Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Essential advice for parents and tutors alike about the dangers of over-tutoring.
Tutoring can be great, enriching and supporting an individual’s education and working really effectively to help them achieve their goals.
However, there is definitely such a thing as too much tutoring, for both the child and the tutor! Let’s look at a few warning signs that it’s time to scale back.
For the child:
These are things that both a parent and a tutor could spot, and it’s always good to keep those lines of communication open.
If your pupil is permanently tired lesson after lesson, they’re possibly doing a bit too much. Whilst you need to check they aren’t just staying up late each night instead of getting a good night’s sleep, there are times a pupil’s schedule is just too full, and the extra hours of studying rather than resting might hinder more than help them.
2. If they’re sprinting ahead of school
It’s amazing if pupils want to be stretched by their tutoring, and learn new and exciting things to enrich what they’re learning in school. The problem comes if you have lessons which are following the school syllabus, but going much faster and further ahead. This can cause the student to get bored and tune out in school, get into trouble for inattentiveness, and lose any love for school and learning. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should pause tutoring – you can always broaden out the lessons and go off-road, following the child’s interests and creating exciting projects. These lessons are often some of the most rewarding and enjoyable for both the child and the tutor, and mean the pupil is continuing to be challenged without losing out on learning at school.
3. Frequent bad behaviour
All children have bad days, and there are definitely occasions where having extra school after school or at the weekend will trigger a bit of a meltdown – every tutor and parent knows to expect this. But if a child is repeatedly in tears or angry when the tutor arrives, tries everything to get out of the lesson, and behaves so badly throughout that the tutor always has to spend more time disciplining than teaching, a break from tutoring is necessary. It’s obviously a judgement call, but generally if a child is hating their lessons that much, making them continue isn’t going to benefit their education much (and is giving the tutor a really hard time…)
For the tutor:
It’s harder to call for the tutors – we’re all adults, and being able to work enough to pay rent is usually a strong factor in how much tutoring we do. But there are some red flags that are probably worth paying attention to.
It sounds daft, but you can have so many pupils that they do start blurring together a little bit, especially if you teach the same subject to very similarly-aged students. Juggling different clients and families is all part of the job, but if you’re confusing which homework you set which pupil, who’s struggling with which area, or what house you’re meant to be at when, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and cut a few hours.
2. For the benefit of the pupil
This ties in strongly with the above list, but sometimes it really is the tutor’s call to say "no" to extra tutoring. Parents can, understandably, get extremely anxious about the education of their child, and it’s in the power of a tutor to push for more lessons or to reassure that they’re not needed. Sometimes a pupil really does need some extra lessons, but often it’s our job to point out how much time is left between now and an exam, or how much improvement they’ve made already, or how young they are, or how they need time to play/relax. For better or worse, we are positioned as experts on our particular pupil’s needs, and sometimes our main job can be to remind the parent that they know their child best, and it will all be OK.
3. If you start hating it
We all have to do jobs we hate sometimes to keep the roof over our heads. But you wouldn’t have passed your TT interview if you hated teaching, so if that starts to change then it’s worth addressing. At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, it’s potentially much more damaging to hate an hour spent teaching a child than hating a different job – children are smart, and will notice, and it could affect their relationship with learning – it will definitely affect their relationship with you! There are lots of ways to try and fall back in love with teaching again: chatting to the parents of any particularly challenging pupils will often gain you sympathy and advice, creating a fun project or out-of-the-box lesson plan can make teaching much more enjoyable, and TT are always around to ask for help. But if none of it’s working and you still dread going to your pupils every week, it’s probably time to step back from tutoring for a while and work out what you want your next step to be.
None of these are set in stone, and most pupils (and tutors!) go through bad patches with tutoring. But these are hopefully a helpful starting point in evaluating whether you absolutely need that extra lesson a week…
Blog Post Crafted by Rebecca
Background: Rebecca is one of our most popular tutors, with a degree in English from the University of Cambridge and hundreds of hours of private tuition experience in 7+, 11+, English and Maths. She is also an assessor for Titanium Tutors, observing the mock lessons taught by potential tutors and deciding whether or not they meet the high standards of the agency.