A Matter of Perspective

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a parent/business owner who hires/places tutors for high end families in my area. It was a wonderful opportunity as once again I heard the mantra, "Parents just want the grades to go up." I asked what this meant, how I could measure it (quantitatively and anecdotally) and if this was indeed proof of my skills as a tutor or a momentary 'save' on a reversal of fortune. This parent does not use Wyzant. I was hard pressed to accept from this parent the reason I wasn't being contacted by high end parents for tutoring was my lack of guaranteeing grades would go up, a promise I can not make in good faith as there are too many factors involved. Honesty and integrity should be important, not my sales ability.

In my years as a teacher and tutor, I have found once I have parents on board, the rest is EASY. Parents are the elephant in the room and I can run myself ragged (knowing full well very little if anything changes without parental buy in on some level). I have declined tutoring a student when the parents were dis-involved/dis-engaged.

At the time of the aforementioned meeting, I was working with a different parent/student I tutor who has an IEP (Individual Education Plan for a student with different/special needs). The annual meeting was coming up and it was necessary to get the IEP 'right' (it is an art form and done well can make life easier for all involved- most especially the student). The IEP took two sessions for a total of three hours and was worth every moment. The parent is on board and knows how to interact with teachers/administration to advocate for her child AND it was much easier to turn the teachers practices around when the parent was on board. Now everyone had skin in the game.

The initial meeting was not one of the easiest I have attended, there were tears and lots of emotive behavior. It cleared the air so everyone could get to where they needed to be and do things for the student.

I bring this up as grades 'going up' is not the same as student success. Student success is when there are study habits in place, student/parent/teacher/tutor knows their role and executes it and student develops self efficacy. When you really understand median, mean and mode, you know there are ways a teacher can manipulate the system to make a grade go up, while in REALITY, making a grade really go up is a challenge if you are at a D.

The best example I have of the proceeding paragraph is when a parent asks for an assignment towards the end of the term in an almost all or nothing game to boost a grade. Administrators do this as a good will gesture. It is called a trade - a way of somehow proving all the things the student did not/could not perform on over time are wiped away by one gigantic assignment. This is far from how learning occurs. Another example is where homework is 25% of grade and class participation is 25% of the grade and so many daily homework assignments and participation points are averaged in, it boosts everyone over the drowning mark except the very worst of worst.

If you want to get your student the best education possible with or without tutoring, you the parent need to be on board. Every time I get a parent on board, I have doubled my ROI (return on investment in time and energy as a tutor) as it is far easier to re-direct a teacher when the parent is on board and the parent has skin in the game. I love working myself out of a tutoring job! Given all other circumstances, teachers are human - at the end of the day they wish to get by and survive another day. The difference is YOU CAN MAKE YOUR CHILD'S LIFE WONDERFUL AND LIGHT UP A TEACHERS EYES WHEN you are on board, know your mission and help your kid learn and develop self efficacy.

If you are only about the grade, please read below:


I really enjoyed this blog. I really wish we could all agree on what successful tutoring can do for a child.
Dear Faith W. - Thank you for taking the time to read AND comment. I am not sure we all need to agree on what tutoring looks/feels like (it could be nice though), rather, I think each tutor/teacher, etc. needs to know what they are 'about' and make a good match with student. When there is not a good match in personality or philosophy, it tends to make tutoring not as savory and has the potential to put a student off of learning - the exact opposite of what tutoring should be doing.


I agree with you 100%! I, too, have had to turn down (stop tutoring) students because the parent/s were disengaged. Now, I require parents to attend at least one session per month so that they can see what goes on, how their student is doing, and what they can do to assist their student. Even with this requirement, I still have trouble getting parent buy-ins for tutoring. I think parents tend to think it is all between the student and tutor and that they do not fit into the equation. Somehow we have to disabuse parents of this notion and get their attention. Your blog post is a great start!

Dear Colleen L.,
Thank you for reading and taking time to comment. I feel so much better knowing there are other tutors out there having to go through this process. At first it was scary as it meant giving up tutoring jobs although in the long run it made sense as I have actually been able to help in accomplishing major things with students. It is definitely a mind set - part of me also thinks it is an American POV as opposed to Asia and Europe where a tutor is considered a coach.....I wish I could better translate what I know of tutoring abroad, unfortunately, have not quite found the vocabulary at this time.


Natalie B.

Tutoring with a smile :)

1500+ hours
if (isMyPost) { }