We all had that favourite teacher at school, the one that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives because they really captured our imagination and inspired us with their passion for their subject, the one that makes us all consider the possibility of becoming a teacher ourselves one day. But I think that if we look back on those teachers, they were not necessarily universally loved by the whole class. Of course you get teachers who are more passionate, motivated and better at their job than others and they will tend to be more popular with students; but sometimes it can just be a matter of personalities. We all relate to people differently and one person’s best friend can be another’s enemy. In my opinion, it is exactly the same for tutoring.


The fact that tutoring is, more often than not, a one-to-one relationship between tutor and student, makes this matching of personalities all the more important. Naturally for the student, if they get on well with the tutor it will make learning much more enjoyable and productive experience and for the tutor, it can be the difference between an hour of delight and an hour of watching the second hand of the clock creep its way round.

In an ideal world we should all be professional enough to teach anyone. Indeed I would like to think that I am. But I’m also aware that sometimes there’s no point flogging a dead horse and that, if you’re really struggling to build an effective working relationship, it’s ok to recommend that your student find someone else to work with. Equally, for parents, if you feel that your child really isn’t progressing with your chosen tutor, it’s perfectly acceptable to shop around; in fact it’s advisable.

To be honest, I’ve only ever had two occasions in which I have felt that I’ve really not wanted to teach a student. The first was an instance where one pupil clearly did not want to be in receipt of any help and was just coming along to please his mother. The second was with a student who continually changed appointments, was late with payment and had a general lack of respect for my teaching. In the first instance, a quiet word with the mother was enough to make her understand that she was wasting her money, and in the second I took the decision that this student was more trouble than she was worth and did not allow her to book any further sessions. Luckily being tutors we are not teachers and we can exercise some choice as to how, and with whom, we work and I think that it is more than fair to make those choices.

From the point of view of the parent be aware that as individuals we tutors all have different approaches to our teaching and some will be better suited to your child than others. Try to ask some questions about teaching style before you start and perhaps arrange a trial meeting before any real lessons are booked. You and your child will very quickly get a feel for whether or not you think the relationship will work. After all, we’re only human.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.