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Conflict with their school teacher.

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by Mathsteach2, Dec 20, 2009.

  1. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    The title of this thread has arisen from my posts in the thread entitled: "students who ....". That thread really needs to be a catalogue of different things which students do, I think, rather than focus on my offering, students who become inattentive.
    I have numerous experiences with different students (school-age, 5 -16) where they become uncomfortable with what I am saying and what they are being told at school (or occasionally by their parents).
    In some of my other posts here, I have explained I am a traditionalist in my presentations, and therefore in my relationships with my students. I advertise on this basis, and get those students (or their parents) who want this approach. In this I am successful, I fill my time, but I have lost a few students who did not like my approach!
    Although willing to accommodate individualities to some extent, I want students who want to be with me and want to learn. In my teaching in private schools in the UK, my most effective disciplinary comment was that I told a student that your parents are paying for this, therefore pay attention! I use this in my private tuition now. I have always been fascinated by the stories of C. S. Lewis when he had a private tutor in his teens, and he used to hold conversations in latin with him!
    I prefer to use the student's school textbook (mathematics), and suggest back-up exercises, give re-enforcement presentations, and deliver new topics as preparation for their school teaching.
    Some parents have told me that a teacher at school has resented their child receiving private tuition, causing a disaffection between the teacher and their child. I discover errors in continuity and progression in the child's lessons. The child sometimes challenges me!
    My question is, how far do we take our observations of anomalies to the student's individual teachers? Of course, it would be done through parents, and that is my approach, and I do my best not to undermine the student's relationship with their teacher. That last one is difficult, sometimes!
     
  2. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I'm not sure I fully understand your question.
    You seem to be saying that you tutor in what could be called a traditional way, or could be called old fashioned methods depending on one's point of view. This obviously is sometimes different from what the child learns at school and so causes conflict for you, the pupil and the schoolteacher.
    I tend to ask the children how they have been taught a certain thing and which part they have a problem with. I then follow the school method, even if it is not my preferred method to explain away their difficulties.
    I see my role as a tutor to back up what the school teaches and give the child extra help and practise in what they have done at school. This way there is no conflict. But maybe teachers where you live are less happy about tuition.
     
  3. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    My aplogies, minnieminx, I should have given an example or two, perhaps, but the post was getting pretty long anyway! I described my style because I wanted it understood that I am not the sort of person to turn a blind eye to deficiencies, nor to compromise with students or parents when I have spotted a problem.
    1. The teacher who does little marking and never checks HW.
    2. Errors in the mathematics, like the regular polygon circumscribed by a circle which I described.
    3. Lack of continuity, the teacher jumps about from topic to topic, presumably in a vague attempt to maintain interest.
    4. Teachers who tear out the answer pages from the back of school text-books!!
    5. Teachers who allow their students to write their workings anywhere, in the back of their exercise book, on rough paper, whatever.
    With one parent, I wrote a letter for him to carry to the school and present it to the HoD. They didn't like that!
     
  4. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I hope I am not the sort of person to ignore deficiencies in the maths knowledge of my pupils, indeed it is my role as tutor to address them. However the problems you describe are not all things I would worry about. Some are not my business to criticise and some are things I can do nothing about so won't waste my time getting het up.
    1. Not my role to criticise. The teacher teaches as they see fit. It might not be my way, but it is theirs and I would never ever criticise a teacher to a pupil. That to my mind is unprofessional and will lead to all sorts of problems for the pupil.
    2. Even the best teachers make the occasional mistake. I know I do as both teacher and tutor.
    3. I cannot begin to comment on why the teachers of my tutees teach the topics they do, at the speed they do, in the order they do. I trust them to do what they believe to be best for the class as a whole. Sometimes it suits my tutees perfectly and sometimes it doesn't.
    4. Can be a teaching strategy if you have pupils you cannot trust not to simply copy the answers with no idea of how they got them. Some teachers believe it is the best way, some do not. We all have a right to do what we believe to be best for our class.
    5. I think this springs from pupils wanting to keep their work neat in their books and so they scribble the bits elsewhere. I have spent 13 years teaching my classes that this is not the best thing to do, but it is an ongoing losing battle. They also rub out their working, despite me having gone mad the day before for the same thing. Drives me mad at school and in tutoring. But is not generally the fault of the teacher.

    I have to say I would never ever send a child to school with a letter criticising the school. Not because I don't care, but because I believe it undermines the teachers in the mind of the pupil. This to me is a greater evil than deficiencies in teaching. If I ever wanted to question the methods of a school a tutee of mine attended I would do so without the child's knowledge.
     
  5. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    It is interesting seeing over teacher's work in the books. The biggest thing that has surprised me is the low expectations compared to primary. Having just looked at the new GCSE papers, I don't see how after 5 years teaching pupils can still get an E.
    And then you see lists of sums, methods being taught that were done a long time ago in Primary and teachers who seem to have to focus on behaviour and not on the work.
    But I don't criticise the teacher in front of the pupil. I just try to boost the expectations of my pupils.
     
  6. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    I am in agreement with all you say about not involving the students, minnieminx, thank you again for your response.
    However, I do encourage them to ask questions about continuity and the pedagogy of their teachers, politely and with respect, of course. Criticism I try to relay through the parents, as exampled by the letter I wrote for one parent to take in.
    I am not familiar with the UKNC, but I do understand, I think, that it is parents' rights now for schemes of work and lesson plans to be made available to them. In my experience in private education in the UK (1975 to 1990) this was not unusual and we actively encouraged parents to hear about how and why we did what we did. Only occasionally did a parent criticise, but after our explanations and counselling they were happy, and kept their child in our school!

     
  7. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    Ihave to say that even this concerns me.
    I would not suggest my pupils ask their teacher why they teach what they do in the way that they do. I would tell my pupils that they may not get on with their teacher's methods, but the teacher is the expert and will have good reasons for doing as they do. Like I said before it is my role to support what is done in school not to encourage children to question the professional skills of their teacher.
    I am beginning to see why you might end up with conflict between school and tutor.
     
  8. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    I may open a thread in Opinion on this topic, minnieminx, but perhaps not until after Christmas!
    Again I agree with you, it may be just me that is looking for weaknesses in their schooling. However, as a parent I would be looking for the same, and would waste no time whatsoever in contacting the teacher or HT if I thought I had found a problem. And again, I thought the UKNC now encourages this and teachers have to respond and/or defend, as I experienced myself in private education in the UK.
    Before I start the thread in Opinion, I will try to do a search of the UKNC to get myself more informed of what is available for parents nowadays, and also any controversies that have come into the public domain.
     
  9. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I do that sometimes and then I think of children who arrive
    in year 5 at the age of 9 unable to spell their name or count to 10
    reliably. After 5 years getting an E would be a massive achievement! [​IMG]
    But, other than your first point, you haven't mentioned any weaknesses in schooling, just a different theory to your own.
    Parents are certainly encouraged to come in to school and ask questions.But it would be an arrogant parent indeed who would suggest they knew better than the teacher how to teach. We do get them occasionally, but a few well chosen questions and points soon make them realise that we do know what we are doing and are doing a good job.
     
  10. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    I am trying hard not to turn this thread into an eristic exchange, minnieminx, I am sure you too are doing the same. However, I must pick up on your observation that only my first point addresses an obvious weakness in the schooling of my tutees.
    You seem to suggest that my other examples (Nos. 2 to 5), although debatable, are only associated with my educational theories, and other teachers are entitled to their theories.
    I have to disagree, but I can only pick on one of the examples to argue my point (to keep this post short). I will choose the one about removing answer pages from school textbooks.
    Immediately, I can tell you that one of my parents, who did not like the idea of getting students to mark their own work, has now agreed with me that in the business of encouraging student autonomy and responsibility for their own learning, then this is why teachers have asked publishers to put the answer pages in their books. My most effective point with him was that his child could move more quickly through the exercises during his school lessons, rather than waiting for the teacher to mark his work. The removal of the answer pages to accommodate disaffected children only holds back those children who want to get on with their learning.
    As a parent, I would be very concerned that a teacher of my child was using strategies to accommodate disaffected children, rahter than making sure that my child was challenged to the maximum of his/her abilities.
     
  11. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    I think it is extremely important NOT to undermine the child's school teacher. None of us are perfect: we all get a little bit behind in marking sometimes; we jump between topics based on if there's an end-of-term assessment, mock exam, observation, OfSted etc coming up...the point is, you don't know the teacher, their style or the system the school works in. Perhaps they've been instructed to teach in that manner.
    I have to say that sending a letter to the school teacher is absolutely disgraceful! I'd resent you tutoring a child in my class if that's how you go about things.
    As a tutor, I see my role as one which supports the classroom teacher's role. I always give out my email address to the parents and ask them to email me updates of what the child has been covering at school, so that I can plan my lessons with them accordingly to support the child's learning. For instance, if they've been covering the Literature poetry, I will work of comparative essay skills, helping the child to put the information about the poems into an essay format in preparation for the exams. I take care never to over-rule their teacher if they teach something different about the poems than I do: I do however allow the child to decide which interpretation they agree with most, or indeed if they themselves have another idea entirely.
    My advice would be to continue being professional and teaching in a style that the parents want, but be more supportive of your teaching colleagues and not undermine them: they have to teach the child every day after all; they last thing they want is a child who disrespects them because their tutor has told them their teacher is wrong. Can you imagine having that child in your class?
     
  12. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    My department (English) doesn't even HAVE schemes of work to follow. We write our own. We get excellent results are were judged a "good faculty with many outstanding features" by OfSted last year. We make information about the National Curriculum and the AQA Spec of English and English Literature available via our website for parents. Ibet hardly any bother to look. Day to day lesson planning and the decision about which topic to cover, in which order, how long to spend on each topic and the areas of the topic to teach most and decisions that lie solely with the classroom teacher. We communicate our medium term planning (a week-by-week overview of what we are covering) to our HOD who saves them should SMT wish to know how she keeps tabs on our planning. Other than that, the parents have no right to see my lesson plans. Indeed, they'd struggle, since I don't really write them.
     
  13. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    My first relationship, Eva Smith, is with the parent, it is they who are paying me. I learnt this in fifteen years in private schools in the UK. Secondly, I tried to understand the student, and whether or not there were undue parental pressures (which sometimes was the case). Now in private tuition, my third concern is the student's teacher at school, and since I have observed throughout my career in the classroom (40 years), and continue to observe in present day classrooms, the indifference, incompetence, and unprofessional behaviour of some teachers, I will do my utmost to suggest to my parents that they have every right to enquire what is going on in their child's school.
    You suggest that most parents would not be interested in the curriculum of the school. I would agree, but my parents are not those, otherwise they would not be spending extra money on private tuition.
    You say you would resent my tutoring of a child in your class, but what could you do about it? Surely you would not discriminate against the child?! In any case, the communication from me would come through the parent, not directly, so would you advise them that their child's tutor was out-of-order? Not only do I welcome criticism from children, I welcome it from parents and other teachers. If I am proved wrong, I concede, and with the teacher I trust we can move forward together professionally. As you say, we all make mistakes.
    Of course I can imagine such a child in my class. In fact, I do not have to imagine, for throughout my career I have encouraged my students to question everything, including what I say and do. I think it is called the Socratic Method. If I cannot justify what I do or say, I will either change what I say, or search for different ways of saying it so that my students understand (Tolstoy).
    God bless you, and a Merry Christmas!
    P.S. Many thanks for your informative second post.
     
  14. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    This is NOT your job. If you have some personal vendetta against teachers, that's yolur problem. But the assessment of whether or not a teacher is fit to teach is NOT up to you, especially with little or no understanding/knowledge of who the teacher is, why they are teaching in the manner they are and how far the teacher is actually responsible for a student's lack of progress or understanding.
    I'm all for parents and children being aware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to their education. But it is NOT your job to undermine what a classroom teacher says. I think your attitude is vile. There are ways of disagreeing with your colleagues' method/views without undermining them.
     
  15. Putting my teacher hat on for a moment - I'd be incredibly uncomfortable with a pupil's tutor stirring up the relationship between school-home. Where normally I've gladly cooperated with children's tutors in terms of areas I feel are their strength/weakness and what we're up to in class etc - I wouldn't be cooperating with someone behaving in the way you've been describing.
    Working as a tutor, it's easy to judge from the perspective of the interests of one particular child, but when you've got the interests of the entire class to balance out, compromises have to be made - we live in an impefect world and 99% of teachers are just trying their best to the best they can with the constraints they're working within.
    I'm in a bit of an unusual position in that I've done a LOT of supply previously at the school most of my tutees come from - I know what's done well at that school and I know what's done not so well, but, while I'm honest with the parents in that I know the dynamics of the class and I know that their children tend to be the quieter ones who bubble beneath the surface in the class, I'm also honest enough to turn around and tell them, "Look, no school's perfect, but I've been in most of them around here and that one is the one I'd push to get any child of mine into" - because it's my honest opinion. Perhaps I'd be more guarded if it was a school known to me as a hell-hole - must remain professional.
     
  16. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    I have read through my own posts again, and I cannot see how what I have said should cause such a description of my concerns for students as "vile". I am not having much success in my searching on this topic yet, but I found this:
    "Ask about your child's homework - find out when work is due and whether they need any help with anything.
    "Find out the topics your child will be studying each term by looking at the school's curriculum plan or talking to (the) teacher."
    Taken from:
    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Schoolslearninganddevelopment/HelpingYourChildToLearn/DG_4015467
    Although the etymology is contraversial, I take the word "education" to mean "to bring out" or "to lead out" and have always conducted my teaching accordingly. I learnt this when I trained as a teacher (1965). Many times my students have not gone in the direction I might have preferred, but my faith in children far surpasses anything adults have ever been able to do, otherwise we would not be in the mess which we all still find ourselves.
    I am very sorry that I seem to have prompted a level of ire from Eva Smith, and this the Christmas season too! I can assure you that I do not encourage children to challenge or contradict their teachers. I think if you read my posts carefully, in context, (I am not in favour of this business of quoting a short piece and using it to try to make a point - it reminds me of the Jehovah's Witnesses at the door who constantly quote a short piece of scripture in their attempt to get over their message) you will see that my emphasis is firstly to fully involve their parents, and secondly to try to get students to understand as completely as possible what it is in which they are engaged. For instance, concerning the removal of answer pages from the backs of textbooks, either through the parent or the student when old enough (14+ usually), I get them to ask for a set of pages for their own use, if it is the case that some students in the class cannot be trusted.
    Throughout my teaching career, the students (and parents) who ask questions, and challenge me to explain how and why I do what I do, are the ones who have kept me in teaching, and prevented me from becoming bored.
     
  17. I think perhaps that the roles of teacher and tutor are different. Tutoring 1 to 1 whether in or out of school is rather different to group work in or out of school.
    Teachers in the public sector are working to a set of professional standards and registered with a professional body the GTC.
    Private tutors are not required to register. What third party is monitoring the tutoring activities of these people? How can parents of prospective tutees have knowledge of a tutor's knowledge and ability?
    A parent might well expect a tutor to have up to date knowledge of the National Curriculum, AFL, etc if only to allow the tutor to understand how the mainstream teacher is being guided in their teaching activities.
    The tutor is free to accept/decline those individuals they wish to work with, the teacher is given groups of pupils which includes those with statements,EAL and othere issues.
    As a parent of children who attended both state and independent schools and who received private tutoring I think that the roles of the staff concerned are very different.
    Whilst word of mouth can be a recommendation I would like to see a third party validation of tutors.
    I certainly would not wish there to be any ill feeling caused by the use of a tutor. As a parent I would want to know of any concerns about the pupil's preparation for a subject by the school. Whether and in what way that was to be communicated to the student would be an issue that I/we would wish to be part of (as I/we would probably have a better knowledge of how the student light be affected by such information and what they might do with such information). Whether and how the teacher was informed of the use of a tutor would be another issue in which I/we would wish to be involved.
     
  18. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    But if the concerns were based only on the fact the tutor had a different educational philosophy to the teacher, how would you know? Would you then be concerned when you have no need to be? Would you then be worrying about the teaching of your child, when in fact it is very good teaching? How would any parent (who is not a teacher) know?
    Teachers generally (in the uk) have no problem with pupils receiving extra tuition. They would however have a problem if the tutor started to suggest to parents that the teacher should be doing this, that or the other differently. The moment such a suggestion is made, however tactfully, parents and pupils begin to see the teacher in a different light and wonder about the teaching they are receiving. Hence it is not the tutors role to comment on the teaching received at school. Even if asked directly, there are ways to evade the question and this remain professional and loyal to colleagues.
     
  19. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    I seem to have opened a can of worms! Teachers are accountable, and as I understand it the UK National Curriculum was implemented to make this even more so. As I have explained already, in private education teachers have always been accountable to parents and good teachers have no problem with this. I suspect the loyalty referred to somehow relates to the unionisation of the teaching profession.
    I use the word profession somewhat reservedly. I have far greater respect for doctors, for although they do exhibit strong loyalty amongst themselves, they are far more open to second opinions. The Professional Army (not so much the police - there is too much corruption there), the Fire Service and nurses are extremely professional, I think.
    As a parent, and now as a private tutor, I see nothing wrong, and certainly nothing unprofessional, in encouraging parents and students to question what goes on in the school. If it is a theoretical or pedagogical difference, then any professional teacher will be able to justify their actions, and can be expected to do so.
    My five examples in my earlier post do nothing to threaten such professionalism, in fact, enquiries based on them, and I have a few more, can only develop the professionalism of the teachers and the school. I thought this business with our children was supposed to be a partnership between parents and schools. The evasion of such questioning is not, to my mind, evidence of professionalism. It rather more smacks of attempts to hide our dirty linen.
    Also earlier I suggested that this thread should not get eristic. I am not seeking advice (I have over forty years experience) but I am always interested in how others operate and how they deal with problems, in this case deficiencies (as I see them, I may be wrong) in my tutees' schooling. If there is no-one reading this thread who has these sorts of problems, then I wonder will we ever improve the quality of our schools? I am quite willing to explain why I do what I do, both theoretically and pedagogically, but I would like to hear of any conflicts and hopefully their resolution, short of refusing to continue to tutor the child.
    Many thanks for your post, Threp, and of course roles are different, as are the roles of parent and school teacher. However, I work closest with the parent, therefore if I perceive a problem I communicate immediately with the parent. It is then up to the parent if they wish to take it as a concern of theirs to the school.
     
  20. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I think you are missing our point, not sure if deliberately or not. I do not see it as my role to highlight any perceived weaknesses in school teaching and therefore create tension and suspicion between parents, children and schools.
    My role as a tutor is to enable my tutees to achieve more than they would otherwise do so. It is the role of headteachers, the GTC and LAs to improve the quality schools.Me telling a child and their parents that their classteacher should be doing this, that and the other will not improve schools at all. Just create tensions that are needless.
    Refuse to tutor the child because I don't think they have a very good teacher at school? Err surely the opposite is the case. The less good the teacher the more the child needs a good tutor.
    I don't deal with problems between tutor and school as I don't create any problems to deal with. If you choose to create problems and tensions then that is obviously your choice. But I do not believe it is our role as tutor to have anything to do with the teaching philosophy of the teachers that our tutees attend.
     

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