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How to cope with a student when the mother of said student wants me to draw a rabbit out of a hat!

(25 Posts)
wonderwoman21 Wed 03-Dec-14 10:00:13

Hi everyone

I am worried about a new student that I will be privately tutoring today. I am a qualified teacher post 16.

She is in her second year at university and has fallen behind due to illness.

Her mother is super keen that when we first started contact, she wanted me to drop everything on the day and tutor her daughter that evening which I couldn't do. Then the student fell ill again and any prep I had done went to waste.

Now I am seeing her today and apart from one topic, I have absolutely no idea what we will be discussing so I am unable to prepare. I have tried emailing and texting the student to find out what else she is working on, with no reply. Her mother has eagerly been in contact saying her daughter needs at least two hours of my time but apart from looking over an essay, I can't see what else we can do!

A degree is so vast, and I can't access the actual curriculum from the university website so I have no idea of essays or deadlines. I am completely in the dark. So I am worried that even though I know the subject, I will appear lacking in knowledge.

I am sure her mother just thinks I will know everything and I simply don't!

Any tips at all apart from making sure I definitely know in advance what she is working on? I have tried, I really have.

Thank you.

Kez100 Wed 03-Dec-14 10:06:00

Could you create a checklist before she comes for you to work through with the ultimate aim being to develop a plan going forward directly tailored to this student?

Ask her to bring her online University passwords with her so you can access module guides and deadlines while she is with you if she cannot remember herself.

Include some questions relating to the essay itself and then, during part of the meeting, you can also start to work on the essay as well so she leaves feeling she has made some progress and with a plan of how you can help her going forward from the other answers.

twentyten Wed 03-Dec-14 10:07:39

Don't panic. Seek first to understand- without info you cannot prepare more. Use your skill and experience to look through what she has done and suggest ways to catch up/ look for resources etc. some of it will be about confidence/ skills etc. do what you can- and be firm/ realistic with parent. She is paying for your professionalism and expertise.

quietlysuggests Wed 03-Dec-14 10:11:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hamuketsu Wed 03-Dec-14 10:11:44

I think you need to emphasise that in order to proceed at all, you need the co-operation of the student herself, who I'm presuming is an adult. Regardless of how eager the mother is, I'm concerned that she is the main point of contact and the student herself isn't even giving you the first, basic information that you need.

chemenger Wed 03-Dec-14 10:53:47

The other question you should ask is what help she has sought at University. If someone has missed a significant amount of work due to illness they should be looking for help from those who are most able to give it - tutors and lecturers in their department.

2rebecca Wed 03-Dec-14 10:54:10

Is this a psychological illness partly related to having an overcontrolling mother?
Agree with others that if you are tutoring an adult then you take your instructions from that adult and go with their agenda. Quietly's questions are important. The mother sounds more bothered about this degree than her daughter does, and more bothered about her daughter's degree than her health.
I suspect this tutoring job won't last long as the wrong person wants it.

senua Wed 03-Dec-14 11:12:27

I have absolutely no idea what we will be discussing so I am unable to prepare ... I can't access the actual curriculum from the university website so I have no idea of essays or deadlines

Would it help to go through this thought-process with the student alongside you so they learn how to learn, where to direct focus. So the first lesson is not a lesson but a brainstorm, an action-plan.
It might be an idea to fire off an e-mail to the mother to manage expectations. Put your understanding of the situation in writing. Get your excuses in now for when it goes wrong because the student isn't co-operating

wonderwoman21 Wed 03-Dec-14 11:27:04

Thanks everyone...your support has been great.
It may be no surprise to learn the student has cancelled again!
Apparently she was picked up last night by her parents because she is ill and has asked to do work via skype and email.
I will make sure all these points are made clear and that I do actually get paid as this is another concerning point!
Though, as you have rightly thought, the future isn't looking especially rosy with this student!
Thank you again :-)

Kez100 Wed 03-Dec-14 12:10:58

Good luck WW. I feel for you and also for the poor student too.

mummytime Wed 03-Dec-14 12:22:46

Go and get other tutees. Also charge if a session is cancelled less than 48 hrs in advance - thats what my DDs Maths tutor does.

twentyten Wed 03-Dec-14 17:10:14

Yes - good point about cancellation charge. Good luck

Hamuketsu Wed 03-Dec-14 17:45:36

Hmm - from the student's point of view, I'm really hoping that she has proper support, not just her mother panicking over the work she's missing and steaming ahead with tutors, etc. Sounds like she's got her priorities all wrong, or is projecting her anxiety at the wrong problem.

From your point of view - yup, make sure you're covered for cancellations. You have a living to make after all.

wonderwoman21 Thu 04-Dec-14 06:42:38

I just wanted to provide an update...I am very peeved with this situation!
The student rang me, almost begging for help. She asked me out of two essay questions which one I would pick and then said the essay (that she hadn't even started) had to be in today by midday! She also sent me by email feedback from another essay where she received a 'C' asking where she had gone wrong (despite the feedback on the essay). She asked if we could Skype last night for help. So I then spent a frantic couple of hours gathering as much info as I could on the essay (a degree is so vast, so obviously I can't know everything, hence why there are subject specific lecturers) and to also provide her with further feedback on her previous essay.
Then, when skyping, her mother was there too! (what else did I really expect?) and asked me could her daughter really write this essay on time? Well, of course not. The essay required lots of reading and notes and gathering of evidence, that's why they set deadlines of at least a few weeks at university. However, I didn't wish to be 'negative' and said I could send her my guidance notes and information.
So this is what I did. I made sure my notes were clear and as helpful as possible, without aiding her to cheat and I also included helpful feedback on getting a 2.1 essay. Quite a bit of work. The mother said they would get back to me when she had completed the essay or before.
I included my bank details and all I charged was £20 (as we weren't skyping for long) but really I did undercharge, considering the stress and immediacy of the situation.
And now nothing...no payment when I think the mother should have paid me last night.
There is a chance that the student will come back today and ask me to look over her essay before she emails it in or I may hear nothing again.
What do you think? I have handled this situation all wrong I know but normally as a tutor, I see the student and I charge per hour, despite any preparation work, hence why I only charged what I did. In this situation though, I am expected to drop everything and be at their beck and call.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated :-)

Eastpoint Thu 04-Dec-14 06:53:30

I think the stress and uncertainty they are creating in your life is too high & in your situation I would withdraw my services. They are preventing you from working with fee paying tutees with their indecisiveness.

BikeRunSki Thu 04-Dec-14 07:00:36

Why are you still working for them???!

FishWithABicycle Thu 04-Dec-14 07:04:14

Wow.
Actually, unless you're really desperate for cash, I think you back away and disengage. This doesn't seem like a situation that is going to end well.

Both mother and daughter need to understand that private tutorials, which I'm sure were very helpful when the daughter was at school, are not really appropriate now. The process of getting a degree is the process of learning how to learn without being 'taught' it all - you go to lectures obviously and that's supposed to get your brain thinking in exciting new ways and having ideas and that's not something you can buy in with extra help.

If you and they really do want to continue, you need to use a completely different tutorial model than you would with a school child. You need to stop with the idea that you need to put in that much preparation before each tutorial - it's insane, you would end up having to be a student on the same degree course effectively. I would move to a model more like the hallowed "Oxbridge" tutorial - your tutorial dates should be set 3 or 4 days before each essay deadline,which she comes to with her essay already written at least in draft form. You spend the tutorial time challenging all the sloppy thinking and poorly argued assertions, forcing her to think about it properly - and she then has a few days to use that feedback to improve it before submission. If she is prepared to put in the extra work this entails, then tutorials like this will massively improve her eventual grade.

If what she is looking for is an easy way to make up for the fact that she hasn't done the reading and hasn't been to the lectures and has no idea what to write in her essays RUN AWAY NOW AND DON'T LOOK BACK. Do not participate in such a delusion.

FishWithABicycle Thu 04-Dec-14 07:07:09

P.s. They also don't get a minute more of your time until they have paid for the time they have had so far.

ArthurShappey Thu 04-Dec-14 07:08:00

'I do not feel I can help you, I'm sorry. Please ensure I am paid for my previous work for you but I no longer feel I can work with you.'

If this student as genuinely suffering illness the university would be able to provide help and support. Extending deadlines, extra support etc...

meandjulio Thu 04-Dec-14 07:11:58

Use this as a learning situation yourself. My dh is the loveliest, gentlest, least material person you can imagine but after years of commercial experience when he set up his own business he had the simple rule - money upfront or no dice.

£20?? Are you having a laugh? Do you have a professional association - what rates do they recommend? How many years' experience are your students paying for?

Stop worrying that you are not good enough to do this job! Contact this student (copy the mother in if you must, if she is employing you), and set your expectations.
- you deal with adults directly and you will need the student to sign a contract to employ you for any more sessions
- you expect to be paid in advance for previous and any further sessions, amount currently owing is X, kindly remit
- if they would like a further session you have two slots to choose from next week at X time and date
-cancellation fees now apply
-in the next session you would be working on essay technique and time management with the student using example subjects of your choice
-if you don't hear from them within 48 hours of the email you will assume they no longer require your services.
-if the student does need help with a particular topic, use coaching techniques to get her to explain what she does know about the topic? unfortunately it sounds like the answer will be almost nothing

This is really tragic, it sounds as if the girl isn't coping at all with a university level course for whatever reason and she isn't being allowed to withdraw. However, it isn't your tragedy and it isn't your responsibility.

meandjulio Thu 04-Dec-14 07:13:54

forget the essay technique session, what Fish said is much better

2rebecca Thu 04-Dec-14 09:35:04

At the moment she and her mother don't want a tutor they want someone to do the work for her, which you effectively did.
I would have just told her 1 day is not enough time for this essay and if she is ill she needs to discuss this with her college and get better first then restart the course.
She should have had a draft essay for you to look at. Is her mother unrealistic always expecting her daughter to get As like at school?
I'd be walking away from this one.

2rebecca Thu 04-Dec-14 09:37:09

Restart that bit of the course rather than whole course. This is sounding very like a psychological illness if one day she is ill and the next desperate to do an essay in 24 hours and unable to focus properly and needing spoonfed.

catslife Thu 04-Dec-14 10:13:29

I did once tutor a uni student who had missed part of a course through illness. It just involved going through some lecture notes and explaining the main points. I was provided with a set of notes and the relevant text book. I am not sure if it helped as didn't receive any feedback. The student was resitting end of year exams and parents were upfront about the nature of the illness and that this was no longer a problem.
The going rate for degree level tuition is at least 30 pounds an hour BTW possibly higher if you are are in London. I usually make sure that students pay for a block of lessons in advance or at the start of each lesson. For online tuition I would insist on advance payment, as it can take 24hrs for money to be transferred to your account.
If a student has a long term illness they would normally be given an extension by the uni if this was backed up be a doctor's note. Do you know that this has been applied for? Have they said anything about what the illness actually is?
I would say that you can't actually tutor her until she is well enough to cope with the course as it sounds as if this isn't the case at the moment. I would also have my doubts as to whether this type of help with essays is allowed especially if these count towards the end of year mark.
I would follow up the money owed but would probably walk away - it's just not worth the stress for you in the long term.

wonderwoman21 Thu 04-Dec-14 13:52:23

Thank you so much for your invaluable advice. I really appreciate it and lots of great thoughts with regards to tutoring degree level students too. Thank you. Of course, what has happened now is...nothing. I have heard nothing from the student and received no money at all. So I think a carefully worded email is in order, incorporating some pointers that you have given and asking to be paid! I think she has got an extension and isn't going to use my services, despite the work I put in (or maybe she will). I asked her about the support she was receiving but she told me she wasn't getting any. She said she couldn't talk to anyone at uni. I just have a sneaking suspicion she hasn't written the essay at all, and has requested an extension. Apparently she keeps getting kidney infections.
There isn't much else I can do but email and hope I get something for the time I have devoted to her.
Thank you again.

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