Ethical English tutoring

We have all read news stories about American students' poor reading and writing skills, about plagiarism at the highest levels, about functional illiteracy. Anyone who tutors in any English subjects is on the front line of trying to improve our literacy and communication skills for all citizens. Therefore, we might receive requests to help students in "going over their papers", "cramming for a major test", or "writing their university application essays". If you do, please think twice about what service or dis-service we provide in enabling students to attain a goal they aren't really prepared for.

When English tutors help students write their papers, apply to university, or take a major exam such as SAT, we must be held accountable for the amount of guidance we give vs. what we do on the students' behalf. Parents may want to apply pressure to have you help their child, who seems desperate and likely to fail, or get a poor grade. You must set a limit; otherwise you could be accused of aiding our failing educational system in subtle but significant ways.

Parents, when you seek a tutor to help your child, please don't wait until the situation seems desperate, and then expect a tutor to work miracles in a few short hours or sessions with a tutor. Consider getting help for your child near the beginning of the term. In addition, please ensure your child is submitting work he himself has done, not work bought over the internet or somehow ghost-written by a tutor. You are accountable too if you apply such pressure that a tutor may feel forced to help your child more than is good for his overall learning. Working only on that final term paper or big exam won't help your child in the long term; he'll just need a tutor again the next time he faces a major task he hasn't learned how to write. All of us, parents, tutors, and citizens, must work together to ensure adequate reading and writing skills which will turn students into responsible voters, workers, and citizens of the world.


Bravo! I'm a former English teacher, now Reading Specialist and Tutor. I consider the work I do as guiding the student to discover ways to learn through developing skills, strategies and ways of thinking about the subject. So much is based on a dialog between the tutor and the student. Through this give-and-take talk so much can happen in the student's own thinking. As tutors, I believe, we have to begin on the level of skill that the student presents and work from that point. It's not about doing if for them EVER. It's all about the process of building a foundation and building upon that!
I agree completely with Emily. The whole idea of education is to enable students to stand on their own feet. Teachers, tutors, parents and students have to be absolutely clear about this. "Help" in writing college essays, papers is a crutch which is going to break sooner of later. Fortunately I tutor math and physics. At the end of the day the students know their stuff or they don't. I cannot answer their SAT or ACT tests for them which takes me out of the "can you help out" kind of requests.


Emily S.

Retired English Teacher for Adults

2500+ hours
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