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Tutors and the Difficulties Associated with Tutoring

Updated on April 19, 2012

Difficulties in Tutoring - A Real Account

This is an article centred on the difficulties tutors encounter when they teach students. As this is such a broad subject, I am focusing on problems encountered whilst teaching young people within further education. It has been formulated around what I had learned whilst completing my City and Guilds in Further Education, here in the UK. These difficulties can be applied, I believe, not just with further educational establishments, but also with younger students within mainstream institutions.

I have used my own learning example as a way of demonstrating the difficulties tutors encounter in tutoring practice. Using this, I hope will be helpful to your perspective whether you are a teacher of older or younger kids. It is designed to emphasise the points I wish to make in a way that I hope will be easy to read and identify.

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Tutors incur difficulties from those unwilling to learn

The course that I completed some five years ago was structured on observation, teaching techniques and a reflective practice diary. This was demonstrated by practical mentoring from our tutors and, cleverly, showed the pitfalls and successes of tutoring by example. Our reflective practice diaries showed our assessors what we had observed and, thereby learned. It was formulated, therefore, on experiential learning.

Part of the criteria as a student, was to prepare, design and present course material of our choosing. At that time I held a Diploma in Health and Social Welfare. My son is also an insulin dependent diabetic and has been since he was 18 months old, so thought that creating a course to teach Diabetes in Young Children was the best route to go. Please click here for the material – Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

We had to arrange where we were going to teach the material. After some consideration, my tutor arranged for me to teach A Level students within a classroom environment for a period of two hours. We also had many micro tutoring with various groups prior to the main session. This was where we received structured criticism to help us develop our skills.

Unlike formal teaching for children, further education is student centred. This means that the students have to motivate themselves. There is very little background paperwork compared with primary and secondary school education (continual assessment and SATS for example) – What are SATS? Click here. The tutor is purely an easily assessable resource for students. They are there to empower the student and help direct them to appropriate forms of learning.

The major difference with enforced teaching in statutory mainstream schools for younger students is that it is enforced. This means that many kids might rebel and be uninterested with their studies. This adds further difficulties to the tutor than tutors that teach older children within a system for which they want to be part of.

  • Tutors incur difficulties from those are unwilling to learn. This can be frustrating and time consuming.
  • Although there is much paperwork and assessment across all walks of education, statutory education incurs more. This process adds further difficulties and pressure to tutors and teachers.
  • Some Teachers are just bad at teaching! Take a look at the video at the end of this article!!!

And... errr... who are you?

On looking back at my entries in my diary/journal, I picked up on this:

‘Knowing names were addressed.  This I have difficulties with in every day life, yet alone with 100’s of students!  Face recognition also.  I am really going to have to reflect on how I shall overcome this.  So far, I have come up with the idea of laminated nametags – a bit impersonal though and I shall have to keep hold of the names over many sessions, which could provide a problem.  I can imagine myself forever apologising for my lack of memory!’

Tutors and one of the difficulties associated with tutoring is summarised here:

  • Remembering the names and faces of students.  This can be embarrassing and unprofessional if the tutor is not naturally adept to this.  It can also hinder the bond between student and tutor.
  • It can be off-putting when the tutor is attempting to teach and can’t remember to whom he/she is addressing.

Planning the lesson, time constraints and effective use of time is a thought-provoking topic in itself.  Someone once said that ‘the best way to make God laugh, is to tell him your plans!’  This is very true.  Despite covering every eventuality in planning, something always comes along that throws everything out of sync.

Does the tutor just cut and run to leave a struggling student?

‘Our tutor demonstrated lateness by arriving late.  This was a good example that he integrated into the session.  It would not surprise me if he were late on purpose!’ 

This excerpt from my journal highlights the importance of time keeping within already strict time constraints.  Nothing in life can be taken for granted – there is always something to get in the way of best made plans.

‘Planning, therefore, to include complicated end of session difficulties is important too.  It is, therefore, planning to the minute detail.’ – Diary excerpt.

To summarise these points, therefore, I have highlighted more difficulties tutors experience when tutoring:

  • Problems associated with unplanned events that can throw the flow of teaching out of sync with the lesson.
  • The planning itself can be time consuming – lesson plans and organising resources for effective learning, for example.
  • Time constraints – will the tutor be able to fit the syllabus within the lesson time?  How can the tutor deliver the lesson and cater for individual student learning needs?  Does a tutor just ‘cut and run’ at the end of a lesson and leave that struggling student?  He/she has to be at the next lesson in ten minutes!

My training college
My training college

No Stress? I don't think so!

The tutor is the empowerer to the student. They are their resource, confidant, judge and jury. They have to be all things to all people. They are not only accountable to their students but to their managers and the institution for which they work. This can be contradictory in practice because:

  • Budgets are not inexhaustible
  • A tutor is only one person and to please one group of people can conflict with the best quality of the education experience to another group of people, for example the line manager.
  • Best practice for students isn’t best practice for the organisation. They are a business, just like any other.
  • The tutor feels he/she has divided loyalties. This can impede the delivery of service.

These points highlight further difficulties that tutors endure when associated with tutoring. I would like to add here a major difficulty that teachers of younger kids may have more of a problem with than older ones. Bullying seems more paramount with those who are in enforced education. It maybe that the teacher is having to deal with this more frequently because of the maturation stage of the student. It could also be that because it is enforced education, the mix of kids are enforced. The relationships, therefore, clash as kids attempt to find their place in the pecking order.

  • Tutors may have to contend with bullying and social issues, which may infringe on tutoring. This seems to be more of a problem within statutory education of younger kids as opposed to older kids who choose to learn within a voluntary educational establishment.

Prior to my teaching practice, the lessons were cancelled on numerous occasions. When I did eventually teach the group, the teaching went well and the students were engaged in the subject matter. I provided acetate sheets that could be viewed on a projector and the timing was going well. This was a two-hour session. Right at the last minute, I was told that the class had to move to a room some distance away, up two flights of stairs with no lift. Struggling with material, one projector and a class of 16 students on last session on a Friday afternoon was no fun. However, I took the challenge and proceeded.

The move had broken the continuity that I had created. The students were unsettled with thoughts of the weekend. The move had also eaten into my time – the plan, therefore, went down the stairs as I went up them!

I noticed from my journal, the following:

‘I have been incredibly upset with how I have been messed around with by the organisation at Strode (College). It is frustrating and infuriating! No one seems to know what and where they should be at any given time and things change at a drop of a hat! I do not think people think beyond of today...Crisis intervention is not a good basis for promoting good relations and happy working conditions’,

  • This demonstrates the conflicts in organisation, tutoring and working environment.
  • Signs of stress in tutors. ‘A UK survey by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in 2000 reported that 40% of respondents had visited their doctor with a stress-related problem in the previous year, and 25% suffered from serious stress-related health problems including hypertension, insomnia, depression and gastrointestinal disorders’. Click here for Source.

To demonstrate the stress factor further, here is another except from the journal:

‘I have a great regard for my tutors – Jan, Chris and Maureen. Jan is a talent in her self and my only regret is that she could not complete this term due to illness’.

My tutor was suffering with stress!

Organisational problems may be viewed relative in their difficulties. It all depends on the size of the establishment.

A factor like poor organisational structure and working in an environment that conflict affect tutors and provides further difficulties associated with tutoring. The pinnacle can result in stress related illnesses. However, it might be safe to assume that the smaller the establishment, the effects from the organisational environment lessen. This would, therefore, be the case for tutoring difficulties associated with younger students in, say, primary school, compared to larger counterparts like secondary education and further education.

  • Organisational problems may be viewed relative in their difficulties, depending on the size of the educational establishment. When teaching younger students in smaller schools, the classroom environment is more stable than teaching older students who are on the move within their chosen establishments.

An entry in my journal stated the following:

.’For a while I was totally at the beck and call of others, I was powerless. That was the week that wasn’t…the week that totally disrupted the life of my family and myself.’

Tutors may have their personal lives disrupted due to powers outside of their control. As can be demonstrated with the example from the journal, I use terms like ‘powerlessness’ and ‘disrupted family life’.

Tutors and the difficulties associated with tutoring may:

  • Impede on family life
  • Make the tutor feel powerless as the victim to their environment. As stated, we cannot be all things to all people.

‘The one thing, therefore, that I have learned is that although I enjoy teaching and working on my own initiative, if the way that I have been treated is typical, working within an organisation like Strode might not be right for me.’

Sometimes tutors and the difficulties associated with tutoring may not be worth the reward of teaching young people who are willing to learn. It seems that such difficulties may not be overcome and it is no wonder that many leave teaching, after suffering ‘burnout’. This applies across the board from teachers of younger and older children and appears to be a type of pandemic that has dire consequences.

The reality of tutoring is more about the environment and organisation rather than the tutoring itself, whether it is for young or older kids. It is obvious from my journal entries that I didn’t go into tutoring. However, I do now value what our teachers have to deal with in their daily work routines and what this involves.

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License

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Here we have some examples of bad teachers!

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    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Thank you Jeffrey - I believe in giving the truth as I have experienced it - warts and all! lol

    • jeffreyporter profile image


      9 years ago

      Entertaining and informative hub! So many articles just talk about how great tutoring is and fail to mention the challenges.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Great Britain

      Yes.. well that was probably because student life impeded so much on your home life, you were never their to be reminded! hehehe x

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 

      11 years ago from Cape Town

      I never have problems remembering my students' names, it's my own kids' names i forget!

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Great Britain

      Thsnk you got reading. I enjoyed writing it x

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      11 years ago from France

      Very interesting subject on the topic of education. I always wondered how tutors remember all their student's names...


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