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Do I lack expertise or are they expecting too much?

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by humbug, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. humbug

    humbug New commenter

    Quaking a bit as I ask that question....

    I have been a private tutor for a while, after qualifying as a Modern Language teacher and teaching both French and Spanish to A Level. I now teach various levels, including adult learners.

    Each year I have a couple of A Level students. I find it challenging as the syllabus is quite wide and includes a range of literature and cultural stuff. But I enjoy it.

    I'll say this bit as it is, as I'm a bit confused. A year 13 student contacted me over the summer and began tuition via one of the reputable tutor sites often mentioned on here. I explained my terms and conditions. He didn't turn up for the second lesson. I texted after 10 minutes to check he was on his way, but only an hour or so after the lesson did I receive a text to say there had been a family emergency and they were very sorry but could he come another day. To cut a long story short, I made them pay for this lesson, and up front for the next. I'm not sure of the emergency as I had conflicting stories from another family member. They weren't too happy about paying though.

    After that, I explained again that I've set aside the time each week and would expect attendance and/or payment, unless they give me 24 hours notice. But what they do... each week, a day or two before the lesson, usually late at night, they text to confirm that they are coming. I think you tutors will see the problem here. They are basically saying they are booking on a week to week basis, to avoid payment if they cancel. Or am I being too harsh?

    The third problem is that I am finding the preparation I have to do for these lessons is very onerous. The student wants a lot of help with A Level literature. I have studied and taught A Level literature, and have the relevant books and cribs etc, but I'm finding I need to do more and more in depth preparation. This week, with his "confirmation" email, he has asked for in depth word analysis, so I feel I need to look at whole chunks of text in preparation. Actually, this is for a lesson tomorrow, and I've decided to write on here, rather than do that work.

    I'm wondering if I should try and lose this student and how I should approach this, if I do. I also know, because they have told me, that he had at least one tutor earlier in the year, who presumably didn't survive. This makes me feel entitled to lose him, but also a bit guilty, as I might be his last chance.

    Any thoughts here appreciated. The lovely students and parents are just lovely, but when there are problems you can feel a bit isolated when you are freelancing.
     
  2. David Getling

    David Getling Senior commenter

    You will always get some nasty, inconsiderate, lying, cheating students and parents. So ditch them immediately and save yourself a lot of aggravation. More importantly, they are taking up a slot that you could give to someone decent, who will turn up each week and stay with you.

    I operate a zero tolerance policy, and have no regrets about doing so. So far this year I have had three bad students. One emailed me at 3:45 am, presumably after leaving a club, to say she couldn't make her morning lesson. Another lazy girl couldn't get her butt out of bed in the morning and turn up on time. I dropped both of these. Then there was another lazy girl who phoned me half an hour before she was due to arrive to say she had now found another tutor who would come to her home.

    I know that, as per the last few years I will fill up with good appreciative students. So, life is too short to squander on those who are too stupid to know when they have got one of the best teachers in the country.
     
  3. NoSuchThingAsNormal

    NoSuchThingAsNormal New commenter

    You were right to ask for payment for non-attendance.

    Ditch him, sounds like he wants homework help rather than tuituion.
     
  4. humbug

    humbug New commenter

    Thank you for these replies.

    Writing here and hearing back has reminded me that they are annoyed I made them pay for no cancellation, and there is always a bit of a struggle. It's almost as if they are making it hard deliberately, giving last minute confirmations, wide ranging requests at the last minute.

    So I'm pleased I can ditch him!

    I have him today at 10, sandwiched between two other students. I didn't prepare anything onerous last night, but plan to say he didn't clarify exactly what help was needed, so I have prepared some grammar and translation exercises. Sometimes he asks for help with a literature essay on the spot. I will help him focus on the essay and talk him through my thoughts, but this time he may have to wait.

    Any thoughts on how to ditch him gracefully? I'm pretty sure I could easily fill his slot next week, but as I have students either side of him and a childminder in my house to cover the lesson time, it's hard too be too specific about excuses, such as timing problems. Also I'm guessing the ditching is better done by phone as I don't want my other students to sense trouble.

    Perhaps I could leave the booking open for next lesson, as he likes, and when he comes to "confirm" say the slot has been taken for this week...?
     
  5. theluckycat

    theluckycat New commenter

    Don’t worry about dropping a tutee, ultimately it is up to you and as long as you go it professionally and politely that’s fine. I have dropped a couple both for valid and sensible reasons. If you are repeatedly thinking ‘hmmm’ about them, then definitely trust your instincts.
     
  6. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Top tip:

    Create a simple word document with your terms and conditions. One should really be block ten hour bookings in advance before lessons start. It's so hard to juggle slots and create work continuity anyway, I don't know how people cope without this.
    I've found that the pre booking parents and students always turn up on time and make the effort. By week six, if they are still being a pain, I look for a good replacement student on my waiting list, meet them to assess (interview them really, to see if they are suitable to coach) then refund the family the remaining money, explaining that it isn't working and I cannot do any more for them. Often the naughty kids' parents have been ditched before and they appreciate the honest feedback, fast refund and week of notice. As long as you haven't agreed to deliver the entire booked period without fail and all the way through, you should be fine. Most of my students have been fine. Sadly, by week six, the ones who cannot be bovvered need to go, as I'm paid by the hour now and I'm not their full time teacher. As David says, if they are too thick to appreciate the quality, let them go and give your skills to others. Also, maybe consider specialising in GCSE and A level in one subject only, with a part time job to top up. You are not their teacher, you are their once weekly coach.
     
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  7. David Getling

    David Getling Senior commenter

    Humbug, don't waste any sleep about how to ditch this kid gracefully. In your position I would simply say that he, and his parents, have not treated you with the proper consideration and respect that everybody is entitled to. I have certainly told students and parents this on more than one occasion. It's very blunt, but it's absolutely true.

    Doing this won't turn nasty people into nice people, but once it's happened to them a few times they might just consider pretending to be decent human beings. Everybody who accepts inconsiderate behaviour from another only encourages them to treat others in the same way. So, do the world a favour.
     
  8. humbug

    humbug New commenter

    Thank you again. I've realised that the boy himself isn't to bad. It's the mother. But I know this still means they are a headache.

    Good advice about block payments. I think I may certainly start doing this for A level.

    I think I also lack self confidence sometimes, which can make me afraid to say no, or ask a student to wait. Today he did put me on the spot with two essay questions. He wasn't expecting me to write the essays, but he wanted me to say if he was on the right track. I was able to do that. I also gave him some important pointers about imagery and he was grateful for that. Then I did the grammar and it was grammatical points he hand't particularly asked for, but he found of use.

    So I think I have food for thought here and perhaps need to have the confidence to take the reins a bit more.

    Thanks again. Pleased I found the forum.
     
  9. theluckycat

    theluckycat New commenter

    Yes it is a useful forum, as a tutor you do sometimes feel slightly out of touch with best practice etc. since you work alone. I often ask questions on TES forum to reassure myself that I’m doing the right thing and also as CPD as it’s always good to be continually improving.
     
  10. doctoryes

    doctoryes New commenter

    Basically as a freelance tutor it is up to you decide whether the potential tutee fits in with your style of tutoring or not. As you have said they are giving notice that they are coming to avoid a cancellation charge. Some of these on-line tutoring websites have in their terms and conditions that tutoring is on a week by week basis and that this is for both sides - so if you don't think it's working out for you, you can end the tutoring! If you have recruited this student through one of these websites (check their terms and conditions), you may find that you cannot charge for lessons in advance.

    In terms of what to cover in a lesson though, I usually agree this a week in advance at the end of the lesson e.g. next week we will cover......... If they want to change it they need to let me know at least 24 hours in advance. So for a 10am lesson that's before 10am the previous day.
     
  11. humbug

    humbug New commenter

    Yes that makes a lot of sense.

    I have been tutoring for a while and have never asked for block payments. However, I do quite often ask for a lesson in advance. Occasionally I've had a student disappear on me, but that tends to prevent this.

    You have reminded me that generally the flexibility works for me. I usually have enough students to enjoy the free time if someone tells me at the end of the lesson that they have a school trip next week. Also, as I teach on Sundays, occasionally things come up with only a few weeks notice. But I did make it clear to the A level boy that the expectation was each week. I wouldn't have time to be texting everyone each week, or waiting for confirmation. I will look at the agency terms but I think once they get their fee they are happy to Leave it up to the tutor.
     
  12. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    I teach languages
    I worked in secondary school without a sixth form so I have not read the endless literature that is required for A level so I do not offer it. I just don't need the hassle.
    I find that with the primary kids and the adults, I have enough work to keep me ticking over. I don't particularly want to do a lot of GCSE students as I find that they want me to teach them to pass an exam. I want to teach for understanding. If I am going to teach to exams, I may as well have stayed working in the school
    In the past I have agonised how to ditch someone but now I would not lose sleep over it. One parent wanted me to teach a three year old and a six year old together. I said you know your own kids best she said they would be fine. We had three lessons, one lesson they were late, one lesson the three year old just wanted to walk round the room and the other lesson the parent sat changing a nappy on the her 12 month old baby while she sat at the table with us. I jumped through all kinds of hoops to keep their attention. Then I spent ages wondering how to word ditching them. I sent a message saying I did not feel they were making progress and they would be better waiting until they were a little older and then to do separate lessons. Five days later, I got a reply. Five! Days! She said she thought my lessons were too hard.....In three lessons we did numbers 1-10, learnt about 6 colours and did my name is.....and that was too hard, I incorporated superheroes and dinosaurs as that's what they liked. I could not have made it any easier or more interesting. So now I would not hesitate to just say it is not working. Lesson well and truly learned on that one. Give me the adults who want to learn for work or holidays any day!
     
  13. humbug

    humbug New commenter

    Thank you for this reply langteacher.

    I can understand why you don't want the hassle of literature. This is where I have had to analyse things carefully. I think I do enjoy the literature enough to tutor it, but I need to be careful to be clear on what I offer, and be realistic about my targets and theirs.

    I know what you mean about jumping through hoops for GCSE too. It sort of makes me NOT want to teach languages, as it makes it so tedious. As you suggest, so many end up with very little real grasp of a language, or ability to hold a conversation. But a lot of time and money is taken up with it. I find my GCSE students the easiest to deal with though and I have loads of materials for them. Primary is more fun, but I don't find it's that much fun one to one, and they lose concentration quickly.

    It's great when adults have enthusiasm, but I find adults are the worst for coming to a regular lesson. They chop and change and want to book at the last minute. My worst experience was when an adult learner who seemed a bit odd as he very quickly booked a lesson without asking for many details. This was in my early and naïve days tutoring. We did A Level French, and at the end of the lesson he asked me for a grade prediction. I said we hadn't really touched on all the skills and I couldn't tell from just one lesson. Next thing I knew, UCAS were writing to me with an attached reference I had supposedly signed. When I wrote back to say I hadn't signed this, but remembered the man, they phoned to say I should perhaps contact the police about the strange man. I remember now he had also mentioned that he had been mentally ill. And there were typos in the reference.

    I think part of my point there was that, as a woman on my own, with 3 children, I have to be careful about the adult pupils. I've never had anyone really nasty, but sometimes I feel they are doing the class partly for company, and they tend to turn up too early and then take slightly too long going. I remember once popping round to a neighbour, half an hour before a class, and on return discovered the man was already sitting in my kitchen. He had turned up over twenty minutes early and my then 12/13 year old son had let him in. Also, I don't really like people asking to use the toilet,or commenting on the décor. Or not until I have taught them for some time.
     
  14. David Getling

    David Getling Senior commenter

    Humbug, I'm another one that's not too keen on people using my toilet: in particular males. In fact, I immediately dropped one boy who left my toilet in a soiled state, and told him that that was the reason. I do sometimes wonder if parents bother to train their sons in toilet etiquette. However, I know that despite my sister being very strict with her son he would revert to animal behaviour when he could get away with it. I've never figured out why it's overwhelmingly my sex that can be so disgusting.
     
  15. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    My experience with adults is a positive one.
    I find them relaxed and I have built up excellent relationships with most of them, there is always going to be the odd one but that is just life.
    I am a woman on my own (OH works away a lot) and I have never ever felt threatened and if they want to use the loo, it is always left clean!
    Interesting to read the experience of others!
    This is my day today
    home tuition with GCSE pupil for Spanish for two hours, 45 min with an 11 year old primary pupil who is about to get a pup, I am big dog lover so the lesson will be about the pup in Spanish, 45 min lesson with a five year old who just loves Spanish, mum usually sits in and joins in, 45 min with 8 year old who, again, is learning for fun and then at the end of the evening adult learner French with a man who is self taught but needs help with conversation.
    I see my job as a hobby that pays! I spent too long doing box ticking. I have tons of stuff for GCSE but most of the time it is box ticking with little understanding. The home schooled pupil I have been teaching in same way as an adult until recently when the school finally agreed that she could do the GCSE so now we do a bit of both
    Off to my Spanish puppy lesson!
     
    frangipani123 likes this.
  16. humbug

    humbug New commenter

    Sounds like a great day langteacher

    I've not had that kind of disgusting toilet experience that David Getling describes, and I'm grateful for that. But somehow I just feel a bathroom is very personal. I can understand small children may want to use the toilet, but as an adult (or teenager even), I would never ask to use the toilet if I went to someone's house as a client, for one hour. It just seems intrusive, nosy, unnecessary.

    I'm sure it's not the most burning issue to consider before becoming a tutor, but it's another boundary and tolerance thing worth a thought.
     
  17. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    It was indeed a lovely day. Not a lot on today due to hospital appointment, two adult learners, one Spanish, one Italian.

    Maybe the toilet thing is not so much an issue for me as I have a downstairs toilet. Maybe I would feel differently if they needed to go upstairs. Some of my adults come on the way home from work and nip into the loo while I am making a cuppa.

    Anyone else make cuppas for their clients?
     
  18. David Getling

    David Getling Senior commenter

    No cuppas, but one of my girls got treated to some Mara de Bois strawberries that I had just picked from my garden.
     
  19. theluckycat

    theluckycat New commenter

    David Getling-you are a softie after all! ;)
     
    humbug likes this.
  20. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    a posh softie at that
     
    theluckycat likes this.

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