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It may not be you

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by David Getling, Jan 13, 2016.

  1. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    I think those new to tutoring might find this beneficial.

    So, you've just given your first lesson to a new student. Then, a few days later, you get an email saying they weren't happy with the tutoring and aren't going to continue, or they simply don't turn up for their next lesson. Naturally, you wonder what was wrong with your tutoring.

    Well it may well be that there is absolutely nothing wrong. Here's an example of such an event that happen to me. I had two AS chemistry students that I was teaching together. First they wanted me to explain a gravimetric analysis to determine water of crystallisation, so I went through the problem laying everything out very clearly and logically. Then they wanted the angle in a water molecule explained. So out came the book with pictures of s, p and sp3 hybridised orbitals and even a molymod kit. And so it went on, dipole moments were explained in terms of electronegativity and the shape of molecules. They got exactly what they asked for, and it was done very well. How do I know it was done very well, because I've tutored this subject to many other students, of all abilities who were very happy with my tutoring. So why did I get an email saying they hadn't got as much as they anticipated out of the lesson?

    Firstly, they may well have been telling the truth. There are students who have wildly unrealistic expectations about tutoring. Some may not be able to admit they aren't that good at a subject, so first they blame their school teacher (which these two weren't very complimentary about), and when they still struggle with a tutor they blame him too. Some seem to expect, that by simply attending a session, what they need will instantly be revealed to them, like some blinding flash on the road to Damascus. In the current case there are also two other possibilities. When two students come together (which is rare) to reduce the cost they (or their parents) are often undertaking tutoring very grudgingly, and almost looking for any excuse not to spend the money. Also, in this case, by the time the students had been driven here, the parent had driven back home (or sat in the car), and repeated the exercise to collect them, the parent would have had to give up two hours of her time. Once the prospect of doing this every week had sunk in she may well have had a change of heart.

    So, if it goes badly with new tutee, don't be too quick to blame yourself. I have tutored a great many students, of whom the overwhelming majority have been very happy, but we all get the occasional one that doesn't come back, and it may have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the tuition they received.
    DonutBoy99 likes this.
  2. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    Sometimes, there's simply a case of personalities not gelling. Working 1:1 can be very intensive and if personalities don't match, it often doesn't work. Regardless of how many times you've successfully taught something in the past, there's always a very real possibility that some students won't find your methods as useful.

    There's nothing to be offended about. Everyone's different, including teenagers.
  3. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Eva, I don't disagree with anything you say. My post is intended purely to demonstrate to new tutors that they shouldn't beat themselves up if a student does a runner. Because you only realise this after you've done a lot of successful tutoring.

    However, to slightly recap on what I've already said, I generally find that the ones that do a runner are those who are tutored in pairs, or get my details for free from the library website. So, at least to me, it does seem that money is often the underlying reason. Which, of course, a student will never admit to.
  4. doctoryes

    doctoryes Occasional commenter

    "They got exactly what they asked for, and it was done very well. So why did I get an email saying they hadn't got as much as they anticipated out of the lesson?"

    I am wondering if they were hoping for a refund if they weren't satisfied!
    At least they let you know though, which is preferable to those who don't say anything.
    The tip for tutors though is don't take it too personally if tutees don't come back. The first lesson can often be an opportunity to work out if you are the "right" tutor for them (or not) and it is often better that some make up their mind quickly rather than having several lessons with reluctant students who aren't progressing.
    Assuming that they said they understood at the time before you moved onto the next topic, there probably wasn't much else that you could have done about it.
    I have found that shared lessons don't work very well, as sometimes one student dominates the lesson and there is skill involved to make sure that the needs of both pupils are met. This cannot be the case for you though as they both complained.
  5. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Yes, I would have to agree. I can only think of one instance were both students were very happy. It does make one wonder how tuition centres stay in business.
    Well that's what the student who had bought my contact details told me. I'd have been very surprised to have received an email saying that it was just the sender, or the sender blaming her friend. If only one had wanted to have come back it would have cost her twice as much, and maybe it was the other's mother providing transport. I'll never know.

    However, before I'd even read your post I had decided that I will no longer offer shared lessons.
  6. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    David, you've rather jumped the gun with your response there. Please tell me where I contradicted anything you said? I understood your point completely.

    [This comment/section has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions]
    ah3069 likes this.
  7. ah3069

    ah3069 Occasional commenter

    I think that building up a 'rapport' with students is very important, and this helps a lot in their learning, don't get me wrong, I don't want to be friends with them, just a good working relationship. If they get on with you, they'll generally want to work harder for you, but this takes time. I think that we have to try and use different methods to capture their imaginations. So, yes, one lesson would not be enough, but I think how you come across to the tutees is important!
  8. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    A very strange reply. I said that I didn't disagree with you.
    This, again, seems to be very strange response to a post intended solely to assuage the anxiety of new tutors.
  9. Skillsheets

    Skillsheets Occasional commenter

    I always try to explain that it takes a few weeks to get going properly and that I cannot work miracles. Fortunately there is an over supply of students at the moment so if it doesn't work out I move on. Have been tutoring years so I know sometimes I don't click with a student. More often than not we find common ground and there is plenty of laughter. There is also a honeymoon effect when students feel better just for having lessons that needs to wear off so they actually knuckle down and really start to learn.
  10. ParisianPearl

    ParisianPearl Occasional commenter

    It could have been any of the things you say. It could also have been that having the topics explained to them they realised how little they know and how many lessons they would need in order to understand. If money was tight, which it sounds as though it was, that would have put them off straight away.
  11. doctoryes

    doctoryes Occasional commenter

    My advert says group tutoring available only by prior arrangement, please contact for further details which has enabled me so far to "screen out" scenarios where I would have had to effectively give 2 lessons at the same time e.g. siblings in Y10 and 11 or Y12 and 13, one child taking Foundation tier and the other Higher etc. I am coming to the conclusion that the only scenario that would work in practice would be identical twins so am only dealing with one family. (For the siblings, I did offer to tutor fortnightly which would have worked better for the children concerned and would have been the same cost i.e. effectively half price, but the fact they found that unacceptable suggests to me that they were just looking for a cheap lesson rather than the best learning outcome.).
    I also add a small premium to group tuition, so it's not half price, to cover the cost of extra printing etc which also puts off most enquirers.
    David Getling and Skillsheets like this.
  12. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    And in the same class?
    I didn't. It looks like you've come to the same conclusion as me. If someone is looking to save money, they are much more likely to do a runner.
  13. armandine2

    armandine2 Established commenter

    My last tutorial was going to be observed, as it turned out that didn't happen. It was a little below average (imho) - but I rationalized it (the tutorial) as a dialectical one ; these tutorials are not exemplars but have a bit of an edge - they say to the adolescent student that you are not the only person with an attitude and at at some level you will need to collide with me , because I am going to collide with you.

    i.e. the space does not safely contain content which matters to people.
  14. doctoryes

    doctoryes Occasional commenter

  15. colinbillett

    colinbillett Occasional commenter

    I've done two single sessions today, and both require the level of attention that I couldn't give to a pair. One GCSE higher maths and one KS2 that needs something to help him keep up with his peers. I only ever did one pair, well over twenty years ago, and they didn't come back. It was probably a case of saving money for the parents, but anyway it didn't work to my satisfaction and they didn't come back. However, I'm teaching for the first time tomorrow, a group of five, and I don't foresee any problem. I spent a career teaching groups up to 20, and more than that in schools. So we adopt to fit the needs of the customer. I am charging a premium for extra printing, and because I can, but not much. Anyway, we shall see how it goes, and if they don't ask me back, I shall not take it personally, because I've plenty that do want me back. Instead I shall assume I've not provided what they hoped for at the price.
  16. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Yeah, I'm hoping that a rich, clever, really attractive blonde is going to knock on my door and beg me to marry her, but I'm not holding my breath.

    I think it's very fair to say that there are some tutees/parents with very unrealistic expectations. Thankfully, not too many.

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