Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Sunday February 18th 2018

Lamentations of a former tutor

Hi Gilbert,

I read from transitioning that you are helping jobless PMETs to find tutoring assignments while in transition. I was a tutor for a few years before I quit in 2005. I had both good and bad experiences with students and parents and it was those unpleasant encounters with them that made me quit.

However, without much working experience then, it was very difficult for me to secure a perm job. Thus, I ended up working in temp/ contract positions which don’t require much skills or experience. Unfortunately, I was not offered a perm position after my contract ended and I was very sick of being in and out of jobs for so many years. It seemed that my efforts to have a stable job were in vain. Many people advised me to be a tutor again but I have my reservations after the unpleasant experiences.

Initially, it was the passion to teach that made me enter the profession.  I would go to the students’ homes for lessons to teach for either once or twice a week. It was a fallacy that tutoring was an easy job with a high income. It may be true only for current and ex-teachers. The good thing about tutoring was that there was no office politics as it was a one -man show. However, there was no CPF and benefits like MC, annual leave etc. I could earn a decent salary before exams, but after exams or during the school holidays, my income was down to zero.

Let me share with you some of my pleasant experiences as a tutor. I had good students who were attentive during lessons and did the homework given by me dutifully. They would also call  to inform me about the change in lesson time due to school activities. After a few months, their results have improved and their parents were happy and appreciative of my efforts. Some of the students were taught by me for many years –  from primary to secondary school level.  The rapport with them  was good and they would tell me their problems while I lend them a listening ear. Sometimes I also told them stories to make them laugh and we were like good  friends.

However, there were students who were always not attentive and misbehaving during lessons. Such students behaved like children with ADHD and their parents would usually blame me for not improving their results. I gathered from some parents that they had changed tutors many times before but  to no avail.

Some kids even had tuition at tuition centers on top of home tuition, but their results were always bad. They were usually very tired after school with remedial lessons, CCAs etc. and had short attention span. They had no interest in studying and would only play. They didn’t know that they were wasting their parents’ money and my time and efforts. They just went through the motions of attending lessons because their parents forced them to. I was asked to stop teaching them when their results didn’t improve after a few months and I had to find new students again or live on a lower income.

I had encountered 3 students who didn’t inform me of a change in lesson time. For 2 of them, I had made a trip to their homes, only to be told at the door that they were not home from school. I was upset that students nowadays were not responsible enough to make even a call to me to change the lesson time. I had wasted my time and incurred transport costs by making those wasted trips. For the other student, I was made to wait for her to be home. It had happened twice and I was made to wait for her for more than an hour each time. And I didn’t charge them for time lost. I also didn’t charge them for lessons not given.

Luckily, these 3 students were obedient and attentive during lessons. Or else, it was really disheartening to go on teaching sometimes. Travelling by bus/MRT was part of the job and I was also subjected to the changing weather. Once, I even continued teaching with a sore throat as I needed the money. No one can understand how I felt unless he/she had been through all that I had gone through.

I had also come across parents who refused to pay me the tuition fee. Usually, the parents would ask the tuition agents to find a tutor for their kids one or two days before a test/exam. After one lesson, the parents would refuse to continue hiring me for lame reasons like their kids didn’t do well for that test/ exam. It was unfair to me to judge the students’ performance based on just one lesson.  And when I called up the agent to ask for the tuition fee for one lesson, I was scolded by her.

She told me that they haven’t paid her yet so I have to wait. And I didn’t get my rightful pay even till today. I suspected that the agent swallowed up my share.  I have a friend who was not paid for 2 lessons and she considered herself unlucky. I had come across 4 or 5 such parents and 4 or 5 lessons can add up to quite a sum of money. I had called up CASE and was told that I had to pay an admin fee of $50 up front no matter whether the cases were resolved or not. I decided not to pursue the matter as I didn’t want to incur further costs. Furthermore, tuition agencies were largely unregulated in Singapore and tutors were actually at the losing end.

Usually, I had to chase students for my tuition fee after every month. Most of them would forget to tell their parents and most parents didn’t bother to keep track of the lessons given. Only a few of them were prompt in giving me the tuition fee every month.

To conclude, I find the tuition market a very unstable and volatile one. Nobody would want to be in this trade if there is a better alternative. It is the same scenario for taxi drivers and insurance agents. However, I am contemplating whether I should give teaching another shot. If the rapport with the students and parents is good, I can work with them for years.

Unfortunately, such a good working relationship is hard to come by nowadays with stiff competition from tuition centers. I also cannot tell whether they are good or bad before I meet them. So ultimately, it also boils down to fate or luck. Sometimes I feel that choosing a tutor is similar to choosing a maid. If the maid is treated like a family member, she can work for you for many years.

Please give me some advice. Thank you for your time.

Regards,

Jean

 

 
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8 Responses to “Lamentations of a former tutor”

  1. anon says:

    Go apply for teaching officer with MOE i.e. school teacher.

    It’s a stressful job and your workday starts before 7.30am and often ends after 5pm.

    But if you can survive the first 3 years of hell, you can climb the ladder to be at least one of the senior teachers and learn ways to siam and work smart.

    Just like tuition, some students will be good, some will be assholes. Or simply unable to adjust to S’pore education system.

    Even if you plan to quit teacher’s job after a few years, you can command high pricing for giving tuition and will have high demand due to your status as current or ex-MOE teacher.

    Many current teachers moonlight as tutors, especially after the initial 2-3 years of their NIE bond.

  2. Lim says:

    Jean,
    I am sorry to hear that you were not promptly paid on certain occassions. As a self-employed tutor, I can imagine how it must have demoralized you.

    I too am a private tutor. I set the rules such that the parents pay up at the start of the month, not at the end of the month. Parents don’t pay, I don’t teach. I am prepared to just walk out of the door, never looking back, if parents play punk with me. This rule is non-negotiable.

    Are parents taking advantage of you because you project an image of weakness? Teaching is just a job. You are not a saint. Neither are parents. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and teachers need to show that they are tough if they wish to survive and thrive.

  3. Great work! That is the type of info that are supposed to be shared across the internet. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this submit higher! Come on over and talk over with my site . Thanks =)

  4. William Wu says:

    Jean,
    Thanks for the nice article you have written.
    Hope you rekindle your passion to teach again, and hope you meet nice students to encourage you again.

    To quote Mother Teresa,
    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

    In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

  5. William Wu says:

    Jean,
    Thanks for the nice article you have written.
    Hope you rekindle your passion to teach again, and hope you meet nice students to encourage you again.

    To quote Mother Teresa,
    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

    In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

    Hope you don’t let a few bad students affect your passion in teaching!

    God bless.

  6. This is a free website to help tutors in Singapore check whether a certain parent is blacklisted (refuses to pay tuition fees, bad attitude, etc.)

    To add a parent to the blacklist, please post in the comments below. Please include a valid reason (eg. non-payment of tuition fees, very bad attitude, etc.), as well as information about the parent (address, phone number, etc.)

    Comments without valid reason will be deleted.

    Parents who wish to remove their name can email tuitionblacklist@gmail.com with a valid reason.

  7. TuitionBean says:

    It is really unfortunate that you meet the relatively problematic end of the parents population. However, I don’t think we should allow this to cloud our judgement and assume that Singaporeans are generally so.

    From my experience as a coordinator at http:www.tuitionbean.com, I have witnessed more parents that lovely, polite and ethical in their dealings with tutors.

    Good luck in all that you do and hopefully there are valuable takeaways for you from the tuition industry

  8. BYANG says:

    This article has been a couple of years old. But it remains as relevant today. I shy away from 1-1 tuition altogether and focus on group classes instead. With 1-1, parents/student feel self-entitled because they are paying for your time. So abuse is likely to happen. With a group, the keep up appearance, and do not want to look back in front of other people so I thankfully have less of such problems.

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