Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Posted in: Tutors International news

The Big Con: Parental pressure on private tutors to cheat for their students

It’s no wonder that some private tutors give in to temptation and complete their students’ homework for them. Even I did it once, and in the process learned valuable lessons about dealing with parental pressure.

I read an article recently about ‘corrupt’ private tutors: former paragons of educational virtue who swiftly succumb to avarice and deception, and then abandon their charges to face the rigours of higher learning alone.

Desperation and frustration at a teenager’s willful disobedience can drive the best of us to do drastic things. Add to that pressure from parents to see results but who palpably fail to support you in your teaching efforts, and you end up with a niggling, persistent solution: cheat.

The Players
Many years ago, I was working as an after-school private tutor for an affluent family in Minnesota. I had many years behind me as a school teacher, education consultant, and in private tuition. My student was a fairly typical teenage girl, with an independent, stubborn streak and underlying sparks of intelligence – and I accepted the position with confidence in my abilities as teacher and mentor.

The Set-up
However, I found myself in the new position of being totally unable to engage my student in her studies, and I could not compete with the distraction of the TV. As the parents kept pointing out to me, I was being paid a lot of money to ensure my charge did all her homework, accurately and on time, and give her all the extra help she needed to secure a place at one of the country’s top colleges.

I tried every trick in my educator’s book. I was by turns encouraging, angry, logical, chummy, and tried to secure parental intervention on several occasions. It’s this last tactic that is the crux of my story. For weeks on end, she would not budge from that sofa and I could not get her parents to engage in the seriousness of the problem. They believed that getting their daughter to complete her homework was solely my responsibility, as her private tutor.

The Sting
In the end, I decided to bring the matter to her parents’ attention in a drastic way. I wrote a fantastic essay that was far beyond my student’s capabilities and she duly handed it in as her own work, despite my advice that she admit to having had ‘help’ with it. She didn’t take my advice, and it was obvious to the teacher that the work was not hers. Many nights of rows ensued between my pupil and her parents, but my last stand did succeed in sparking an attitude reversal in both my student and her father. At last I was back in control, and with a lot of hard work she managed to turn her grades around.

So my point is that if even I, with all my experience and boundless patience(!) saw no other option than to complete my student’s homework for her, what an impossible situation other, fresher private tutors must sometimes find themselves in. This pressure from parents is something I help the tutors that work for me to overcome and turn around – although it can often take a long time to undo the effect that misguided parents have on their offspring.

The Finale
My advice is, recruit an ally. You cannot succeed in your job as private tutor if at least one of the parents is not in full support of what you’re trying to achieve. Unfortunately, some families hire a private tutor and expect a miracle, and may even have it in the back of their minds that it would be easiest for everyone if you acted as ghost-writer for all assignments.

I don’t believe that any tutor sets out to be corrupt or unethical. I believe they simply have found themselves unable to deliver what is being unreasonably demanded of them, and lack the support they need to turn the situation around. At Tutors International, we make sure that the tutor always has an ally in us, and we can intervene with parents if need be. Unlike most tutoring companies who are simply placement agencies, we offer continued support and advice for both the client and the tutor, so that the student gets the best education possible.

About Adam Caller
Adam Caller began teaching in 1987 and taught in the private and state sectors for many years, followed by a long period as a full time private tutor to prestigious families in England and around the world.

In 1999 he founded Tutors International LLP, a specialist private tutoring agency based in Oxford. The world leaders in custom-designed private education, Tutors International provides tuition to an elite and highly selective clientele. Tutors International works with both clients and their tutors to ensure a world-class private education of the highest professional and academic standards.

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