You’re getting a tutor? Why?

As an educator, there are few days that go by when I don’t hear some form of teacher bashing or another. If it’s not some angry mother telling everyone who’ll listen she’s going to get some teacher fired, it’s a 6-year-old repeatedly yelling ‘shut your mouth, bitch’ at me because I made her put away a colouring page and join us at the circle to sing.

Those are just the casual day-to-day slams against me and my profession, par for the course, and no different than what nurses, police officers, cab drivers and sandwich artists hear every day in their lives.

However, in these past few months, the slams have been coming hard and fast from parents, community members, Facebook ‘experts’ and even my own provincial government. I say ‘my’ but I didn’t vote for them.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve been reading in comment threads is this.

“I spend hundreds of dollars on tutors for my children every month, because the teachers don’t do their jobs.” 

And to this statement, I ask, ‘You’re getting your child a tutor? Why?’

Specifically, Why aren’t you helping your kids yourself? I mean, to read the internet, everyone is an expert in pedagogy. Aren’t you an expert? Of course, you are. An expert who relies on tutors, apparently.

Don’t get me wrong, I think tutors have their place. For some children, they are essential. I was a tutor back when no boards were hiring, thanks to the Harris government cutting teaching jobs.

Truthfully, when I ask ‘why,’ I’m actually being rhetorical. I already know why people who rant and rave about how bad teachers are, end up going to tutors.

This is why.

The material is beyond you

Which is funny, because I hear over and over how ‘In my day, we had to memorize facts and dates and times tables, and we did just fine‘. If you did just fine in the old system, having been taught the ‘basics’ we’re supposed to be getting back to, why can you literally not help your children do their homework or study for a test?

You don’t know that method of subtraction? You don’t get the point of this question?

But you went to school. Maybe you even got good grades. It ‘worked just fine.’

Please, tell me how to teach math and what math to teach. Advise me on which YA romance will finally getting those university-bound kids interested in reading. And then take your 12-year-old to the tutor because you can’t use an open number line.

You always end up in tears

Yeah, you do. You start off with your five-minute warning that homework time is about to start. Then that passes and you now have to get stern. Then angry. Then you’re staring across the table at some grumpy face. This is when the excuses start.

‘I don’t know what to do.’

You read the instructions.

‘I don’t understand.’

You start explaining.

‘The teacher NEVER TAUGHT US that.’

So you teach it your way.


You’re yelling. Your kid’s yelling. The child storms off to the TV and you scribble out a nastygram telling off the teacher for expecting your child to do work that was never explained or taught.

Out of curiosity, do you know how many times a year a child has told me ‘that’s not the way my dad does it‘ but can’t show me how dad does it? Or how much I hear ‘I know the answer is 6 because my dad told me‘ in response to a math question dad has never seen?

You need a tutor because you can’t handle your child 1 to 1. Yet, you expect your child’s teacher to handle him in a class where she’s 1 to 20, 1 to 25, 1 to 30, even when your child is not the only stubborn one in the class (as if stubbornness is the biggest issue the teacher has to deal with).

You could use your horrible experience with your child to develop empathy and decide to write your government to keep class sizes as low as possible, allowing teachers to maximize the time they have with each student, to deal with the work avoidance and tantrums that go with it.

But no, just hire a tutor and complain about me.

You don’t have time

I’m going to reply to this complaint with a variation of the slam I get regularly.

If you don’t like it, then quit! Give the job to someone who’ll just be happy to have one.

I don’t actually mean that, because I get it. It takes hours for students to learn something new. If they have any learning disabilities or a lack of prerequisite skills or knowledge, it takes even longer. It can take as many as 1000 repetitions for a child to learn something. That’s why you pay the tutor by the hour and not the minute.

Too bad it never occurred to you (while you were writing an angry letter to the superintendent slamming your children’s teachers for failing to meet your kids’ needs), that teachers don’t have hours to work 1 on 1 with your child either. Once that whole-class lesson is delivered, each kid gets a minute, two if they’re lucky or especially struggling before the lesson ends and it’s time to move on. The amount of time they get with the teacher is directly proportional to the number of kids in the class and the amount of time being divided between them. But don’t worry. The 38 minutes they are struggling to learn, alone, while waiting for their turn with the teacher, those minutes build the resilience needed in today’s workforce.

And just as an aside, the kids who do learn quickly are all but ignored by the classroom teacher, because they don’t need the attention. Well, they do, but they aren’t going to get it. Not when EQAO scores and other standardized test results are the driving force behind education policy.


Your child has a learning disability

And you don’t have the expertise, the patience, or the stamina to put in the time, deal with the frustration, and problem-solve or work around the issue.

Now, the 1 to 1 tutor might not be an expert, but they have the time and stamina, because there’s only one kid, with one set of problems to worry about.

Yep, it would be great to spend an hour sitting right next to Johnny with the ADHD so he stops daydreaming long enough to write a sentence. Fantastic if I could spend a whole period repeating the same concept twelve times for the child with audio processing delays and short term memory problems. How wonderful to give my full attention to neuroatypical Mary so that her anxiety stays under control and my desks all stay standing. But I don’t have that luxury.

So you know what. Go ahead and scream at me about how I’m not doing enough to accommodate your child. Throw your tutoring bill in my face. Because you’re right. I’m not doing enough. I can’t provide the support your tutor can. I can’t even match what little you do for your child.

As I said, tutors are great and even essential. If you can’t or won’t support your child personally, then paying someone else to do it still helps. Lord knows I can’t be as effective as a high school kid giving 100% of their time to one child. And lord knows my time with my students is only going to become even more divided. In the end, all I can do is tell you thanks for taking some of the responsibility for your child’s education.

It’s a shame you’re putting out so much of your own money, rather than telling the government to ask taxpayers to properly fund special education supports, instead of cheering on the ‘whiners‘ who are fighting to protect class caps.

But you do you.




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