A Letter to Tutoring Organizations from a Loyal Tutor

If I could tutor full time, I would.

Photo by sofatutor on Unsplash

Tonight, I had the pleasure to work with a rising 6th grader. After working on paragraph revision for about 10 minutes, he asked, “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” I responded. It’s one of his tactics to stop working for a moment, but I almost always respond the same way. I expected him to ask me if I had seen a Marvel movie yet, but then he asked me if I prefer to work with young students or older students in high school.

I responded immediately: “If I could tutor kids your age full time and make a livelihood out of it, I would in a heart beat. This work has brought light to my life in ways I cannot describe.”

He’s a precocious 6th grader. He started to tear up. Then, he thanked me. I thanked him back.

I have been tutoring online for almost a year. In that time, I have worked with students in grades 3–11. I told my director that I love working with the “little ones.” I really do. It’s more difficult for me because I am a secondary English teacher, but I love the challenge, and it has taught me so much about learning progressions.

I keep thinking that if only I had known my struggling readers and writers in elementary school, perhaps I could have done something to help them. I have also used some skills practice from middle school with my juniors and seniors who need reinforcement. I’m always looking for new ways to teach ELA.

While I am a loyal tutor and believe in the value of tutoring, I do have a few recommendations for tutoring companies everywhere, based on my examination of several such services.

Show tutors how much you value them

Pay them what they are worth

My organization is good at showing how much they value their tutors. They have been kind, flexible, and encouraging. If I have one complaint, it would be the pay rate.

Certified teachers should earn more than $20 an hour. My organization is actually on HIGH end in terms of pay rate. I have investigated others that recommend starting at a rate of NINE dollars a session. Are you kidding?

Those tutoring services that offer slightly more do not recruit students for you, for the most part. Instead, you need to sell yourself. I’m a teacher, not a salesperson. I never have been. Any time I see that I can “set my own rate,” and should include an “introductory video,” and so forth, I immediately pass.

It seems disrespectful. I know that tutoring is a business. However, teachers need more support than many tutoring services are willing to provide. I am lucky that I do not have to recruit students.

Help them with instructional resources

I have paid a great deal for the instructional resources I have curated over the past year: assessment and diagnostic services, worksheets, free-to-distribute ebooks, PDF workbooks, strategies for teaching ELA skills, etc.

Tutoring organizations would do well (and some do) to provide a repository of resources for their tutors. If we are going to accept a pay rate of below $20 an hour, we should not have to sacrifice that pay for resources.

Alternatively, pay your tutors to create their own resources and save them to a repository for others to use. I believe in the value of curation. When we work together, we can make glorious things happen.

Pay them for prep time

For every hour I tutor at a particular grade level, I spend at least an hour preparing. Then, I spend about another hour differentiating for the student. So, that means for every hour I tutor, I have usually spent two hours preparing. I do not get paid for that.

Now that I am in my second year, I do have resources to draw on. I can modify them to accommodate the student. Perhaps I will spend less time preparing this year, but still, I think about all the hours I spent this year with a bit of regret.

If I were to run my own tutoring business, I would pay my tutors at least an hour per grade level, include a repository of resources for them, and ensure they received reimbursement for resources they would like reimbursed. That’s just respectful.

Let’s all be mindful of everyone’s time

We teachers are used to trying to squeeze four preps into one prep period. It happens all the time. Still, that doesn’t mean we like it much. When teachers become tutors, it is important that they feel valued. I think a few changes mentioned above could help.

Thank you for reading!

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