Careers & Education

Jamellia Blythe takes entrepreneurial leap

The business of tutoring

BY DENISE DENNIS Career & Education staff reporter dennisd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 24, 2012    

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ALTHOUGH passionate about educating the young, Jamellia Blythe realised early in her teaching career that the traditional classroom was not for her.

That's the reason she left her job as a teacher of English, business and reading at Charlie Smith High School in 2009, in favour of starting her own business as a tutor.

Her company, called High Flyer Tutoring Service, was registered in 2011.

"Having been in the public [school] system and seeing the ills of the system, I decided to fashion something that fits my personality, instead of going into the classroom every day," the 28-year-old Blythe told the Jamaica Observer.

Her five-year-old son Seth also factored in her decision to become an entrepreneur after only a year and a half in the formal classroom.

"Having a child, I wanted to have something that would allow me to be flexible. He [my son] is homeschooled and I can work around him in terms of scheduling my sessions. So I can teach on a Sunday or on a Saturday, depending on my client, and still get to be with him," Blythe said.

Now with the benefit of a team of 20 other educators, her company offers in-home tutoring in one-on-one or small group sessions; e-tutoring; homework coaching; summer tutoring; and homeschooling support.

Students sitting the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams, the Grade Six Achievement Test, and the Grade Nine Achievement Test, the Grade Four Literacy Test can all benefit. Also on offer at High Flyer is tutoring for those youngsters pursuing foreign languages, such as French, Japanese and Spanish, as well as college courses, including calculus, English as well as banking and finance.

In addition, Blythe told Career & Education she will source tutors for subjects or courses not immediately on offer at High Flyer, where the cost of one-on-one tutoring is upwards of $1,200 per hour.

In the year since the business was established, Blythe, the holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of the West Indies, said she has been steadily attracting clients.

Blythe is proud of her offerings and the benefits to both team members and clients.

"We have a lot of unemployed teachers and it's really a way for them to get employed because the market is under-served. [At the same time], whenever I go out and market [the company], people are like 'Oh, they didn't know this existed'; they are looking for a tutor," said the woman who also holds a postgraduate diploma of education in business administration from the Mico University College.

To set up the business, which is run from 22B Old Hope Road, it cost Blythe just about $60,000. However, maintaining her operations is not cheap.

"One of the challenges [faced] is the payment; a lot of tutors will tell you people will owe because most [persons] get paid monthly. [However], you have overhead costs and all that, so that can have a negative impact," she said.

Blythe has offered encouragement to those who may want to become tutors while providing insight into what they do.

"As a tutor, we normally work with persons who are slow or behind in class. [However], it can be for persons who are advanced. For example, you may have someone who is not being challenged in class and they have the option of homeschooling. Sometimes parents have that option and they take that option and as a tutor you are called in to assist that child in whatever area," she said.

As for the academic requirements, Blythe said: "You have to be a trained teacher. Some persons are experts in areas, but they are not teacher-trained; however, they have master's-level [training] in that field. [At High Flyer], we normally take tutors who have over 10 year's experience in their field and [who] have a master's [degree]."

She added that patience was a must for all tutors.

"That's one of the problems they have in the schools; a lot of the teachers are not really patient. You [also] have to be able to assess a situation and know that what works for one child doesn't work for the other, and you have to be willing to work," Blythe said.

At the same time, she said one had to enjoy teaching in order to do an effective job as a tutor.

"You have to love what you do, first of all, because there will be downtimes. [For example], when it's exam time, you may have a lot of clients, but what about summer? If you are in the public system, you will still get paid, but it is downtime for tutors — especially August," Blythe said.

"It also depends on your goals as a person and your ability to adapt, because in my downtime when I am not teaching, I am editing or assisting with research," she added.

Looking back, she has no regrets over her decision to leave the high school where she had taught for more than a year; she currently has the best of both worlds — a job she loves and which she does on her own time.

"I work late sometimes so I can sleep in a little later. I can work on a Sunday and I can work on a Saturday; being a full-fledged teacher you don't have that flexibility. [I also have] the ability to work different places [and] I like to travel... and I get to meet a lot of people," Blythe said.

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