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Tutoring is Not Exactly a Business

I sometimes teach advanced ESL to business professionals in Silicon Valley, where we have a large foreign population. These adult students come to me seeking help with their oral or written language when they face some crisis or deficit at work that they feel must be overcome to advance in their job, profession or field. They are often desperate to improve their skills immediately, even after having lived in the country 5-20 years or more. Silicon Valley is highly competitive, and they have scrambled hard and long to make it up the ladder, to compete with native-speaking peers, to pass job reviews and interviews. Suddenly they must return to a study mode with a private tutor, often after years out of school. Unfortunately, their learned business habits, their ingrained competitiveness, sometimes gets in the way of establishing a successful relation with a tutor.

A tutor may be independently employed, "in business" so to speak, but I am not the VP of Human Resources or Engineering that they often face, nor do I speak that language or think in that cut-throat mode. I am a teacher, hopefully someone who engages in a kinder, gentler form of human interaction, without the bravado, double-speak, hidden agenda, secrecy, and other features of business people who must thrive in a highly energetic environment. If you are a business professional seeking help, consider this when you approach a tutor. I am also a professional, with as much experience or more than you have. You don't need to "shop around" for these services, compare products as if you were buying a service contract. You don't need to approach me as if I might be cheating you, or am out to get you. You do need to respect my career and field, and if you are honest about your situation, I can probably help you with your ESL needs.

Tutoring adult professionals can be quite challenging for teachers, but I suggest maintaining a professional and confident approach, and being a true equal to sometimes demanding and critical students. Don't let their manner become intimidating. Show them how you are qualified to help them. It can work, but both sides must approach the relationship with respect, confidence, honesty, and openness.

Comments

Good stuff to keep in mind!