, action!

BrightSparkz Location Tutors

In the year that BrightSparkz Tutors has been providing film production companies with on-set (location) tutors and childminders, our tutors have travelled all over South Africa, from Mpumalanga and the Drakensberg, to the Cederberg and all over Cape Town. No day is ever the same, with stunts taking place, weather being made, crazy costumes and crazier make up, and incredible sets being built overnight. One thing stays the same – this is a film set, not a school, and children partaking as lead actors or extra’s need to be kept occupied, safe, and ready to head to set at a moment’s notice.

Any minor working on a filmset must legally be accompanied by a childminder. This role frequently extends to tutoring, as the school-ages actors and extras are often out of school for days or weeks at a time while filming, and someone needs to ensure their daily schooling requirements are met!

Schooling starts when the children sign in, and location tutors check up on their schooling needs and homework, which subjects they need help with today and what their schedule will be like. BrightSparkz ensures that there is a tutor on set that can handle questions from any major subject (Maths, Science, English and Afrikaans, and others if necessary – this sometimes includes other countries’ curricula!). Once on set, and in-between takes, the books come out. BrightSparkz’ childminders and tutors help the children through any tough course work, helping them through any school-related problems they may be having, as well as supervising homework and studying. It’s important for the children to stay up to date with their school work, and do something productive with all the time spent waiting around!

Location tutors and child minders also act as a go-between for staff and school-aged actors/extras, shuttling them to set when needed, collecting them for meals and scenes, and ensuring that all children are where they should be, when they should be there! (Our tutors sometimes need eyes at the back of our heads, and on the sides!). A major concern on set is safety. Any set always has a great deal of heavy equipment, cables, cameras – and this just the smaller things. Stunts and explosions, fire or snakes and scorpions are just some of the things that threaten the children’s safety. It is also these things that amaze the children as they watch a stunt or listen to a snake wrangler explain the way the snakes’ poison works (a lesson they will never forget – no books or tests required!).

BrightSparkz’ location tutors and childminders have another important job – being an advocate and voice for school-ages actors/kids in an adult-dominated environment, making sure they have someone to turn to, to ask for advice, or even to speak up if the time between bathroom breaks becomes too long!

BrightSparkz ensures that tutors and childminders are suitably qualified, with university and teaching degrees or well on their way to obtaining them, as well as experience tutoring the subjects they are on set to tutor. They are also passionate about children and education, and aim to make the exciting experience of working on a filmset both fun and productive!

The BrightSparkz team also provide regular updates and report-backs to the production team on academic matters, as well as personally liaise with schools and parents regarding examinations and assignments. We currently supply location tutors and child minders in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but tutors in other locations can also be arranged. Get in touch with us if you are interested in booking a location tutor, or becoming a location tutor!

The Crucial Importance of the Grade 11 Year

Setting up Your Future for Success

Coasting through high school and waking up just before your Matric finals to put forth massive effort may seem appealing, but it is short-sighted and unwise! Unless you (or your family) is abundantly wealthy, and you believe that you’ll never need to be concerned with earning a sustainable income, you need to be aware of the importance of the impact of your Grade 11 year on your future success.

Here’s why…

Grade 11 forms the platform for much of what you need to learn for Grade 12. It builds the knowledge you need to base your Matric material on. If you don’t pay attention throughout your Grade 11 year, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot later.

Studying is important in grade 11

If you intend to study at university, your Grade 11 marks are vitally important. You could possibly use these marks initially when applying for your degree or diploma of choice.

Granted, your Grade 11 marks can only give you provisional acceptance and you would still need to excel in your Matric finals, but it gives you a bit of breathing room in Grade 12 if you have a solid Grade 11 foundation – like a free headstart. You’d have to perform quite badly in Grade 12 to lose your provisional acceptance.

There is a critical shortage of places available at South African universities. For example, for the 2017 academic year, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) had a total of only 10 500 places to offer to more than 135 500 first year applicants, and the University of the Witwatersrand had only 6 200 first year places and around 69 000 applications!

Looking at these figures, it’s clear how foolish it would be to mess around during your Grade 11 year while others are working hard and gaining provisional acceptance at the sought after universities? Waiting for your Matric year to deliver the goods puts you on the back foot and makes your life unnecessarily difficult.

Does that mean that if you do badly in Grade 11 and extremely well in Matric, that you won’t get an opportunity to attend university? Not exactly, but you’ll have to wait in line. You may have to defer your studies for a year due to those with early acceptance getting preference, and improve on your marks even more.

University entrance is competitiveIf you are struggling to get the marks you need to do well in Grade 11, consider getting help sooner rather than later. Brightsparkz Tutors can help you to achieve the results you need with a hand-picked tutor especially for you. Your tutor may also be able to guide and advise you about university life as they may be studying themselves, or be a graduate who has been through it all.

Another bonus! Early application with Grade 11 results will give you the option to apply for bursaries, as well as one of the limited spaces in a university residence of your choice.

Taking your grade 11 year seriously and putting in your best effort serves as a “practice run” for your Matric year, and will make your life a lot easier in Matric too. It will help you prepare, and identify gaps in your knowledge. It also instils self-discipline which is needed not only for Grade 12, but also for study at university of college.

Use your Grade 11 year to put some serious thought into your future – what are you planning to study? Where would you like to study if you’re accepted? Are your marks good enough in the correct subjects to study what you’d like to do? (By now, you should’ve chosen the subjects you need, but if you need to make a change – the beginning of Grade 11 is the latest we’d advise this).

Now that you realize the importance of your Grade 11 year, what can you do to improve your chances of success for the future you want?

Develop a plan to put yourself ahead of the other approximately 800 000 of your peers who will compete with you for university places and jobs after school. Even if you do not intend to study further after school, you will still need to compete for employment, both in South Africa and abroad.

Start building a CVStart building a CV (curriculum vitae) for yourself. School leavers and even new graduates often struggle to obtain employment as they have no work experience. It’s difficult to get relevant work experience when you are still at school, but it can be done. Here’s how:

– If your school promotes a “Grade 11 Job Shadowing” project, participate wholeheartedly. If you don’t know what this is, it’s an opportunity for Grade 11 learners to spend a week (often during the school holidays), job shadowing the type of work they’d like to do (preferably) in an organisation which is willing to engage with school learners in this manner.

– If your school does not promote this initiative, be pro-active and approach some companies yourself to organise it. The experience will be invaluable in providing you with insight into working life, and whether you’re suited to a certain type of work. Bear in mind that some companies might not agree to your request, but keep trying.

– You can ask your family, your friends’ parents, your parents’ friends or your Life Orientation teacher for companies they may know who may be willing to give you an opportunity for job shadowing. Once you know who you’d like to approach, do it personally, either via email, phone call or visit. Do not let your parents ask for you – you are the one who needs to do the work, and it demonstrates maturity and pro-activeness.

Be on time!

– When you get the opportunity, treat it as a proper job. If everyone starts work at 8am sharp, make sure that you are ready to start work at that time. Do what you are told to do as well as you can. Do not walk around with your cell phone hanging from your hand. Be observant, and help wherever you can.

– At the end of the week, ask for a reference. Hopefully it will be a good one. Perhaps it will even open the door for you once you finish school for a job opportunity, or even a bursary. Add the reference to your CV.

– Don’t expect payment. You’re getting something better than payment – free experience (although they may pay, it’s unlikely).

– Accumulate other valuable references from doing weekends work or part time jobs. Anything that sets you apart from the masses will be to your benefit. Even working as a waitron and being on time and diligent can earn you a good reference as someone who is reliable and learns fast.

Volunteer!

– Volunteering at an animal shelter or a weekend job at the local vet for example, can improve your chances of being accepted into veterinary studies (a very specialised field). You will have relevant experience and be showing a keen interest when selections for places are made, provided you also have the necessary grades.

Volunteer

– Volunteering for community service work, or helping at church (holiday club or youth work), or helping at an orphanage may also lead to some great references for you. Most of your peers will not do this and it will set you apart.

 

Putting some thought into your future after school can go a long way in determining your success, and you are encouraged to start as early as Grade 11!

The Brains Behind BrightSparkz

“Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights your way.” 

It’s been 10 years since the humble beginnings of a few flyer handouts and informal tutor recruitment. As we celebrate our decade milestone, the brains behind BrightSparkz get personal – sharing some insights into running a business, their various challenges and achievements, as well as a snippet of what we can expect from BrightSparkz in the future. 


Amy Stockwell (Johannesburg)
“I completed a BSc. Physiotherapy degree before moving from Cape Town to Johannesburg at the end of 2006 to do my year of community service, while also planning the expansion of our Cape Town tutoring business to Gauteng. In 2009 I completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management through the Wits Business School, and quickly realised that business was my passion. In 2011, I stopped practicing physiotherapy, got married and started dedicating all my time to BrightSparkz Tutors. Our family grew in May 2015 when we were blessed with our baby boy, so my time is currently best spent on being a mom and supportive wife to my husband, who is a competitive cyclist and mountain biker. When I get time of my own, I enjoy running 10km and 21km races.”


Dominique Oebell (Cape Town)
“I completed a BSc. Physiotherapy at UCT in 2006, and worked part-time as a physiotherapist while we were establishing BrightSparkz Tutors. In 2013, I obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration at the UCT Graduate School of Business, and while it was initially Physiotherapy that developed a lot of empathy in me and a passion to make a difference, I believe that its entrepreneurship and education that can really improve people’s lives. In my free time I love spending time at the beach, walking my dogs, and reading books that inspire me to be a better person. My faith life is also really important to me, and that keeps me centered when things get stressful!”


Q1: Where did you get the idea from to start a tutoring company and what took it from an idea to an actual business? (What was your greatest motivation to get started?)

I started tutoring in primary school and continued into my university years. In third year I was unable to take on more learners, but still tried to help to find suitable tutors for parents who contacted me. This is where the idea was born. After some research, we realised that there wasn’t much out there in terms of home based one-on-one tutoring, and that parents really needed this type of service.  AS

Q2: What would you say to people who aren’t fired up about what they’re doing or studying?

I would advise them to not settle on that career (although sometimes it is wise to learn what you can from a field and to use it to your advantage in a transition period), and to keep exposing themselves to different job environments or fields, to discover what makes them tick. Once they have discovered this, to start meeting people and growing their network of individuals who operate in these fields or environments. This is a great way to learn more about a field, but also to be made aware of new job or business opportunities that arise within those fields.  DO

Q3: What advice would you give people who have or are thinking about starting a business?

Starting a business is the easy part. Maintaining it and “finishing” well is the hard part! Knowing why you want to start a business is key. Many experts in a field assume the logical next step is to start their own company but what they don’t realise is that the skills that make them a great employee are not the same skills that will make them a great entrepreneur. They start with great enthusiasm, with ideas of being their own boss and having their own time, only to realise that often the initial investment of time and energy (and money) can be much greater than expected.

Knowing what your customers needs are, as well as how many players are already in the market, is also critical. It doesn’t matter how well you bake bread – if no one is needing home-baked bread, or there are already 5 people baking bread in your community, your business will fail (unless you can provide something that no one else is, that your customers are needing, of course!).  DO

Q4: The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years, particularly in the area of technology. What is BS doing to leverage the technology we have available to us to better serve and educate learners?

It definitely has! BrightSparkz started using a very manual system until we knew exactly what our needs were, and had our first custom system built in 2011. This is something we are in the process of upgrading, and have also been developing a mobile responsive system that we are currently rolling out with our tutors, and will extend to clients later in the year.

We also introduced BrightSparkz Mobile Maths and Science in 2014, which is a platform that allows learners to access user friendly resources via their PC, tablet, or smartphone. The program caters for both CAPS and IEB learners, by dividing the Maths, Physical Science, and Natural Sciences curricula into comprehensive sections. It’s a great tool to help children and their tutor work through and consolidate the Maths and / or Science syllabus for the year, especially in preparation for tests and exams.

One of our missions is to automate as much as we can without taking away the personal touch from our service, as this is something that is still extremely important to us.  AS

Q5: Do you think the gradual move to online education and self-education is a positive one? Is BS responding to this transition is any way?

There are pro’s and con’s to every change in society, but we have never before had access to so much information as we do in the digital era, and that opens up opportunities for learning to many more people. One can learn anything without traditional limitations of space, time, and money. That said, there is still incredible value in face-to-face time with a tutor/teacher/facilitator, and there seems to be a higher level of accountability in face-to-face or blending learning environments. I think the challenge for online education service providers still lies in how to motivate individuals effectively, specifically children and teenagers. 

We are currently positioning ourselves in such a way that we are able to grow with the changes that are changing the landscape of extra-curricular educational services. Online tutoring via Skype is something we already offer, as well as additional tools such as online whiteboards and learning platforms are just a few of our tech plans for future. However, we believe strongly in a blended learning approach, and will always incorporate the human element into our service offerings regardless of how the tech landscape changes, as we believe this is still what our customers are wanting.  DO

Q6: What have been some of the greatest challenges, and greatest achievements over the past 10 years?

Persevering with this business has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life! There have been so many times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and trade it in for a job! But after a good cry and a pep-talk from my family, I determine what needs to change and I keep at it. Being able to celebrate our 10-year anniversary is a huge milestone for us! We have learnt many lessons and have experienced many setbacks, yet I’m proud of the excellent service standards we maintain and of our current team of staff who work really hard to attain this. We’ve had many challenges in the areas of staffing, navigating company restructuring, and in getting our business processes up to speed with competitors who use more sophisticated technology. In some areas, we’ve had to work really hard to catch up and although we have not yet “arrived”, our hard work is paying off and we’ve been able to secure contracts with larger educational institutions, publishers and even film production companies.  DO

Q7: How is BS trying to intentionally deal with the challenges faced by South African learners?

One of our primary goals is to eventually make tutoring accessible to as many South African learners as possible, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. Part of our planning this year is to officially launch our corporate sponsorship program, in order to extend our reach in this regard. We have previously worked with numerous foundations who assist in identifying learners showing potential and who would otherwise not be able to afford assistance. This is something we are extremely excited and passionate about, and look forward to partnering with organizations who value education as the key to the future, as much as we do.  AS

 

“No one can be sure of what changes, big or small, lie ahead. One thing is certain, our journey is not over.”

 

Interested in one-on-one tutoring in the comfort of your own home? We can make that happen for you! Feel free to get in touch with us here.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Managing the New School Term

“What I learn today doesn’t make yesterday wrong, it makes tomorrow better”.

Just as the stress of the exam season has subsided, the stress and anxiety that comes with a new school term starts to arise. We understand that a new school term can be daunting for both children and their parents, and while it cannot be avoided, there are those unnecessary stresses that can be combated.

 

How to combat unnecessary stress and make the most of the home-stretch:

  1. Keep a routine

Keeping a routine is one of the most promoted yet underestimated and underused pieces of advice. Having a routine makes many of the things in our lives that would otherwise be unpredictable, completely predictable – which then puts them in our control and minimizes the stress potentially attached to them. We also often underestimate how much time we waste during a day that can quite easily be spent on a productive and beneficial activity, had we had a thought out schedule and anticipated it. For example, packing a book and reading in the car in early morning traffic or on the way home is a great time to get your reading done when you would otherwise be doing nothing anyway. This also frees up the time you would have spent reading, and can now be spent on other things – allowing you to achieve a lot more, in less time. Where are you wasting time that could possibly be better spent if you had a schedule and planned for it?

  1. Set goals and daily tasks

How would you like to finish this year? What would you like your report to look like when you hand it to your parents? If you aren’t proud of where you are academically, then it’s time to start deciding where you would like to be, and what you need to do in order to get there. Set some long-term goals for yourself, and then determine what steps need to be taken each day that will get you closer towards your long-terms goals. This requires discipline, and sometimes saying no to other activities that a probably way more fun, but I can promise that you won’t regret it when you receive that report card at the end of the term.

  1. Prepare in advance

If you are anything like I was at school, you probably wait until the very last minute to do everything: to get out of bed in the morning, to do your homework, to start assignments. And as I’m sure you’ve already discovered, this inevitably always ends in a last minute rush that sends your stress levels through the roof! Let’s try getting out of procrastination station this term and start preparing for what will be coming, and keep coming, whether we prepare for it or not. Something as simple as packing your bag the night before can do wonders for a good start to the day, and will even help you to sleep better.

  1. Don’t fall behind

Having to catch-up a day or two’s work may sound like no big deal, but what happens when a day or two rolls over into a week or two? We understand that getting home after a full day of school to sit down and spend more hours on homework can be exhausting, and quite frankly, entirely unnecessary. But homework is here to stay whether we like it or not, and fortunately, has not killed anyone yet. The best way to avoid homework stress is to get it out of the way as soon as possible. After you’ve arrived home from school and had something to eat, dedicate the next hour or two (depending on your Grade and workload), to complete that day’s homework. If you’re able to, you can even move ahead with certain tasks or exercises if you know there will be some days where you might have less time to do homework due to sports etc. This leaves the evening free to do things that you enjoy, without having the guilt and anxiety of what’s still waiting for you in your school bag hanging over your head.

  1. Go over your work each day

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re able to keep up with your workload is by spending some time each day (+- 30 minutes) becoming familiar with what is new. This allows everything you learnt during the day to be processed and reinforced in your brain, which not only increases your ability to recall the information (memory), but also helps you to identify parts of your work you don’t fully understand. You can then spend some time making sense of the work you don’t understand, or make a note to have your teacher or tutor explain it to you. Making sure you understand your work daily also helps ensure that you don’t fall behind as previously mentioned.

  1. Still make time for the things you enjoys most

Have you ever heard that saying: “Too much of anything is a bad thing”? You may assume that cutting out sports and any other extra curricular activities will give you more time for academics, and therefore improve your marks, but truthfully, it’s going to end up costing you far more than is necessary. Creating a balance in your life is very important and cutting out the things you enjoy most will most likely result in resenting what’s left – school and homework. While academics are incredibly important, so is your health and fitness, and it has actually been proven that keeping active and making time for the things you enjoy will positively impact other areas of your life as you develop increased energy and better concentration. But remember, in order to make time for the things you enjoy, you’ll have to have a routine to determine what amount of free time you do and don’t have.

 

How BrightSparkz can help:

  • Private tutoring

BrightSparkz Tutors offers one-on-one, subject specific tutoring that takes place in the comfort of your own home or a venue of your choice. Tutors aim to identify the gaps in knowledge, while simultaneously facilitating learning through lots of practice, revision of theory, and interactive discussion of the subject matter.

Our tutors are unique individuals, who are selected carefully based on their specific strengths in their chosen subjects.  They not only have excellent knowledge of the subjects they tutor, but also a passion for tutoring and helping learners reach their potential.

  • Online Platforms

BrightSparkz Online is an award-winning online Maths and Science App tailored to South African learners from Grade 8 – 12. It covers all content for Maths, Natural Science, Physical Science and Chemistry, and is suitable for both CAPS and IEB learners. The app provides top quality resources, breaks up these curriculums into manageable sections, and is an excellent way to supplement your child’s one-on-one lessons.

  • Study Skills Workshops

BrightSparkz Tutors has partnered with an outstanding Educational Psychologist who offers insightful study skills workshops, designed to benefit Grades 8 – 12 in particular, in order to help your child make the most of their education and tutoring. For more information on when and where our holiday workshops will take place, please contact us on edupsych@brightsparkz.co.za.

 

It’s never too late for your child to start combating stressful habits and taking control of their education. But neither you nor your child have to do it alone – BrightSparkz Tutors are ready to help. Just click here, provide us with your details, and we’ll get right onto looking for the most suitable tutor for your learner’s needs.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Tutoring Learners with Dyslexia

In order to really help learners’ with dyslexia, you need to understand what exactly dyslexia is. Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes an individual to struggle with reading and writing. It can also affect other areas of a person’s life such as with memory skills, focusing and organization. When you understand how to teach a learner with dyslexia, you can help to improve their self-awareness as well as their cognitive skills by using teaching methods that include a multi-sensory approach. This can help them, not only in the classroom, but in other areas of their lives as well. Learners with dyslexia differ significantly in their ability to give oral presentations, partake in discussions, write letters, numbers, and paragraphs, spelling and have difficulty working in noisy or disorderly settings.

The following tips may help to improve your tutoring as well as their performance:

If you are helping the learner with a project – Outline the task before you start.  Think it through and figure out what steps to take, what is needed and how much time it will take to complete. Break a big project up into smaller and less intimidating sections.  Prioritise the work, not only by what is due, but also by what requires more or less time.

During a lesson:

  • Provide step-by-step instructions
  • Arrange work from the easiest to the hardest. Early success keeps learners motivated to work!
  • Present new or difficult information in small parts and complete each section in steps
  • A regular review of previous lessons can help learners connect new and old information
  • Don’t fall into the ‘no homework’ trap.  Instead, use any free time to do revision or begin work that is due later
  • Oftentimes, asking the learner to repeat directions and information in their own words can help them understand what is required of them. This is also a vital part for recalling information at a later stage when you are not necessarily there to assist
  • Combine verbal and visual information. Studies show that dyslexic learners are more likely to understand and retain visual information than information that is verbal or written
  • Use visual prompts. Put symbols or bullets next to questions or activities that are worth more marks. This helps learners to spend the right amount of time on each question
  • For learners who have difficulty with handwriting, the response mode should be changed to include a variety of answering methods such as underlining, selecting from multiple choices, sorting, or marking
  • Reduce the amount of copying. Instead, ask the learner to repeat what has been read or heard in his or her own words
  • Have learners turn lined paper vertically for math. This helps to keep numbers in the appropriate columns

Lastly, patience and encouragement is key! Build up a level of communication between you and your learner to improve your understanding of one another. Communication and understanding will provide much-needed encouragement, increase work performance and to get the most out of your lessons together.

Do you have any thoughts or tips to share when tutoring a learner with Dyslexia?

Written By Kristin Naude – Brightsparkz Tutor – Maths Literacy, English and Business Studies Tutor

Western Cape Education Department Aims High

The Western Cape is hopeful to increase its level of matric passes this year, aiming for a pass rate of at least 75%. Helen Zille and her education MEC, Debbie Schafer, say it is important to look at the retention rate of Grade 10 pupils in order to arrive at the ‘real’ matric pass rate. The province’s retention rate for Grade 10 to 12 has improved from 53.1% in 2009 to 63.5% in 2014. Last year 85.1% of pupils in the Western Cape attained their national senior certificate.

The province is aiming to reach a target of 43 000 passes this year as compared to the 40 558 in 2013. At this point, just below 50 000 full-time pupils are registered to write their final exams. “The Western Cape education department will continue to assist learners in the remaining 42 days with intensive support to schools,” says Zille.

Additionally, the Western Cape is hoping to maintain a target of 40% of pupils achieving access to education at a tertiary level. The South African government says they are committed to increasing the numbers of honours graduates to more than 75 000, masters’ graduates to more than 17 000, and doctoral graduates to more than 5 000, by the end of 2014. Unfortunately, the challenge in fully meeting these targets “is that the production of these skills is threatened by an ageing lecturing workforce at higher education institutions,” says Zuma. “One fifth of academics will retire within a decade, and many of these are professors”. This means the most experienced of academics “will be leaving higher education”. South Africa needs to produce more graduates entering the education field and so we need to make academia more “exciting for our youth”.

Written by Kristin Naude
BrightSparkz specialist tutor – Maths Literacy, English, History and Biology