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Students stopping after a single session

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by Bashkemesuesi, Aug 19, 2018.

  1. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    Stopping tuition after just one lesson is rare but it has happened to me very occasionally, indeed once they didn't even manage to do the first lesson. Generally I think it happens when the parent arranges tuition without the child's agreement. As I have become more experienced I think I've become better at spotting this and can avoid such situations. Five in 2 months seems very unusual, but I don't know enough to say whether you've just been unlucky or there is something wrong with your teaching.
    Vince_Ulam likes this.
  2. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    I am afraid it is a bit of a ramble. Sentences are over-long and not much evidence of planning how to get the main points across succinctly. No doubt if john/jane are only attending courses because mum/dad say so. Many will say the course/tutor is rubbish because they did not want to attend in the first place.
    sabrinakat likes this.
  3. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    We are still waiting for you to describe them so we can make a judgement.
  4. RuthTom

    RuthTom Occasional commenter

    I guessed you tutor maths.
    I’ve never had a student cancel after the first session - it might happen one day. I usually preface the first session with reassuring the parent and the tutee that if we don’t gel, it’s fine, there’s no obligation to come back!
    phlogiston and Piranha like this.
  5. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    》Criticises my sentences
    》Next sentence isn't a sentence

    But your final sentence I think nails it right in the bullseye. Oodles of messenger-shooting going on, as you'll see more than once in the examples I'll shortly provide.

    And I am still waiting for mods to stop blocking my posts. How much longer is this going to go on? Once that's over I'll gladly divulge.

    How did you guess? Do you think it's the tutoring subject students are most likely to rat out of?
  6. StarbucksCovfefe

    StarbucksCovfefe Occasional commenter

    More just an odd tone of....."Prove to me you're not stupid, and I'll tell you what I think."
    Piranha likes this.
  7. suzyshepster

    suzyshepster New commenter

    attention seeker! I've got a secret, see if you can guess it!!
  8. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Okay folks, so let's get started with some examples. And since some of you have been fascinated by the "group of five", I'll start with the first of these, where the mum wrote saying that her Y12 daughter felt the session hadn't been helpful. Well, maybe they have a point, right? - until you learn a few things from my reply as follows (27 Sep 2017):

    So folks, now that you know the context, who do you think was really being "not helpful" here?
  9. NoSuchThingAsNormal

    NoSuchThingAsNormal New commenter

    If they don't readily know what they don't know, I go through a paper with them. Can they really answer all the questions accurately and fluently?

    Why the frick did you feel it necessary to (verbosely) ******* the parent and student?
  10. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    1. I do the same if there's no other material around. But in this case she had her mechanics textbook open at the relevant chapter being worked on at school, so should have been able to say what she was finding difficult.

    2. Of course it wasn't "necessary"; and I hardly ever bother to pick a quarrel when someone terminates like that. But in this case it was justified by their exceptionally cold and indifferent behaviour - three of those offences happened before the session began! Anyway, all this is a side issue here, which doesn't change the basic facts, and I'm glad for this thread that I've got them in writing.

    Re verbosity, I'm sure David G would have been even stronger. E.g. I didn't mention that they had four cars in their drive, meaning they had visitors to whom they had recently opened the gates yet closed them again knowing I was coming.
  11. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    These are both curiously odd interpretations of my OP. I keep no secret and I don't call anyone here stupid. I just wanted to see whether my experience was common or exceptional.
  12. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    I would always find out the student's name before I go for the first lesson, then greet them, "Hello, are you ----?I'm gainly." If you didn't know her name surely the first thing you should have done was to ask her. I would also try to find out if there is anything they want help with before I go, although this isn't always possible as they don't always know. I usually have a supply of exam questions by topic that we can go through to see if they really do understand. In my experience it is not that unusual for the parent not to be present especially when teaching sixth form students.

    I am puzzled about the fact that you seem to have concluded she didn't need any help with pure maths. Your post seems to imply this was September of year 12. The first few weeks are basically revising GCSE so it's not surprising she found it easy. Maybe she just started lessons a bit too early in the course and would have needed help later on.

    However, I have had a few strange cancellations. One of the oddest was when after about half a dozen lessons the mum spent five minutes at the end of the lesson telling me how pleased she was and it was exactly what she had hoped for. Then a few days later I got a text telling me the girl had decided she didn't need any more lessons.
    rehaank likes this.
  13. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Yes, with hindsight I should probably have asked before going, but remember, the question of asking shouldn't even arise - it's the parent's job to introduce themselves and their child in some fashion in the initial correspondence before the first meeting. After all, if they can describe how their child is doing and what they're looking to achieve, humanly speaking it's pretty odd to still fail even to mention the child's name when arranging a first meeting. On another thread David G. was rightly miffed at the suggestion that some parents are too protective of their A level children to allow them to walk 5 minutes to his house - what then do you think of parents apparently so jealous of their children's privacy/anonymity that they won't even reveal their name of their own accord before a meeting? I really don't think any tutor should be put in the awkward position of having to ask for the name, any more than for asking for the fare, as I mentioned in my note to the mum as you saw.

    As a matter of course I always ask, before any first meeting, for the student in question to bring any relevant materials, current homework, recently marked tests and so on. And at least they did that, so that was specific enough.

    You seem to have misunderstood my point about the initially contacting parent not being present. That certainly does happen from time to time, particularly in cases of divorced parents where tuition is arranged by one parent for the child at the home of the other parent; though when it's a case of the parent still being normally at work, they often say they'll try and make an effort to meet me at least the first time. But none of that is the issue here: it's the fact that, having contacted me initially, the mum in question failed to show up without telling me she wouldn't be there. To the best of my recollection, nobody else has ever behaved like this. Same with the matter of the gate - fair enough that some houses have gates that are sometimes locked - but fancy leaving it locked for the time they knew I was coming, and failing to tell me about this beforehand. Again, I can't recall the like (e.g. in one case where I had an adult student in a flat that was one of six with one of those multiple intercons, she explained in advance how to address it).

    Now, can you begin to see the wood beyond the individual trees? Here, let me line up the ducks in a row for you:

    (1) She fails to tell me her daughter's name before I arrive.
    (2) She fails to tell me she wouldn't meet me at all.
    (3) She fails to tell me about a locked gate and all.

    Got it? In short - she was simply unacceptably non-communicative.

    Meanwhile, you've misunderstood what I was saying about the pure maths side: it was the girl, not I, who said she had no problem with it. And while I agree of course that it was a bit early days for her to be saying that about the pure (although the mechanics we looked at was anything but GCSE recap), it's still a far cry from the idea of needing two years' solid tuition as was mentioned in the initial correspondence, which I haven't quoted (or maybe it was on the phone).

    Anyway, I'm sorry about the strange cases you've had where attitudes seemed to turn 180 degrees without warning. And to be frank, some of the cases where people have quit after two or three lessons involve some strange remarks and all - but naturally I'm starting with the wun-sesh wundaz as they're clearly at the extreme.
  14. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Could I just also add to the above, that when parents don't show up at the door, or at any point during the visit, it's always because they're not there. Always. Except for this single outstandingly unfriendly case. Note that I saw plain evidence that there were guests, so she was evidently attending to them, in another area of what you gather was quite a large house with a drive large enough for those four cars plus my own and maybe more. But given that this was a first, get-to-know-you visit, the start of what she herself had professedly intended to be an ongoing working relationship to last through Y12 and Y13, how hard would it have been for her to say to her guests when the doorbell rang, "Oh, that'll be my daughter's new tutor - I'll just go and let him in and introduce myself, be back in a minute"?

    Or else, you might have thought that the end, when the daughter had no money to pay me and apparently wasn't even aware that that was the point at which I should be paid, would have been a suitable moment to make an appearance, but no. I think the girl got the money from her brother - her mum was nowhere in sight!
  15. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    This has happened to me a few times, and in these cases, I am glad that it did! You can tell within a few minutes of meeting the parents and/or the student if the tuition is going to work. Once the parents are out of earshot, I ask the student whose idea it was to have to tuition.
  16. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    At last! Someone whose experience actually looks similar to my own! So glad you posted, and I heartily empathise with you as a "brother in tribulation", lol. Like me, though, when you read the experiences of everyone else on here, that it's virtually never happened to them, do you wonder at what's wrong with the people in your local area? (I'm sure you've got enough confidence not to be seduced into doubting your own tutoring ability.)

    And yes, since you say it explicitly, I too am generally pleased that bad attitudes have been flushed out early (though naturally it would have been better if the people hadn't started, or even contacted, without first checking whether their own attitudes were serious or frivolous). That said, some of the cases have surprised me in terms of the contrast between how keen they seem to be to get started and how easily they then give up. As mentioned, in the first and only case I've described in detail, the mum talked about getting tuition for the full two years of A levels - hardly the kind of talk to lead you to suspect that they're going to bolt on a dime!

    This is why I can only partly agree with your remark about intuition: I don't think I could always tell, and good on you if you can. At once I can think of one Y11 and one Y12 student, both of whom came into the room with a frown and it was clear before they sat down with me that they simply didn't want to be there. I guess subconsciously I was thinking "Groan, this is going nowhere". When the Y11's mum texted to say they weren't continuing, I felt like replying "You can lead a horse to water...". But, like I said, there are others, such as the example I've described, who present a completely contrasting initial impression, and sound perfectly keen and in earnest about what they're asking me to provide. In one case the dad attempted to reflect negatively on my tuition; I didn't bite, but I did feel like saying a lot of sarcastic things, e.g. pouncing on his use of "motivated" to describe his daughter and beating him about the head with it; or taking my cue from the mention of her involvement in cross-country running, e.g.: "(1) Goes in for endurance running, (2) Flunks out of tuition after a single session".

    (Quick note before we move on: none of the above three cases belongs to the "group of five" I've half-promised to go through. But even eight such cases in seven years would be far too much for comfort; and unfortunately there are still more, from whom I hope to draw valuable conclusions as this thread matures, lol.)

    I guess what I'm getting at is that, yes, it's good to know, as you say, what the child themself actually thinks, and if anything, in your position I'm surprised if you don't actually ask the parent about this before the first session, might save you a few knocks. Then again, as you imply, it may be that the parent will spin their child's case and make out they're eager when it's the opposite - how else to account for CC girl above?

    The trouble is, though, that even if you knew in advance that the child wasn't feeling all gooey about tuition, that in itself wouldn't be an infallible reason to tell the parent that you'll refuse even to start. This definitely applies in the case of yet another Y11 girl, who turned out to be my "anchor" student for the year, running from August to June, pretty much the maximum possible! (And with several two-hour sessions in the weeks leading up to exams.) Here it was clear that while maths certainly wasn't a favoured subject she was going to pursue later, she realised the importance of getting to a threshold in order to go to her sixth form college of choice, so she knuckled down, and on results day her mum texted saying her daughter was "beaming" at having got a 4, lol.

    So really, I don't know. Perhaps I should even obliquely refer to these facts when I discuss with parents before arranging tutoring, and ask them to be perfectly frank with me because otherwise they'll just make a nuisance of themselves. But it seems a really tricky line to walk.
  17. Kateray1

    Kateray1 Occasional commenter

    Not had this problem yet. I think there are genuine reasons for cancelling after first lesson as stated above and it is to be expected in any service industry.

    I would try to have clear expectations at the start of how many lessons you want to have etc.
  18. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Yes, clear expectations are desirable. But what to do when the parent says they're looking for tuition "until the exams" or (in the above example) for two years, and yet this instant dropout occurs?

    I also think we need to make an important distinction here. There are many justifiable reasons why a parent might not begin tutoring in the first instance - mainly about money, student motivation/willingness and scheduling issues. By contrast, apart from a sudden medical issue, or the sudden availability of alternative top-up tuition at school (for Y11s), I find it hard to think of any reason that deserves respect, for dropping tuition once it has begun, and immediately after the first and only session. In all my years of tutoring, only once has a genuine medical reason occurred for this - when a Y11 girl (incredible how many of these there are) got a kidney infection which would take time to treat, so tuition was suspended and in fact didn't resume (it wasn't that long till the exams by then). There have been a few cases where I was given the other reason, i.e. that they'd found out the school was laying on extra sessions so would be taking that route; but I've often wondered about whether the timing was a bit suspicious, i.e. did they really know nothing about it before our first session, or did they sniff around and find out about it and use it as a pretext to stop with me?
  19. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Sorry to go back to that weird locked-gate example I've droned on about, but yet another absurd contrast just occurs to me. On the one hand, you guys have asked me why I myself didn't ask for the daughter's name, as though you thought nothing strange about the fact that the mum never told me before I got there; and on the other hand you've reminded me that it's quite usual for parents not to appear at the door (but see my remarks on the details of this case).

    What seems absolutely unaccountable, though, is the combination of these two oddities. If the parent were supposedly going to be shrinking into the background, leaving the student in the fore at all times, why on earth would they not even tell me her name, or in any case indicate that the student would be the only person I'd see? These two phenomena - the pre-session occultation of the student, followed immediately by the session-time occultation of the parent - run in such sharply opposite directions that the overall effect is uniquely perplexing to say the least.
  20. Kateray1

    Kateray1 Occasional commenter

    Good points.

    While working last year in schools our yr 11s were given Saturday schools and revision sessions all through Easter hols.

    I have a system of do 8 lessons then see if you want to continue to try and manage expectations. I can then gave a rough idea that I will have work but it’s not ideal in that you can not plan as effectively for short groups of lessons compared to a years worth.

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