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Students stopping after a single session

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

  1. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    As we appear to have come to the end of the discussion of the first case, at least for now, I'll move on to the second.

    Here's the background: a Y13 student looking to resit some (all?) modules from Y12, including S1 which is what we started with. Re an issue that someone raised earlier, at the outset the mum did actually ask if I tutored at my home or theirs, despite their being 25 minutes away, which at least shows a good attitude on her part at the outset.

    So, we had the session, and when the time was up I felt I hadn't quite given a full explanation of the question being worked on, so I emailed them with it afterwards. Then I received this (3 Oct 2017):

    Now, the thing that most stands out for me in the above, and is probably unique in all such end-after-one-session notifications I've ever had, is the way in which the mum plainly doubts the legitimacy of what she writes even as she writes it. Reading between the lines, she practically admits that her daughter's reason makes no sense and gave her no right to insist on terminating. Clearly, then, a case where the parent was willing but the student not.

    I did reply, gently hinting at the above, and offering to help by email on occasion if anything turned up later. But if I had had David G's forthright attitude, I might well have responded thus:

    Hopefully, now that we've got exams only at the end of Y13, the above scenario won't be played out quite like that again.
  2. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    After the build up I must say I'm a bit disappointed with the examples so far. I was expecting some shocking revelations. If you do a lot of tutoring you have to expect the odd person who behaves badly. You just seem to have had more than your fair share.
  3. install

    install Star commenter

    You use alot of words where one would suffice. Sorry op - I'm stopping after my single post on this thread. Its quick, direct and more productive that way...
  4. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Someone earlier said it had only happened to them once in eight years. It happened to me FIVE TIMES IN TWO MONTHS. That's not "more than my fair share" - it's outrageous.

    What revelations were you expecting that would be shocking enough for you? There are several more cases besides those five, maybe something there for you? But we'll proceed in due order if that's okay, thanks.
  5. clareturnertutor

    clareturnertutor New commenter

    I've been a full time tutor for over 6 years and had one person discontinue tuition after one session, which was due to their change in circumstances.

    As far as cancellations are concerned, before tutorials start I give the student/parent my teens and conditions which include 48 hours' notice except in the event of illness or emergency. To those who might think cancellations are no biggy, they are if this is your full time business. However, some parents don't appreciate that (not because they're bad people or anything — it's just not something they've necessarily considered). So you've got to make it clear from the beginning, but with politeness and respect.

    If everything appears to be spinning, it's probably you that's spinning, and similarly if everybody appears to be acting badly, you should take a look at yourself.
  6. clareturnertutor

    clareturnertutor New commenter

    A professional tutor cannot afford to have this attitude. It often takes a lot of time setting up a session (especially if it's done via something like First Tutors). Even after over 6 years I still find meeting new students & parents a bit nerve racking (although 95% it goes really well and the worry was for nothing) and certainly wouldn't want that to be fruitless.

    Being frustrated by time-wasters is not the same as thinking your time is more important than anyone else's, so it's a bit offensive making the sweeping generalisation that many tutors think that.
  7. clareturnertutor

    clareturnertutor New commenter

    I'm not fully booked for September, so I may have just tempted fate with that comment! :eek:;)
  8. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    I'm very impressed that for you the question of being booked up before September even arises. How many sessions constitute full booking for you? So far I have a few who I expect to continue from last term, but nothing concrete yet.

    Also I'm quite jealous of your basically perfect record in terms of instant dropouts. None of my five, or most of the rest, can claim any change of circumstances to justify them.

    Meanwhile, what do you count as full time? Do you find it easy to fill school hours with tutees?
  9. elder_cat

    elder_cat Senior commenter

    I probably should have explained a little better. The point I was trying to make, is that regardless of how many sessions you think they will continue to attend, it's not something you actually have any real control over. They decide to whether to continue coming to see you or not, and you have no say in that. So then you are missing a tutee, and the money associated with the sessions you were banking on them attending. If the parents had entered into a contract, then you could ask for some form of compensation, although I'm not sure how simple and straightforward it would be to enforce.Tutors are offering a service, and if you looked at other service industries, I think you'd find that not every prospective sale turns into an actual sale. You can book appointments until you're blue in the face, but a calendar filled with potential sales means your income is based on optimism rather than fact. I suspect anyone entering into tutoring, with an expectation of a regular guaranteed income, is at best being over-optimistic, and at worst delusional.

    If the system demands an inordinate amount of effort on your part, with no guarantees, then the system needs changing.

    Of course I understand how time-wasters would be frustrating. But it's probably even more frustrating, knowing that they can only do it, because the system you use allows them to do it with impunity.
  10. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Sadly elder_cat is pretty much right. On those relatively few occasions where I've seen fit to respond when told the first session will turn out to be the last, I'm always courteous and make it clear that of course they have the right to do as they will as paying customers; and I definitely avoid the impression of being clingy. All I can really do - and I try to do it convincingly - is to reason from the standpoint of their own best interest. In one case, this actually led to the parent in question phoning back rather sheepishly to ask if I could come back after all - trouble was the child in question was still set on going elsewhere, so that was that.
  11. becca3471

    becca3471 New commenter

    I've been tutoring successfully (i.e. at least 10 students a week alongside my full time teaching, tutoring from primary to A Level) for just over a year now. I've not had someone drop out after 1 session; the closest I've had was after three sessions. The reason given was that the parent had decided to get a physics tutor, the physics tutor could also tutor maths, and she couldn't justify two tutors (this was A Level). I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt but it might have been a change of mind; the son was quite arrogant and I got the impression he resented having a tutor (lots of 'yeah yeah yeahs' when I would explain something. So maybe she told me the truth, maybe not.
  12. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    That is the nature of the business, as you say, @elder_cat. You can have what you hope is a 'well-filled calendar', only for a couple of students to fall out for whatever reason. Feast to famine very quickly. A couple of years ago, I accumulated three students from the same school. The school started after school revision sessions, and I lost all three.
  13. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Glad several others are now contributing - all worthwhile discussion.

    As it's Monday, I thought I'd move on to the third of my initial "group of five".

    This was a Y11 girl, re whom the mum simply texted afterwards to say that she didn't enjoy the session, so that was that.

    Here is my reply (and remember I don't usually reply, but it helps illustrate some points I'd like to bring up in this thread, and anyway see if you seriously disagree with the basic sentiments), dated 13 Oct 2017:

    At any rate I felt that it would help inject some sense of realism into the situation by quoting and comparing with a much worthier but otherwise fairly similar student who actually stuck with it and reaped the rewards.
  14. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    Why did you do something that won't be in the exam in the first lesson (factorising 5 digit numbers)? Were these questions they'd been given from school?
  15. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    This happened to me 3 times in my first year and a half of tutoring. However, I was honest enough to take a good look at myself and analyse why they were stopping. I was under-prepared and unprofessional in a few ways - at times, with subject knowledge and often with resources and general lesson preparation.

    In 7 years since (I've been tutoring 9 years now), it's not happened once and I'm now constantly fully booked and over-subscribed as a full-time tutor. I put this down to being honest enough to recognise my weaknesses and learn from my mistakes.

    To the OP, you need to look at yourself and your teaching and stop just blaming the students and the parents. You need to be humble enough to take on board feedback / criticism rather than just arguing with those who give you it.

    Re the 3rd student (who didn't enjoy the lesson), I would have swallowed my pride and said to the parent 'thanks for your feedback, that's a shame your daughter won't be continuing. Would you mind giving me some feedback on what it was specifically your daughter didn't enjoy about the session? I'm a relatively new tutor and the feedback would be really useful'.
    When I was in my first year of tutoring, I had a dad tell me the same thing after lesson 1, that his daughter hadn't enjoyed the session (they were still willing to give a 2nd lesson a go by the way) and he told me specifically the reasons why. The feedback he gave me (annoying though it was to receive at the time) turned out to be some of the most useful advice I've ever received and is something that I still put into practise now 8 years later.

    But stop just blaming others! It's not fluke or bad luck if the same thing is happening to you over and over and over again!
  16. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    You seem to have responded solely to my OP and failed to consider any of the specific examples I've listed since then, or other people's contributions. Why did you bother to post?

    I'm afraid you're repeating the two mistakes you made in responding to my description of the first case: (1) failing to read my post carefully, and (2) missing the wood for the trees. I very clearly stated that I found the questions we did tough (not for me obviously!), implying that they were not ones I would have set. She opened her textbook at that exercise and those questions. Okay, maybe I could have said "Let's skip this one," but remember, this was an initial reconnaissance session, so I wasn't going to make pre-assumptions about what she could or couldn't do. I did find the factorisations for her and after that it was relatively easy to complete. But again, wood for trees. This was just one question; it doesn't characterise the whole session.

    Ian, you should start praying that David Getling never reads your post.

    (1) Your experience (a batch of dropouts in your initial tutoring stages, never repeated in the years since) is a very reasonable outcome, such as anyone would be inclined to expect to happen on purely theoretical grounds. By contrast, this disgraceful bunch of fainthearts appeared on the scene in rapid succession in my seventh year of tutoring. By no stretch of the imagination could any of them excuse their flippant behaviour to my being a greenhorn in the work. As a matter of fact, during my first three years of tutoring, although there were a few who dropped out after one session, I never had any sense of irritability as a result. For some strange reason that started in the autumn term of my fourth year, then subsided - then exploded again last autumn term, but no single two-month period has been anything like that bad, before or since. These hard chronological facts are simply unaccountable on the simplistic theory of initial lack of professionalism corrected with the passage of years.

    (2) Your post as a whole is such as might have been written by anybody at the outset, as it were from a theoretical starting-point, without any knowledge of any of the cases I've already described (let alone the several more I shall bring before you the public before this thread is done). In fact in at least one point, what you write contradicts my descriptions, implying that you haven't really mastered what I've been trying to say. So I'll say that while in theory, what you write sounds very fine, it starts to crumble once the cold light of the specific cases is shone upon it.

    For example, with regard to the first case, which I've pointed out was uniquely cold and non-communicative, just what good do you think would have come of my asking for specifics of why they didn't like it, when they were unwilling to give it a second shot, without apparently any awareness that in encounters like this, adjustment is a two-way street. It's not just about a tutor accommodating a student - the latter must also make an effort to meet the former half-way or so. When the 'reasons' given for dismissal are so brief, it seems plain that they simply don't want to go into details - maybe because they have none worth the name, and are simply using a form of words to cover student indolence, as more than one other poster has suggested.

    Your suggestion that I was the one to blame fails completely with the second case (did you read it carefully?) where the mum wrote what was virtually a self-refuting message. In such cases it's pointless to ask what I should have done differently, because they are in effect giving me advice without allowing any time for me to apply it. Do you know the police caution by heart? I do. It blatantly applies in spades here, and failing to offer advice during its appropriate window lacks any credibility.

    The message you suggest I should have written to the third family includes a bit of a boo-boo when you want to put words in my mouth that "I'm a relatively new tutor" when I had six years including plenty of satisfied, even enthusiastic customers behind me as my track record. In the fact of the great majority being perfectly contented, guess what - the finger of suspicion naturally falls on the minority of instant malcontents.

    Meanwhile you haven't suggested how I should have responded differently in the first two cases, or what I should have done as a result. And re. your final remark, note that it's not the "same" thing at all, but different in each case I've given so far, so it's not a question of constantly repeating the same mistake either.

    I don't know if you saw my recent post on this thread or elsewhere, where I compared two Y13 students who started on consecutive days, where the responses couldn't have been more different - one stopping at once, the other carrying on to the exams and getting into their university of choice. This offers clear "scientific experiment" type control conditions which render unlikely in the extreme that I was somehow a bad tutor one day and an excellent one the next.

    Or did you see another post where I mentioned how my response actually appeared to change the parent's mind - they wanted me back after all - but it was the student that was obdurate. What to do, eh?
  17. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    Great to see that you've responded so positively to my suggestion to stop arguing and blaming others. There doesn't seem to be any of that in your most recent post.

    Why did you bother to post?

    Asking myself the very same question :D

    Ian, you should start praying that David Getling never reads your post.

    I'll borrow your prayer mat when you've finished worshiping him :D
  18. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    I thought Ian's advice was extremely sound. However, clearly you know best and don't need any advice so I'll stop posting on this thread.
    Ian1983 and doctoryes like this.
  19. Bashkemesuesi

    Bashkemesuesi New commenter

    Guess what Ian? You failed to justify why your suggestion should be taken up, in terms at least of the three cases I've described in detail here. "What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof", ring a bell?

    Perhaps the most striking thing about your posts is your silence re. the charges I laid at the door of the families in question. Let me pinpoint this for you: do you seriously mean to be an apologist for the disgracefully rude behaviour of the first parent, or the utter illogicality of the second case, or the pitiful trivialisation evident in the third?

    I haven't said a bad word about your own work, yet you come up with all sorts of insinuations about mine, without any adequate context (i.e. I could easily run a bigger thread on all the plaudits I've had from sensible customers over the years).

    One thing I should have mentioned before re. your first post: there's all the difference in the world where a parent simply terminates like a guillotine, and one where they make a potentially valid criticism but carry on and thereby giving you scope to show that you've taken it on board. I'm glad you had the second type; the first, which fell to me, shows zero tolerance, zero flexibility, zero allowance, zero accommodation, zero benefit of the doubt, zero magnanimity and zero charity; such cases don't deserve any tutor at all.

    I'm a bit shocked by all the likes your post got, as though people here get a kick out of seeing tutors slagging each other off - what the...?!

    If I were to dig out a prayer mat, I'd actually be praying that D.G. does indeed get to read your post, and give you a piece of his mind!

    I'll be sorry to see you go if that's your intention, although I daresay others will pick up the tab. But please note, in the OP I wasn't particularly seeking advice - I'll have my own ways to respond to this - but to ask whether others of you had suffered the like, and what your impressions/reactions were. As for Ian's advice being extremely sound? - it sounds extremely grand and brave, but lacks specifics when it comes to actually addressing how to think of the cases I've expounded. "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data."
  20. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    They were different students, though, and perhaps different students need different approaches. Perhaps, too, there are some tutors who work better with different types of student. There's a huge difference between a self-motivated student who has a good idea of what topics they're struggling with, and one who is losing confidence all around and opens their book to the current exercise because that's what's currently giving them a headache, and is going to need a certain amount of confidence building. Some students will nod and pretend they understand because it's the easiest way to get through the session, if they were reluctant to come. Some may have been persuaded by a parent to "at least give tuition a go", and if you don't happen to hit on something in that first session which has them thinking "why did nobody explain it that way before", then they're probably going to reopen the argument when they get home. Maybe there would be something to be said for saying to parents in advance that the first session is mainly about getting to know what the student's needs are, and so they must commit to at least two sessions if they want to discover how you can help them.
    Bashkemesuesi likes this.

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