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Difficult students...

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by LB213, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. LB213

    LB213 New commenter


    Having worked as a primary school teacher (and having experience of teaching KS3), I decided in March 2018 that it was time for a change and I decided to go self-employed.

    I have been very fortunate that the parents of the children I tutor have passed my name on to family and friends and am now really busy.

    My dilemma at the moment is...

    I have 2 pupils who are very reluctant to do any work whatsoever when I go to see them (I would tutor at home but we are undergoing major renovations at the moment). It has come to the point now where I can't get them to do anything that is even remotely challenging, therefore making me feel that the sessions are not worthwhile. Having taught SEN and groups filled with behavioural challenges before, both in KS2 and KS3, I feel I have a fair amount of experience in motivating children, however these two seem to have firmly decided that they don't want me there, doing extra work with them. Their parents are keen for them to be tutored but the children are counting down the minutes, no matter which activities or approaches I use and are becoming quite rude too.

    I have 3 other parents asking if I have spaces at the moment and I know that their children are keen and motivated.

    I guess my question is, how would you go about broaching the subject with the parents of the 2 boys. The thing that is getting to me the most is that I feel I'm not making an impact and therefore the session is wasted, which goes against all my instincts as a professional.

    Thanks so much in advance for any tips!

    markbamforth likes this.
  2. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    Just say that those pupils need a different type of tutor and you feel that you are not able to help them progress.
  3. Kateray1

    Kateray1 Occasional commenter

    Sounds similar to one of mine a bit of 14 expelled from two schools that I agreed to tutor until he finds a suitable alternative course or PRU.

    He does what I give him some sessions then yesterday did a couple of sums while huffing and puffing and putting his head on the desk. He does have a sad background which I have taken into account.

    However mum is reluctant to pay if he is doing nothing. I don’t think in this instance a change of tutor will help.

    In your situation I would definitely get everyone together and explain that you ground rules that need following about behaviour firstly and if they feel they can not all get on the same page for tutoring then you need to decide if you want to continue in that situation.

    Sometimes you can take a horse to water but can’t make him drink , so to speak.
    Good luck with it.
    markbamforth likes this.
  4. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Sounds like you have two lads that do not share their parent's aspirations for them. Before they reach the point that they tell their parents you are 'rubbish at teaching', maybe you could say the boys are not engaging with the teaching process and ask if they feel it is worth continuing, rather than you admit failing to being able to change their attitude.
    markbamforth likes this.
  5. LB213

    LB213 New commenter

    I agree. I think that the parents are part of the problem for one boy as it is 'get in there ____' as if it is a chore that must be done. I don't feel that I'm failing, more that their disinterest is overriding any efforts I am making. As I said, I've taught for a while now (6 years) and have faced many disengaged students but it is a different ball game when they're at home and don't want you there. They've both said they like me, just they don't want to do more work at home. The problem is that I can't challenge/take them further in their learning if they refuse any activity, even when I spend ages making resources about their favourite things.
  6. LB213

    LB213 New commenter


    Thank you so much for your comment. You've given me some good tips and I'll speak to his parents this week and explain how things have been.

    That quote is perfect - spot on.

    Thank you again
  7. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    I agree with the previous posts. It seems you need to gently drop them as soon as possible, especially as you have other pupils waiting who may look elsewhere for a tutor if they have to wait too long. Presumably the parents must be aware that things are not going very well so it should not come as a surprise to them if you tell them you don't feel the boys are engaging and you aren't making any progress.

    Do you tutor them together? If so that may be part of the problem.
    markbamforth likes this.
  8. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    One off the great things about tutoring is that YOU get to pick and choose who is worthy of your services. If a student is stupid enough to incur my displeasure then I don't have the slightest hesitation in dropping them.

    Teaching difficult, lazy, ungrateful kids is for the schmucks who work in most UK schools:p.
  9. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I'm not currently working in a UK school, but I find your language offensive there, David. There are many good and dedicated teachers in our schools.
  10. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    To be honest I wouldn't lose any sleep over letting them go. The first time it happened to me, I agonised over how to word it. In three 45 minute lessons we did a few numbers, a few colours and my name is. Two little boys. They didn't want to know. I dropped them by text after going over and over what to say. Mum didn't reply for about five days then said she thought what I was doing was too hard.... Pointing to green things and saying the word for green, counting how many green things there are on the table etc . That was too hard. I have over 20 years teaching experience.
    I had another occasion to let someone go and again, I stressed over it, funny enough that was two boys as well! Once it was done, I felt so much better.
    I wouldn't stress again. The space will be filled.. The parent needs to take some responsibility here. Maybe ask them to sit in?
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  11. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    What have you said to the parents so far? I.e. in the feedback after the sessions?
    markbamforth likes this.
  12. hs9981

    hs9981 Established commenter

    Just say to them that their son is such a lazy little @#$#, that you cannot in good faith take money from them when so little is filtering through their rude, obnoxious little skull.

    'I'm turning away your child. and you're paying me! Imagine what his poor teachers at school have to put up with!' Don't sugar coat it. Your business will be fine!
    Mrsmumbles and David Getling like this.
  13. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Last year I can remember telling a mother that her son was intensely lazy. The waste-of-space boy walked into his second tutoring session and just said "teach me mechanics". And at the end he told me that he felt he only needed an occasional tutoring session, which was clearly not the case. I detest students like this, and am very happy to be rid of them. I don't know why parents let their kids get away with laziness or bad behaviour: I certainly wouldn't.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  14. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    What have you said to the parents so far? I.e. in the feedback after the sessions?

    Just say to them that their son is such a lazy little.........

    Question was really for the OP.

    @LB213 - what have you said so far to the parents in your feedback after the sessions?
  15. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Blimey, I’d get rid of that pair. He has to want to do it and she has to pay you! Eject! I use the different tutors line a lot. I will add in EAL coaching for bright students from another culture, but I am no miracle worker. If they’re not bothering to do the work, they’re not mature enough to fly solo, so ours doing them all a favour to let them go and find a kid who really will thrive.there are enough out there!
  16. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    To be fair, you sometimes cannot get through to parents that they have to push their kid and support you by reminding their kid to do the work, stay on track, etc. Some really don’t want to engage or face the truth.
  17. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    I prefer one to one. Two together...that is hard!
  18. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    In really exceptional cases, yes. However, the vast majority of initially reluctant / unmotivated students (even with awkward parents), I find can be turned around if you really know how to handle them. I've got a few techniques with these sort of kids that work really really well - I can often take such students and within a month, have them self-motivated and taking responsibility for their own work. This is probably my strongest attribute as a tutor and I'm very happy to make a post of here detailing these techniques if this is an area other tutors are interesting in improving on also.

    A big part of this though is the feedback conversations that you have with students and parents after the sessions, which is why I've asked the OP a couple of times what's been said already in these discussions. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be answering, so I guess we'll never know!
  19. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Ian, unless you are desperate, why bother, when there are good students and parents around? Life is too short to waste on these types.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  20. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    Why do I bother?

    I guess partly because I enjoy a bit of a challenge and partly because it can be very rewarding - I've taken on many lazy and unmotivated students and, within the month, had them self-motivated, working really hard and voluntarily doing extra homework between the sessions. I've had parents say to me "the work ethic you've instilled into him is rubbing off into his other subjects, not just maths" - when that happens, you know that you've really made a big difference.

    It really is personal preference though. As self employed tutors, we're well within our rights to say 'I'm not working with him or her' - unless classroom teachers, we have choice in this area. I wouldn't continue working with a student if, after a month, my methods hadn't worked and they were still lazy and unmotivated.

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