making it up


Managing the tutor relationship. You have got your tutor – how to make use of them and make it last. Using the agency.





The trial has been completed successfully. A contracted has been negotiated and signed. The tutor flies to you to begin their term of service.


It is best to make things clear right from the word go. It helps to have a list of duties and routines. If there is a timetable this helps everyone. The timetable does not have to be adhered to rigidly. It is a basis on which there can be variation. Families sometimes have unpredictable schedules and it behoves a tutor to convenience the family. Regularity and predictability, however, will lead to better service from the tutor. This is the same with all sorts of work.


Do not be worried if you still have minor doubts about the tutor. The tutor may well have some misgivings about the job. Anyone who is utterly certain that they have made the right choice is either clairvoyant or naive. If you are tolerably sure that you have picked the right person then that is enough. This person has already been through an exacting selection process.


Always require the tutor to obey you. The tutor should be courteous and respectful towards you even if you are not that way towards the tutor. That said if you are polite to your tutor this will be appreciated and he or she is more likely to want to stay long term.


It is wise to maintain a certain distance from the tutor. The father of the family often works long hours. Sometimes he is away on business trips. Mothers sometimes work too. However, in cases where the mother is home much of the time she deals with the tutor more than the father. Larissa Evans, the head of the International School of Etiquette counsels against confiding too much in the tutor. ‘’It is best not to tell the tutor about problems in your personal life. They will have more respect for you if you share these issues with your friends rather than them’’


If you are living in the Ukraine, for example, and you go on holiday to France you might take your tutor with you. The tutor needs to realise that though the family is on holiday he or she is not. The tutor is there to serve you and work just as many hours as usual. He or she might get some time off and to do some fun activities. The tutor should be very grateful for this and not take it for granted.






Is this a solely academic role? Does it involve lessons and more general development? Is there an element of childcare? Does it require collaboration with a nanny or which a tutor of your own nationality? This should all have been hammered out in the contract. Give the tutor clear and suitable duties. Set them targets. They must have brought the child to a certain level by a certain time. You can then verify that these were met.


The tutor should strive to maintain a cordial and co-operative relationship with a tutor of your own nationality. For example, a Greek family might have have English speaking tutor and a Greek tutor too. Ideally the two tutors will get on like a house on fire. However, sometimes they quarrel. It might be the fault of one or other or both. Sometimes it is no one’s fault and they are incompatible personalities. Again, this is what a trial is for – to see if such problems can be avoided. A tutor ought to be a wise and diplomatic person who can achieve a good working relationship even with people whom they dislike.


Your foreign tutor may well be the highest paid member of staff. They are often more handsomely remunerated than the major domo. Staff of your nationality might be understandably jealous of your foreign tutor for being better paid. It is important that no one lets the others know the tutor’s salary. The tutor must take care to show respect for your country and not come across as condescending. The tutor might be accused of being conceited even if he or she is not. Confidence is often mistaken for arrogance. In truth one shades into the other.


If you speak the target language – normally English – then ask yourself how you feel about the tutor helping you with your English? Would you like the tutor to correct you or not? Tell them your decision. You may say they must only be correct in private. You might wish them to proof read your correspondence.


A tutor should know where he or she stands. If he or she has a suitable room in which to teach this will help. They will need some materials.


A tutor is duty bound to obey your directions even if he or she does not agree with them. However, this person has been hired after an exacting selection process. You should have faith in this person’s expertise. Otherwise why hire this man or woman? You are probably very busy with your business and other activities. You should trust them to get on with the job. This person surely knows more about education than you do. Therefore it is sensible to solicit their counsel. You ought to go along with their advice and give them the scope to tutor as they see fit. For example one Russian father, Alexandr would inspect the work of his sons. The tutor, Bill, would let a few misspellings slip through. Teachers only correct the most jarring errors – those that are barriers to understanding. Over time pupils will perceive their own mistakes and self correct.  This is because it is pedagogical policy not to correct every written error because this is too dispiriting for the pupils and they will become defeatist. Alexandr insisted that Bill not let any mistake go uncorrected. Bill then did as he was ordered. However, it would have been wiser if Alexandr had accepted the advice of Bill who had greater experience in such matters.





A good agency will check in every so often to ask if you are satisfied with the service. If you have any comments, positive or negative, the agency will want to hear. You might be delighted and say the tutor is doing a tremendous job. Perhaps you have been particularly impressed with how they have facilitated your children’s educational progress. It could be that you wish to complain. If your tutor has been tardy or underdressed then do not hesitate to say so. The tutor will not like to hear that the complaint has been passed onto the agency. However, the tutor has no grounds to grumble. The agency is doing its duty in asking for updates on the tutor’s performance. You are fully entitled to complain if the tutor does not render sterling service. The agency does not want a tutor tarnishing its reputation. The tutor will be worried that the agency is annoyed about this unsatisfactory conduct. This not only jeopardises the tutor’s continued employment by you but will also make it difficult for the tutor to find another job by that organisation in future.


You can tell the tutor if you are not content with him or her in some way. Telling the agency as well is also useful. This will reinforce the message from another angle. If you dislike the tutor’s dress sense you are entitled to say so. If a female tutor wears too much makeup in the morning then you are within your rights to tell her to moderate her appearance. If a male tutor lets his hair grow too long and you dislike that look then tactfully tell him to get a haircut. Some male tutors grow facial hair in November – this is a charity event called Movember. It is to raise awareness of men’s health issues. If you are not happy with this then tell the man not to grow a moustache or sideburns. You pay their salary and you have the right to demand that they have an appearance that meets with your approval.


Any difficult issues can be negotiated via the agency.


If there a disagreement between the two sides the agency should act as the ombudsman. It is in the agency’s interests that the relationship lasts as long as possible. They want both sides to be happy. If the tutor submits X expenses and you say some of these are not covered by the agreement and you are only willing to pay Y amount then the agency can step in. Sometimes the agency will pay the difference between X and Y themselves just so both sides are satisfied.

The agency will be keen to remain in your good graces. Moreover, the agency wants to make sure the tutor is in good spirits because then she or he will stay.


Remember an in demand tutor can resign and easily find a new job. Your chef, butler, drivers and cleaners can be dismissed and replaced on the same day. A new tutor takes weeks to find.


If you phone the agency to report any untoward incident the agency might not sound surprised. This is because the agencies tell the tutors to tell them immediately if anything goes wrong. The agency wants to hear both sides of the story.






No one grows out of the need for praise. Commend your tutor for good performance. Give them duties they are good at and that they enjoy. They will be gratified by knowing that they are doing a good job and have won plaudits from you. The adage goes – praise in public and criticise in private. If you have cause to reprimand your tutor it is better not to subject them to contumely whilst others watch. Contrariwise, if you wish to sing their praises if you do so within the hearing of others this will have a pleasing effect. Tell the pupils they have a brilliant tutor. But if you build up expectations too much then these may be impossible for the tutor to fulfill.


If you are reasonable and consistent then a tutor will want to stay. Periodicity is the nature of these jobs. Contracts are for two years maximum. A two year contract is rarely extended. If you want to see the tutor complete two years and maybe more then ensure their morale is high. Try to keep last minute changes to a minimum.


Abiding by the contract is a good start.


If you pay your tutor on time and pay all reasonable expenses then a sensible tutor will be glad. If they make reasonable holiday requests in good time and you allow them this time off then they will be thankful. If your tutor is a moaning ingrate then this person will not be happy even if you treat them very well. However, with any luck you will have discarded such malcontents at the interview stage.


Be consistent in your policies. If you say the child has a 10 pm bedtime and the tutor enforces it then do not entertain complaints from the child that the tutor was mean to insist on a 10 pm bedtime. If the tutor is told the child must never be given chocolate and then you weaken and give your child chocolate this undermines the tutor. Do not cancel tutoring sessions frequently. A tutor should take pride in her or his work. They should not be too pleased at tutoring being cancelled or cut short too often. A tutor ought to enjoy their work.


Is the tutor allowed to reprimand the children and if so how? Every child needs to be scolded occasionally. A tutor may need to raise his or her voice. Is shouting ever allowed? Is the tutor allowed to grab the child in a dangerous situation such as when he or she is about to go to close to a cliff edge? Tutors face these quandaries. If they act they may be accused of man handling the child. Inaction may lead to injury or worse. These are tricky judgments to make in a split second and tutors occasionally call it wrong.


No child’s behaviour is irreproachable. Be honest with yourself about the behaviour of your children. Perhaps you are fortunate and your children are angelic. Most children misbehave occasionally. A few children have severe behavioural problems. If your children complain that the tutor is strict and irascible it may be a reasonable reaction from the tutor in the circumstances. On the other hand a tutor might be too lax and uncaring. The tutor should get the balance right but make allowance for the situation.


Tutors should not share a room with a child. A tutor might be required to share a room with a chef or nanny. Occasionally in a five star hotel or on a yacht you might ask your tutor to share a room with a child if rooms are very pricey. For a woman this is not so problematic. Men will often feel deeply uncomfortable about this. They will be terrified that they could be accused of harbouring immoral intentions towards children.


A tutor can accomplish a lot. In the case of a very young child the tutor is largely responsible for the child’s progress. As children get older they must assume an ever greater proportion of the responsibility for their own education. An 18 year old must accept most of the responsibility for his or her progress or indeed lack of progress. An adult may have a good tutor but if this young person lacks work ethic then there is little a tutor can do. A superb tutor will be able to persuade an indolent pupil to change path. He or she should inspire and energise a laggard.


Sometimes you will cancel tuition or cut it short. This is a timetable change in favour of the tutor. In gratitude for this unexpected free time a good tutor should be willing to work some overtime occasionally. One mother, Olga, regularly let her go an hour early. Then Olga asked the tutor to stay late sometimes. He asked to be paid overtime for this. The mother was horrified. A good tutor will be flexible in return for your flexibility. If a tutor is contracted to teach your two daughters but you ask her to sometimes teach their cousin too then a good tutor will say yes. ‘A work to rule’ attitude is not what you want. But be careful about asking them to do too much that is outside the contract.


The tutor might feel bewildered, lonely and homesick in a new country especially if they do not speak the national language. Making them feel included and introducing them to potential friends is a good idea. They will like to meet other tutors. Your staff can arrange this. You might live in an exclusive compound with other elite families. They often have tutors for your tutor to socialise with.


If you want the tutor to stay more than two years then offer incentives. There could be a pay rise. This could be in line with inflation such as 1% a year. You could offer more paid holidays or free lessons in your language. You could offer a bonus if he or she completes another year. If you wish to retain a good tutor then you need to offer such inducements.



About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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