By Holly Shan
Kip McGrath Whitianga may seem only to be a small room located at 11c Coghill Street, but it has significantly impacted multiple of students who have gained confidence and independence from the skills taught there. Pauline Curtain, the owner and tutor at Kip McGrath Whitianga since 2017, is a former primary school teacher with 34 years of experience. In the interview with The Informer, Pauline shared her passion for helping children learn.
“I just want children to have an opportunity to learn," Pauline said. "That’s why we work with a one-on-one program and only have four children under my care at a time.” Pauline employs experienced teachers who have been in classrooms, to assist her with the children.
According to Pauline, most students who come to Kip McGrath are short-term. "They are here because they are unhappy at school. This could be due to being behind in a subject or subjects and they have lost confidence in their learning," she said. "My objective is that they get to a point where they actually feel confident to be back in their classroom and ready to be good at what they are doing, so they don’t have to come again.”
There are also some students who carry on their after-school learning for the long term. Usually, those are advanced learning students whose parents want their children to get as much learning done as possible or the student is preparing for boarding school. “To me, they are all the same. What I do is put them on a positive path for learning.”
Kip McGrath is an Australian franchise over 45 years old and scattered worldwide. These days, a well-established online system is available, which helps plan and tailor the tutoring to each child's individual level. Though Pauline thinks everything on the computer is much more convenient, “Even during the lockdown or when they have a holiday, I can connect with them to keep teaching.” She still uses worksheet activities in her class. “I print off some worksheets which Mr Kip McGrath and his wife wrote originally for this program. I really believe that handwriting will help children remember, so writing should always be a part of the learning process.” After class, children go home with half an hour of homework online and on paper to review the lesson.
Pauline believes happiness and confidence are crucial for children's learning every week. Before and after class, she takes time to talk to the children about what’s going on in their lives. "As an experienced teacher, I think it's essential that they build a relationship with me." She has a complex but effective system to encourage students. "Every time they work online, they earn points on the screen and can win a $10 voucher. We have many photos at the reception of kids with their certificates and gift vouchers."
At the same time, after every week's lesson, children can get up to three stamps on their record paper: one for last week's homework, one for their achievement in the class, and one for that day's study attitude. When they get ten stamps, they get awarded chocolate. “Of course, we have chocolates at home, but to Caitlyn, the chocolate here is special.” Jodi, an eight-year-old student’s Mum, told The Informer how significant the improvement was that her daughter has made here. And they can get an extra gift when the whole record paper is full of stamps. “There are many rewards going on all the time to help them progress, because we want them to make accelerated progress," Pauline said happily.
Pauline also helps children with learning disabilities. “I can recognise it straight away, but I will never say it," she said. "Sometimes it’s just a different way of learning. Their special way lets them get lost in the school system, but they can have a beautiful opportunity to get one-on-one help here.”
Kip McGrath faces the same struggles as the local community, including the weather and road closures, declining tourism, and parents' concerns about work. Pauline usually has two sessions in the afternoon from Monday to Thursday and an extra session on Wednesday because school finishes at 2pm. This means she can take a maximum of 50 students a week. However, the number of students declined significantly this year. She is still committed to giving children an opportunity to learn and helping them build their confidence.
Caption: Caitlyn and Israel receiving this week’s stamps.