Saturday, May 12, 2012

A frustrating week

I've had students who asked to stop the tuition once they did well for their exams or once the holidays are here. Usually I don't agree, especially for graduating students because I think the time spent with me is worth many hours spent doing their own revision, unless proven otherwise. I'm in this business too for the money of course, but there are times where I think the student is so well trained and I've nothing more to offer to them, then I would either reduce the tuition time or simply drop the student. I think that's only fair. No point getting short term gains in terms of higher tuition fees now but lose your professional reputation. I'm in this for the long run, so no short term fix for me please.

When weak students requested to stop the tuition during the holidays or because of their good results, I feel cheated. Sometimes it's like I'm being penalised for doing such a good job to turn around their grades. It's almost like hiring a very good team of police officers to take over a crime infested part of town. When the crime rate starts dropping, the people who hired them suddenly felt that the high pay of the police officers are unwarranted. What's the point of hiring such a good team of officers when the town has low crime rates now? I realised there are two ways to see this problem. One is that the crime rates are low because the police officers are here. The other is that because the police officers are here because the crime rates are high. Since the crime rate is no longer high, the police officers should no longer be here.

Being the person paid for a fee based job, I'm of course impartial. But those who knew how to use me as a mentor/tutor would know that I offer a lot more than just to improve a short term obstacle such as an exam. It's the framework of looking at things that I can impart to students who stay with me for a long period. It's the observation and basically knowing the characteristics and behaviour of a person (I know a student would think this way or that before he or she even knows it) so intimately and well that I can offer advice tailored just for that person. Do you change a GP who had looked after your family for years? Do you change a dentist that had cared for your teeth for decades? Do you change the hairstylist who had cut and trimmed your hair every month for a good part of your life?

I doubt so. But people view tutors as replaceable. I despise that and I hated being used as such. Is it because of the high fees I charged? Perhaps. But I did offer suggestions on how I can charge a lower rate. Just find another person to group together. You can't expect me to give you the best that I can offer but not reciprocate by letting me earn my living. I'm a full time tutor. I do this as a profession and I do not have any other jobs besides this. Did I not compromise by lowering down the rates because you said that we could have more lessons since he needed the help? But when the exams are over and the holidays are here, you now said that the kid must learn how to depend on himself but if there's any questions or doubts, can he clarify with me? My phone is on 24/7. The kid can ask me anytime he needs and I'll solve the question on the spot for him, without charge even when I'm busy. Is that not support given enough from my side?

I'm perfectly fine with that if you really want the kid to learn how to be independent. But if it means that I've to work doubly hard after the holidays because the kid couldn't remember anything anymore and I've to revise everything again and at the same time, do the new stuff when school starts again, I'll tell you gently - I quit.


CreateWealth8888 said...


May be another example is like when we are seriously sick we consult Chinese Sinseh instead of a western doctor.

Guess what happen?

Even we feel that we have perfectly recovered from illness.

The Sinseh still ask us to go back every month for consultation to restore “Qi” in the body, strengthen the body and promote vitality.

Guess how many of us are willing to spend that extra money by listening to Sinseh's advice?

Not all of us has that type of money to spend even the intention of the Sinseh is good.

Anonymous said...

so long then you experience this?

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

I totally understand the money concern. But if the sinseh knew that stopping the medicine half way might lead to side effects, and in the end, the sinseh has to do more work just to correct the side effects, in addition to curing the illness, would that have changed your mind?

Hi anonymous,

So long then I blogged this.

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


I sense your frustration is not directed at the students ;)

Last Sunday, I read an interesting article in the papers regarding "users" and "customers".

Not popular if the tables are turned, but that's why banks charge a service fee for small account holders - to discourage too many "users" using their services ;)

In the corporate world, we have daily pay, weekly wage, monthly salary, and annual compensation packages.

Check out how public and private schools charge their students for inspiration.

I don't think students stop paying school fees during holidays :)

Of course this is on condition that you are confident of your "brand".

Generics can't command a price premium... I don't think you are one ;)

AK71 said...

Hi LP,

I like your style! "I quit." Throw in a smile at the same time that says "As if I care." ;p

financialray said...

Must learn from school bus uncles.

School Holidays also must pay.

Or design packages.

Or school holidays PSLE preparations. Something like dat.

PanzerGrenadier said...


Good to left off steam from certain stakeholders.

I think some stakeholders (and they may not be the students but perhaps parents of students paying the fees) may see only the outcome (good/better results) but not fully appreciate that it comes from lots of work by the student and the tutor.

In the corporate world, wanting the "cheap and good" solution even in profit making companies can be found. I recall working in GLC where they encouraged use of freeware and open source tools for consulting assignments where we charge customers yet when you ask for more resources to earn that revenue they balk as the short-term bottom line would be affected.

Such short-termism could be why some of your stakeholders want to keep costs low but stopping the tuition. The part about stopping tuition and yet want "free" support for questions really is the epitome of "cheaper, better, faster" approach by certain MIW.

PanzerGrenadier said...

I mean LP... LOL!

Anonymous said...

Actual school teachers get paid during school holidays too. Unless your students do not want to continue after school holidays. So this seems to be a "dilemma" for you. i think you must set your "rules" straight from the beginning when accepting new students.

YJ72 said...


I can sense that you are a dedicated and responsible teacher. I would be glad if you are coaching my kids. However, I am also one of those parents that will let my kids drop out of tuition during the Jun/Dec holidays. I pity our kids these day because of the heavy school work load. I really want them to chill out and enjoy childhood before they step into the real working world.

As for your problem, I suggest that you structure the tuition into 4 terms per year and they can choose to miss lessons at their own expenses. It is unlikely that they will miss the second and fourth terms (which included Jun/Dec holidays) as it is critical periods before the exams.

la papillion said...

Hi guys,

Sorry for the late reply. The general sense is that I'm pissed off because the students stopped during holidays and I don't get paid.

That's not really correct, actually. I'm pissed off when weak students get pulled out of tuition during holidays, possibly on the pretext of independent learning, yet when school starts again, it's back to my responsibility to bring the student up to par. I could have done an easier and better job with such students by continuing during the holidays (that's the best time to revise since there are no school distractions happening). It's such situations that is frustrating.

Thanks everyone for your kind suggestions and support! Much appreciated!

Dividend Tech Warrior said...

Hi LP,

There will always be students/parents like that. No right or wrong. It is their choice after all.

Look on the positive side. I am sure you have other hardworking students who revise their work during holidays. :)

Dividend Warrior

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

I usually tell them in advance that is not the way to go! its silly!

To save a small fraction of total tuition cost? or 2 hrs per wk? at the expense of struggling again when sch re-open?

I always hope that the students results are "good for their portion". Overly good interim results result in folly or pride.

My sis has many of such parents. "get 100 marks already, we come back when the marks drop" lol

I don't think our rate is high. But when someone doesn't see the value, then ... well
someone else would...

mr mkt getting emotional again..time to re-look at the mkt.


JW said...

Hi LP,

I've experienced this before... It's one of the reasons why many are unable to take up full-time tutoring as a job.

Anyway I will be sending you an email regarding this issue :)

la papillion said...

Hi DW,

Thanks for your encouragement :) There are indeed other students. I just hope that the problematic one described in the post will really do his own self-study and I don't end up doing a lot of repair work after the school holidays ended.

Hi HH,

Haha, I was reminded of your sis too :) This type of problem is more prevalent if you charge a lower fees, I realised. But here and there, you'll find people like that too. Coincidentally, this is the one whom I charge a lower price.


Hi jW,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with me :)

invest in bamboo said...

In the West, we have a situation where people are increasingly fed up and distrustful of western medicine. Alternative treatments like acupuncture and the like become more and more popular.