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The best laid plans

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by Telvis, Oct 14, 2019.

  1. Telvis

    Telvis New commenter

    I received a text just before the summer holiday from an unknown number claiming to be the mum of a boy I tutor saying that she was having to use her husband’s phone because hers was broken, and that the boy wouldn’t be along for tuition that evening. The text came in around 20 minutes before the start of the session.

    I let it go with a suitable reply. For two weeks in a row after term started again the same number informed me of various fairly creative reasons why the boy couldn’t manage for tuition that evening (a football trial for a Championship side being one of them!). Again, the message came in just before the session started.

    Last week there was another text message from the same number with another tale of woe. I deliberately didn’t reply this time, and at the time the boy was due to arrive for tuition there was a knock at my door. It was the boy, and he was anxiously asking if I had received his mum’s message. He explained that he wasn’t able to be tutored due to illness, but he was however able to attend football training where he always went after my tuition, and that was where he was now heading.

    I replied to the number acknowledging the message, but by now I was suspicious and I sent the same message to the number I normally used for the mum. Immediately I received a call from the mum stating that the boy should be with me. She was devastated at his deviousness. He must have texted on the way over, then received my reply, and got his mum to drop him off further down the road instead of right outside my house. He would have waited until she was out of sight and then walked to his training and pocketed the tuition money.

    I blame myself for not having a better cancellation policy and for letting cancellations go without requesting payment. The mum told me it was a shame that I had lost out on the money, with no offer to pay. She said she will get back to me “on the way forward from this” and will speak to her son. I don’t want to create any bad feeling with the family as I get on well with the parents.

    Does anyone else have a story to share of a student going to fairly extreme lengths to avoid tuition and possibly even pocketing the tuition payment?
     
  2. phatsals

    phatsals Established commenter

    No, but I would charge with 20 minutes notice of cancellation and cancel altogether with 3 missed ones.
     
    Kateray1 likes this.
  3. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    Yes I had a similar experience last year. The boy was in year 13 and had apparently requested tuition, so should have been responsible I was communicating directly with him by text.

    The first few lessons went well and he seemed to enjoy them. Then I started getting text messages a few hours before the lesson giving a variety of excuses why he couldn't do the lesson e.g had to stay at school, was ill etc. It was a day time lesson so it was unlikely I could fill the slot with another student, so I let this go a few times. Eventually I sent a message that he had to give me 24 hours notice if he did want a lesson and I heard nothing more for about 6 months.

    Then I got a text from him asking me to lie to his parents and say he'd been having lessons. I ignored this and shortly after got an email from his mum, it had all come out by then. She assumed he'd been having lessons all the time and he'd been stealing the money. She did ask me to resume lessons with the son, but I'd filled the slot and wouldn't have wanted to anyway under the circumstances.

    I've started lessons this year with his younger sister, hopefully no similar problems. The mum is there when I go so it should be OK as she can monitor things.

    (The boy got an E in his exam)
     
  4. suzette

    suzette New commenter

    Well, he got the mark he deserved. With regards to students 'bunking off' and doing such a despicable thing as this, I'm surprised the parents still want you to tutor him. As a parent, I would be so embarrassed & mortified my kid had done this, that I would have found another tutor!

    However moving forward, you need to have a rigorous cancellation policy in place and stick to it. Also, I do have students that correspond via text, but to ensure that the parents are in the loop, I always message/or copy them into any messages they send me/or I let them know what a text from them was regarding. All my students are aware I do this, so clarity is always at the fore. I also have record of attendance/or lack of attendance. So any student that misses so many lessons, would be out, as it is quite clear that they don't want to be tutored. A reluctant learner is not going to be worth your time, so get rid.
     
  5. suzette

    suzette New commenter

    No I don't have experience of this. What a cheek from both of them!!! You SHOULD invoice them for the missed lessons/money. Sometimes though, regardless of getting on well with parents, you have to consider it's your business and you're out of pocket. So I would pursue this.
     
  6. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    In retrospect it would have been better if I'd got his parents to transfer the payment to my account rather than giving him the money to pay me. Probably if he hadn't had the temptation of stealing the money the problem wouldn't have arisen. If it had been an evening lesson I would have stopped much sooner but as it is difficult to fill daytime slots I let it go for a bit, which was a mistake.
     
  7. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    Why haven't the parents made the boy make up the money he stole from them and you?
    Stupid of them not to and he gets away with it. Maybe suggest that to them as a suitable consequence !
     
  8. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I'd be inclined to suggest that he pays back double, so that both you and the parents can be reimbursed.

    I guess the lesson learned is that any communication direct from the pupil or from an unrecognised number/email should be copied to the parent's number/email.
     
  9. alsoamum

    alsoamum Occasional commenter

    I think I'd be chalking this up to experiemce as she's clearly not going to offer to pay you.

    I'd refuse to tutor him again though, citing the dishonesty and hundreds in lost income as the reason.
     
    suzette likes this.
  10. briancant

    briancant Occasional commenter

    I wouldn't accept a text from a number I didn't recognize, I would have phoned the mother straight away. Always communicate through the parents, they pay you so it's them you should speak to. I wouldn't want or allow a younger student to contact me directly via either text or email too many nasty issues. I think missing the lesson is a small crime but to steal the money is very wrong and if I was the parents I would feel badly let down.
     
    suzette likes this.
  11. doctoryes

    doctoryes Occasional commenter

    I would have replied to the first text saying 24 hours notice of cancellation was needed in the future. I would have telephoned the mother to make sure that they wanted lessons to continue for the new term as the last lesson was cancelled at short notice.
    I have had one or two families who have cancelled for non-emergency reasons more than one week in a row but nothing as devious as what you have described.
     

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