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  1. #1
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    Questions on tutoring - anybody have any experience?

    Hello everyone,

    I have been recently laid off from my job and while I'm looking for the next big job, I thought I would try tutoring to earn some money. I live near a major Ivy League university and I have an advanced degree in biology. I used to tutor in undergrad and was a TA in grad school (about 10 years ago) so I have some experience.

    I have a couple of questions for those of you have tutored / are tutoring:
    1) How much do you charge an hour?
    2) Do you do one-on-one tutoring or do group sessions?
    3) What are some dos and don'ts that you would suggest?
    4) Any anecdotes you would care to share?

    When I was a tutor, I advertised on the student bulletin boards. I did one-on-one tutoring and we would go over problems that the student was having, extra problems, a couple of questions on the problem sets but never the whole thing, helping them to study for exams, etc. I charged $20/hour but that was ten years ago.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. #2
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    Are you going to just tutor biology. A friend of mine tutors math. She is registered with state agencies so many of her students are referred to her from local technical and community colleges. There may also be a way to connect with the University so you can get referrals that was as well.

    As for how to do it, do what is most comfortable and effective for you. Don't under-estimate your value. Charge what you think you are worth. You can always negotiate down, but it's hard to negotiate up. For example, if a student thinks your services cost too much, you can suggest they find someone to share the cost and tutor both at the same time.

    Does and don'ts - the only thing I can think of is you probably won't want to tutor out of your home - at least at first. Try the library.

    When I taught piano lessons, I enjoyed the work but I found it confining. I felt sort of trapped. I had to be there whether the student showed up or not. My suggestion is to not charge by the session. Find some way so that you get paid if the student doesn't show up or if they are late. I charged by the quarter. I raised my fee quite a bit and then offered a discount to a lower fee if the bill was paid in advance by a certain date. Almost all my students paid on time. I got paid and I wasn't nearly as stressed if they didn't come.

    Also, find a way to give yourself an out. If you need a week off, make sure you can take it.

  3. #3
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    My son is a junior at the University. He charges $25 per hour and is fine tutoring 2 students at once if they are in the same class. He actually fell into it - his best friend is a math and science genius and is also social and he tutors only math and science. So he sends his clients to my son if they need help in other subjects.

    He has had people try to get him to lower his rate but he is firm about the $25. He has a good rep building and often gets tips as well.

    He wanted to teach high school and has spent many hours in observation and is also an assistant at a high school so he has experience and training teens.

    One warning - there are many tutoring places looking for tutors. He won't work with any because they take half the rate. So he would have to work twice as hard to make the same money and they have contracts that you can't work independently within 40 miles.

  4. #4

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    I charged $25/hour, always worked in the student's home, and if the student was a minor, one parent had to be in the house for the entire session.
    My job requires me to be a juggler, but that does not mean that I enjoy working with clowns.

  5. #5

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    Look on Craigslist, help-wanted in the newspaper, college bulletin boards to see what other tutors in your area are charging. Here, good tutors charge anywhere from 25-40/hour, usually for two hour sessions, two to three days a week.

    Always charge by the week. If the money doesn't appear up-front in the first few minutes, don't waste your time. Don't accept, oh, can I bring it by somewhere tomorrow? Offer ONCE to reschedule at a time that works better when they can better meet a payment schedule ontime. Be firm, but remember, things happen: kids get sick, cars die, life pops up. If a kid needs to reschedule because something beyond his/her control interferes, offer to let him make it up at a different time, but have a policy in place that if it happens two or more times, there will be a surcharge for the extra time. This could be the price of gas it takes you to get there, or half your fee (this would be in addition to the week/quarter you've collected in advance).

    It's very important to set ground rules. Even though it will most likely be one-on-one, you need to up front set the tone that you are not the student's sounding board, place to complain about moms, dads, friends, etc. You'd be amazed what students want to share with you on a one-on-one basis I don't know your age, but when I tutored, I was younger and until very recently, I looked younger than my age. If you are under 35, you need to very, very quickly establish me-tutor-you-student.

    You need to see the teacher's assignments and instructions--don't buy the excuse "I didn't get any." You don't want to contradict his main teacher's style of teaching/assignments, even if you don't agree with what they're doing. It will only confuse the student and potentially put both the student and the parent(s) in an awkward position. If possible, see if you can get a copy of the student's textbook and his/her assignments in advance. Some schools will have the ability to supply this, some won't. Be polite either way; remember, those schools will potentially refer clients to you.

    Don't put up with behavior problems. Even if you don't have other students, you can be writing resumes, researching job options, etc. Your time is valuable. Make up a "contract" of what you expect, and have BOTH the parent and the student sign it. I know it sounds hokey, but there is something about signing your name to a dotted line that has an effect on behavior. In fact, your first session just like the first day of school, should be mostly on establishing expectations. Those expectations might differ from student to student.

    You'll get some students who only want to do well enough to pass, and that's fine (these are F/D students looking to raise to D/C). You'll get some students who this is their ONLY problem area and is potentially harming their GPA enough to get into a good college (these are C/B students to A/B). IME, the raise to A/B are actually the harder ones to teach. It's much, much, much harder to get a student from B to A than F to D. Some might just not have the ability to get an A in biology, and you'll have to find a way to deal with it, and deal with it you will, as in these situations it will be ALL YOUR FAULT if the student doesn't get that A.

    As corny as it sounds, everyone of every age likes stickers and gold stars. They meet a goal, they get a sticker. I was an adjunct at a community college, and feeling whimsical, I put a gold star on As and silver on Bs. This was a night Western Civ class filled with business people and I was the youngest person in the room. I thought they'd just roll their eyes, but next test, the amount of Bs doubled and most of the former Bs went to As. I applied that to every grade, and even students I tutored. They will say that's stupid and immature, but you flash a sparkly dinosaur in their faces, and they will do whatever you want to get it, girls and boys, women and men, females and males.

    Sorry for the long post. Good luck!
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  6. #6

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    One thing I forgot re tutoring kids: you need to be very clear with both parents and students that your job is not to do the kid's assignments/research/papers for them. I had to walk away from a couple of jobs where the parents seemed to think that I would do all the work while Junior or Princess just sat there texting friends for an hour or two.
    My job requires me to be a juggler, but that does not mean that I enjoy working with clowns.

  7. #7
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    All the advice that has been given is really good. I would really emphasize the point about asking to see the original assignment before doing anything, to make sure that you and the student are addressing what the instructor is looking for.

    And Nomad makes an excellent point about not doing the assignment for the student. There are "tutors" who will do that, and IMHO they tarnish the reputation of the good tutors. This is where the part about clarifying expectations is important. I would say up front that you aren't going to do the assignment for the student, but that you are going to help the student work through the assignment and develop their own skills.

    FWIW I think this is something you want to be very clear about, because if your role in assisting the student ever comes into question, you want to be able to prove what you did or didn't do. I have heard of students who worked with an honest tutor, didn't get enough "help", and then took the assignment to a less than honest tutor and had it written for them - and were busted when the instructor figured out that third parties were involved.
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  8. #8
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    I live in an area that's full of schools, so I post ads on every single one of them. I also live in a fairly large apartment condo, so I post on the bulletin board here too.
    Once your name is out, and you get repeat customers, I found it gets easier.

    If you're going to tutor at the student's place, make sure you request a table or desk big enough to sit both of you and materials (books, notes, etc) and that there will be no distractions (phone, TV, etc). My experience with that is that parents will never have a stranger in the house with their kid for a full hour without having someone else there, so you're covered.

    Choose your demographic. It sounds obvious, but students of different ages learned different. I was not good teaching science to kids before high school because I expected a higher level of abstraction and I have a hard time teaching without it. So I only tutored high school students and those preparing for college admission exams.

    Choose your rates according to your demographic as well. I live in a medium to upper class neighbourhood, and my charges reflect that. I also charge more around the end of the term, when all the kids are desperate to pass and there's a significant increase in students looking for tutoring, the first timers.
    I always charged by the hour and asked for payment right upfront. When booking more lessons or making fixed appointments, I'll charge cheaper rates, but still expect the full payment before the class starts. Make sure you tell what's your charging policy before you set the appointment.

    And what Matryeshka said: D/F students are easier to teach. They usually get in this situation from studying very little or not studying at all. When they find themselves failing, they decide to take action, study and, being that the vast majority of those have no learning problems, they find themselves getting the necessary grade.

    Good luck
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