Sunday, October 19, 2014

My service standards in tuition

A student asked me a question that I thought is quite interesting. She had been messaging me through whatsapp, spamming (her words) me with questions throughout the day because of the O'lvls and I had been answering them as and when it comes. She asked if I'll be pissed off because of the spamming of the questions and why I'm so free to answer.

The short answer is that I won't be angry. In fact, I'm actually glad that people asked me a lot of queries. It shows that they care about their work and want to do well. If so, then why should I stop them and inhibit them? I should go all out to support their effort! Do I get pissed of answering at odd hours (some can be as early as 8am and as late as 1130pm)? Nah, I won't be, but I might not wake up so early, oops :)

Actually I'm not that free. But not free doesn't mean cannot take some time out to do some problem solving. I take it as a trivial quiz that pops in my phone every now and then. Oh, what is natural number? What is formed when ammonium nitrate reacts with limewater? How to do this question? How to do that question? Luckily I don't mind solving questions on the go - I actually find it quite fun.

I'm one of the lucky few people whom I know that loves his job. To me, my job is not a job - it's more like a hobby where I meet interesting young people and I will try my best to help them. I get paid for doing this and for solving their problem. To me, it's the interaction and mentoring part of the job that I love, and anything that supports that career goal for me, I'll do it.

My service standard in my website states this:

And I clearly mean to fulfill it. So ask away :)


Investopenly said...

Kudos to you and knowing someone out there to help the at times helpless student is priceless to them.. Keep going.. Keep answering ;-)

la papillion said...

Hi Richard,

Thanks for your encouragement :)

Anonymous said...

Can understand that you are providing a service and it's now the stressful time of exams. But in the long run this may encourage these students to give up easily and look for help the moment they face a problem, and especially the problem is one they have seen or being explained before. Not too sure whether their future employers will appreciate that.
Anyway, I can see your committed and dedicated nature. Keep it up!

la papillion said...


This is a great question, so thanks for asking me so that I can clarify my thoughts in writing :)

I've thought about the issue of spoon feeding and asking the right questions so that they can discover the answers themselves (let's just call it Socratic approach SA). Spoon feeding is more efficient and the learning is short term and does not stay for long. Students, having spoon-fed, might not be able to apply the knowledge to new situations. SA, is less efficient, takes more time and the result of spending this longer time to solve a problem means that there is likely better understanding and ability to apply the knowledge in new ways.

I do both actually. If it's knowledge and recall type, I'll spoon feed them. If it's application type, I'll hint them and let them try out. Only if they really can't get it, I'll tell them. But it takes a lot of time back and fro and so it's not the wisest thing to do during exam time. When student ask me questions, during normal times, I'll ask them more questions than they ask me. I will simplify the situation at hand and ask them to handle it, so they can see the similarity between the question they can handle and the complex questions. This will form a bridge between what they know and what they don't.

My approach also depends on what kind of students they are. If they are very self motivated and industrious, they will read their textbooks and notes before asking me, so the questions asked will be of a higher quality. It's more why and how instead of what. These, however, form a very small % of students. Most students come to me with very low confidence and dislike for the subject matter. I think by giving them small confidence whenever they faced problems, it'll steer them towards not disliking the subject, at least.

Actually I also realised that visual and conscientious students do not ask so much questions. It's those who cannot sit down and read their notes/textbooks even if they are right in front of them, that ask a lot more. Perhaps they learn by talking rather than by reading.

It's a complex issue :)

Anonymous said...

I am liking your post LP.
Parents employ tutors to spoon feed their kids, there is no question about their wish to be well fed. Good that you are feeding your students wholeheartedly. I do not want my kid spoon fed so do not employ tutor ;)

Sillyinvestor said...


I can see that u have already think through about many of these issues and already have a "philipspohy" in teaching.

The issue of dependence is very real, but we cannot have the best of the world at the onset and there is never one size fit all approach.

I teach techniques and exam skills in my approach to teaching of Oral, comprehension. Some parents have questioned me about proficiency of language, etc. If they fail the subject, cannot even start reading, what proficiency can we talk about.

Of course there are many who appreciate my approach and told me that they felt that they are learning Maths and Science when going through language lessons with me. This approach has served me well, until now.

I have a wholly different set of pupils, the weaker ones are also weak numeracy and logic, and suffered horribly when I teach them techniques. But method of finding answers is still better than just giving answers, but because I am the weird one in my new setting, there are pupils who simply switch off because they wait and wait, there is no answers from me! They ask why I talk and talk and no answers, then I realized some of these kids are conditioned to just "tune in" towards the end. Their results deteriorate in the end, as in the past, there is at least answers, and I have a big head dealing with complaints and feel so lousy about myself for quite some time.

I am still finding the key to this new patch of pupils.

At the other spectrum, there are pupils who no longer need the teachers since their language proficiency is already very high. But I struggle to find the A* from them. I can better at making people pass and those borderline getting As, for those already getting A, the cross over to A* to me, is always an element of luck...

I always have kids with tuition in my previous school. So I am well awared it is not my sole efforts alone. In my new school, there is less support, and I wonder if I have doing the right thing all these while.

If u already found a success formula, don't reinvent the wheels, tweak at the corners and sides slowly so that other critical skills like process skills are learned.

If the pupils keep asking, they are already at least trying. When they are ready for the next level and at the right time, give another push.

Complex issue indeed.

If you set up a school, let me know can? Join u as language teacher. Quite sianz with admin and I keep making mistakes in my new role as an adminstrator. lOL

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


Too bad "anonymous 1:09PM" did not leave some initials behind.

Love this kind of interactions ;)

Got seeking verification, offering a different viewpoint, concern about an unintended side effect, and ending it all with a compliment to "sugar-coat" the whole question.

High EQ or what?

Your answer was just as inspiring, and no doubt invigorated by this good question :)

la papillion said...

Hi Anonymous,

Hmm, actually it's not true that they want their kids to be spoon fed. Most just want to make sure their kids can get by their exams and score the highest they can get potentially, spoon feed or otherwise.

It'll be good if you can teach your students yourself :) Then you can control the quality of their education :)

la papillion said...

Hi Sillyinvestor,

I did think through a lot of these issues and they keep defining how I work as a tutor :)

I seriously think I've an easier time than you. At least there's nobody breathing down my neck. I only have to answer to my conscience, the parents and the students. Of course, I want to perform well so that I get referrals, so it's a self regulation kind of performance :)

You work in a group..I work in small or individual settings. Hence, I can really tailor the lessons according to the learning style. I think the greatest adv to having a tutor is that if the tutor follows you and guides you along for a few years, you already know how the person will react and think, so it's very easy to teach.

My approach to teaching pple to fish themselves is this:

1)Feed them fishes first.
2)Get them motivated to want to feed themselves.
3)Supervise and hands off

Most of the time I only managed to get to (1). There's really no time to let them explore and fail when every exams count. The majority of students that comes to me are not motivated, lacking in skills and confidence, and DON'T MIND failing. I think if that's the case, there's no point talking about higher educational goals. Get them to pass first, then get them addicted to success, then we talk about higher educational goals like learning how to learn. If I can get them interested enough to do work outside of tuition, I'm thankful enough already :)

A handful goes all the way to (3). These, I let them go - they no longer need my lessons anymore. Very very rare :)

Haha, I'm practical that way :) I'm no nonsense when it comes to examinations. I always feel exams is an interruption to learning, because I've to stop all teaching and focus on drilling them to get the highest mark possible. Drilling is extremely boring to me, but it had to be done.

I salute you - a shining beacon of your own principles and philosophy! I'm not so idealistic - my rice bowl is at stake. If I'm not effective at producing results, no matter how good the student learn (and it takes time!), it's not producing results and I'll get dropped off. I don't know how you can stick to your principles so steadfastly!

Hey, thanks for the vote of confidence :) Haha, you got to wait long long before i set up my school ;)

la papillion said...


Yup! I also love's very very good question and I knew I had the answer in me, but the question made me write it out and therefore crystallise my thoughts in words :) That's why blogging is so impt to me!

This is what I call constructive criticism :)

Rolf Suey said...

Hi LP,

You are a responsible and passionate teacher. It is so much better than many teachers who just want a stable job and not really interested in the teaching.

Like I mentioned before, I had previously been giving part time tuition for 10 years. One of my students started tuition with me from primary 3 to JC (I try very hard to teach...). The rest of the students were also for 3-4 years. My studies then work, became extremely busy, but it's the passion that drives. Receiving appreciations from students are bonuses!

I will love to do something related to education sector one day.

For now, I am also a teacher for my kids. One is in secondary already and one is still young, though she understand.

I prefer to teach them more about life and the world. If they ask for a favor, I always make a deal with them such that they must promise something in return, otherwise I will not accede to the request.

I always think when you gain something, you should always give in something. It's just like Newton's law of conservation of energy/mass!

Meanwhile keep your passion burning!


la papillion said...

Hi Rolf,

Hey, thanks for the encouragement!

I think your kids will benefit greatly from your experience of being a 'hardcore' engineer to a 'softcore' salesman :) You're like a choc, soft on the outside and hard inside...power!

I really agree with you. My yr end bonus is when my students remember my birthday or gifts during teacher's day...little things but it reminds you that you're teaching a person, and not the subject. At the end of their school life, they won't remember the subject matter that you taught them, but they will always remember the love that you show for the subject or the love you have for them as a student.

One of them told me to continue teaching until they get married and have children, otherwise they don't know who to send their kids to for help!

Little things like this...I treasure and am full of gratitude for it. They will tide me through my darkest days :)