1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

What are your biggest problems and pains as a tutor?

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by EmilePW, Feb 11, 2018.

  1. EmilePW

    EmilePW New commenter

    I'm thinking of doing some tutoring part time (maybe 20 hours a week). I did some tutoring while I was at university but I don't have a lot of experience. I'd probably want to tutor A level maths, physics and chemistry. I'm doing some research first so I just want to hear from current tutors about what the biggest problems and pains are in your experience of tutoring?
    suzette likes this.
  2. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    are you a teacher?
  3. EmilePW

    EmilePW New commenter

    No, I'm actually a software developer by trade. I graduated in Natural Sciences though (Maths, Physics and Chemistry) and would like to spend some time tutoring as I'm not currently working full time in software. I assume you are a language teacher/tutor by your username?
  4. thekizzaa

    thekizzaa New commenter

    People who aren't teachers wanting to tutor.

    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  5. doctoryes

    doctoryes Occasional commenter

    The biggest problems are parents (or students) with unrealisitic expectations about what tutoring can achieve. Also trying to weed out potential time wasters can be a difficulty.
    If your degree in "Natural Sciences" is from a high ranking university (Cambridge perhaps) then that would carry prestige from some parents. But if that is the case why just Chemistry and Physics with no Biology? There have been changes in all A level and GCSE exams since you did these qualifications, so your past experience will be out of date.
    I could see that offering to tutor Computer Science may fit in with your main employment and perhaps enhance it, but am not sure if tutoring would help in the long term.
  6. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    Being a teacher is not just about subject knowledge
    For people doing exams it's about knowing how to answer exam questions, how they're marked, knowing what a particular grade looks like
    Sorry but one of the biggest pains is when people who are not teachers advertise themselves as a tutor
    I speak three languages but i wouldn't advertise myself as an interpreter because I'm not trained in interpreting
  7. EmilePW

    EmilePW New commenter

    Do you feel that it crowds the market with lesser qualified tutors?

    It's true that I don't have substantive teaching experience or a PGCE but is it wrong if a tutor is upfront about this fact, commands lower rates as a result but is still able to reliably deliver lessons that help the student (if not as well as a more qualified tutor)? Or do you think the latter point is not possible unless the tutor is more formally qualified?

    Asking because I'm really curious on the thoughts of more experienced people here - I know that for example a lot of undergrads do tutoring for extra cash who would not be qualified as teachers - is there space for that or should it just not happen fullstop?
  8. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    It depends. There are some people who just look for the lowest price.
    Tutoring A level maths and sciences... I have to say I'd looking for a qualified teacher.
    If you're up front about it then at least they know.
    I learned my third language as an adult. But I go every year to language schools in Italy to maintain the skills. I teach this to adults who are learning for pleasure or buying property etc. I don't offer it to A level
    My teaching experience was schools with no sixth form so I don't offer A level at all
    I don't know the syllabus or what the grades look like
    So as much as i am a qualified teacher, I teach where I know my strengths are
  9. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Tutoring is not a lesser form of teaching, it's a significant responsibility. As a schoolteacher you have the support of a department around you consisting of colleagues representing some of the highest levels of qualification in their subjects and in some larger schools representing almost a century of teaching experience which covers not only knowledge but, as @langteacher points out, also formative & summative assessment. Everyone pitches in and helps everyone else with their subject knowledge and pedagogy. A tutor who has not taught in a school has no easy task if their work is to complement the work of these people. There are very successful, independent tutors, where this success is measured in results and not in marketing conversion, but these will almost invariably be people who have school experience or who work in schools.

    It should not happen. A person who tutors children in a subject in which they themselves are unqualified is a confidence trickster. Most parents work incredibly hard so that they can provide remedial tuition for their children and it's a pity that there are so many unqualified people out there who are willing to take advantage of them.
    hasslethehog likes this.
  10. tsarina

    tsarina Occasional commenter

    You might not be a qualified teacher but can you teach?

    try this...find someone who has a real block about maths/computers, who firmly and almost with pride says "i can't do maths/computers" and then ask to teach them something. Pick a tricky concept like probability or creating a simple algorithm. Give it a go.

    Did you manage it? Did they have a eureka moment? Were you able to phrase/rephrase/demonstrate your explanation in such a way that they understood? Were you able to come up with creative ways of explaining and able to encourage them to keep trying?

    If the answer to the above is yes then you probably have the skills for teaching and now just need to do the research to find the exam content and question types.
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  11. tsarina

    tsarina Occasional commenter

    Lots of other jobs have elements of teaching in, We shouldn't simply dismiss all non-teacher tutors as a joke. I've seen some pretty appalling teachers in my day and imagine they became pretty poor tutors.

    My younger brother is teaching maths to my mum's friend's SEN grandson (follow that if you can!) and he is kind, patient, thoughtful and very, very good at explaining creatively because he understands what it is like to struggle at school. He is a writer not a teacher and has a computer science degree. I have a tutoring business and taught for 12 years but I don't regard his tutoring as a joke. My mum's friend couldn't afford my fees but my brother charges much less, to do a job that i would find incredibly boring and frustrating.
    Jen26 likes this.
  12. tsarina

    tsarina Occasional commenter

    Biggest problems and pains...
    • chasing the occasional parent for payment (as they all bar 1 pay by direct debit) every month.
    • paying in the 2 cash payments i get each week and not accidentally spending it before it's gone through the accounts.
    • keeping track of what topics i've taught to which students.
    • stressed out parents emailing with extra stuff they would like me to set as homework.
    • parents wanting me to be the bad guy and tell students off for not doing the homework.
    • unexpected roadworks
    • having to turn students down because i am full
    • having to continue with students that i took on at a discount rate as they were sisters and i was just starting out and didn't realise how much in demand i would be.
    • parents wanting to chat after the lesson when i have to get to the next one.
    • overrunning because i am enjoying the lesson so much and then being late for the next one. (happened a lot at the beginning)
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  13. EmilePW

    EmilePW New commenter

    Thanks, it seems like a lot to handle, how do you keep everything in check - scheduling lessons, keeping track of material and so on?
  14. tsarina

    tsarina Occasional commenter

    scheduling lessons: calendar on phone and written weekly planner for when i do the accounts so i can tick off who has paid.


    keeping track of material: I have a book with a student on each page, I'm supposed to write down what I do each lesson but i often forget.

    The way that seems to work best is for the onus to be on the student. About half of them text/email me the day before to tell me what topic they would like to do. This makes planning super easy.

    I also have A4 ring binders for each day with polypockets in for each student. I take the polypockets with me to the lessons (after adding new teaching materials), anything we don't do I have for the future. All sheets that are done get left with the students for them to organise, occassionally i ask to see their folders of work to check they really are filing the stuff away somewhere.
    EmilePW likes this.
  15. Informant

    Informant New commenter

    I would echo tsarina's sentiments. As long as you haven't developed 'expert induced amnesia', you may indeed have the ability to meet expectations and explain topics well. Take heart as I know people who were employed in computing when they started tutoring before they made a career change into teaching.

    You might want to have a look at the various flavours of content offered by different exam boards (AQA, Edexcel, OCR, etc). Taking maths as an example, students completing A-levels this year will have completed 6 papers (modules), possibly including resits to boost their final grade. Students in the first year on A-level courses now have a different programme with (fewer) linear papers taken only at the end of their course. Also be aware your students might only be available late afternoon/early evening after school. Hope this helps.
    dodie102 likes this.
  16. EmilePW

    EmilePW New commenter

    Thanks for the reply. I certainly have no intention of going in blind without making sure I understand all the syllabi in depth myself. I suppose it's more a question of whether I might be pedagogically underequipped as others have pointed out.
    Informant likes this.
  17. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    So, if someone had done a little programming at school, and as a hobby, do you think it would be OK for them to offer their services as a software developer: perhaps on some safety critical system?

    One of the biggest problems is people like you, who think they can teach, screwing up the futures of students whose parents are gullible enough to employ someone who isn't a qualified, experienced teacher. As someone who is I know what areas students are most likely to have problems in, and what works best.

    If you want a few bob extra get a job down the pub. Don't mess up kids' lives!
    Steph2002 and Mrsmumbles like this.
  18. tsarina

    tsarina Occasional commenter

    Hi @David Getling
    Surely you didn't always know
    It took me a couple of years of teaching to become good at conveying certain concepts and I taught Btec for years before moving to a school where i could teach GCSE science, so even though i was an experienced teacher it still took me a while to know exactly where students get hung up.

    Half the problem with teaching now is that everyone has to be instantly outstanding, there is no time for professional development. When i started teaching the older members of staff told me it would take 5 years to become a really good teacher. Saying that the OP shouldn't tutor is like saying no-one should become a teacher, because they wont be good enough in the first year.
    Jen26 likes this.
  19. pathlesswoods

    pathlesswoods New commenter

    Eye-spy protectionism! :D :p

    Of course you can tutor if you want to! If you are no good at it, market forces will soon sort you out and your students will walk! On the other hand, you might find you're really good at it! You will need to do careful research and familiarise yourself with the syllabuses, if you want to do A level. But there are opportunities for tutoring e.g. undergraduate Foundation year medics and veterinary students who didn't do A level Chemistry or physicists / natural scientists whose maths is not up to scratch, or post A level pre-university students in a similar situation.

    We know someone who is currently doing a PhD in chemical engineering who supplements her income by tutoring Foundation year medics and vets who didn't do A level chemistry and need to be brought up to speed and undergrads struggling with maths.
    dodie102 likes this.
  20. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    But would they know WHAT to teach ?
    Vince_Ulam likes this.

Share This Page