so banal


Trials. What to anticipate.


After the interview with the last candidate make your decision promptly. An excellent candidate will be jobless for long. He or she is only available if between jobs or he or she is in a contract that is about to expire. If you want someone then you need to make an offer promptly. The authors suggest that after the last interview you make a decision within 48 hours. After all you are usually just inviting the person on trial.


Tutors often complain that they have to wait for weeks to get a decision after an interview. These tutors are middle class and they cannot afford to be unemployed for long. They have bills to pay and whilst waiting to hear about their dream job they will take a so-so job just because they need an income.


If you contact a tutor asking them to take a job they may need time to think about it. This is especially so if this person has a significant other to consult. But do not give them too long. 24 hours at most. If they need more than 24 hours to make up their mind this person is either indecisive or deep down does not want the job. Some tutors may be waiting for another job offer from another interview.


If 1st choice says no or fails to respond quickly then obviously go to 2nd choice and then 3rd choice.


Usually you are inviting the person out for a trial.


Note that if you are offering a very short contract – such as under a month – there is little point in having a trial. If you want someone to come out for three weeks in the Easter Holidays to help your daughter revise for exams then you might as well hire someone without a trial. If there is a trial for a very brief assignment then it could be a one day trial.





Are trials paid? They usually are paid but that is up to you and the agency. It depends how long the trial will last. If it is for one day then the trial will almost certainly not be paid. One the other hand no one will accept a one month trial without pay. Whether it is paid or not you should tell the agency and the tutor for certain what your decision is on payment before the trial starts.


For many countries the tutor needs a visa to come. This often leaves a time lag of a week or two between inviting the person on trial and the tutor flying out.


The trial will be daunting for the tutor. You may want a confident tutor. But where do you draw the line between being self-assured and being conceited?


Tell the tutor what you want to see. Do you want some sit down lessons? Will you observe some or all of these lessons? Should he or she meet the previous tutor? Supposing you are a Chinese family and already have a Chinese tutor would you like you American tutor to consult with the Chinese tutor and be assessed by the Chinese tutor regarding teaching methodology?

If your family speaks Arabic for example and the tutor also speaks Arabic are the children allowed to know this? Sometimes in this case the parents tell the tutor not to let the children know that he/she speaks Arabic. If the children know this they will refuse to speak English.


Would you like the tutor to bring out some books and teaching materials? This could be a rare opportunity to get some things which are hard to order in your country.





Tutors appreciate it if travel arrangements are made clear to them. Tutors sometimes arrive in a country they have never visited before and have no idea where they are going or who is meeting. Sometimes they do not speak the language of the country they land in. As you may realise this is a faintly scary experience. They have no contact number. Sometimes the driver is late or the sign with the name has the name misspelt. One man who arrived in Moscow saw a sign saying ‘’Mr Coughlan.’’ The driver was insistent that he would not take this gentleman. The driver was expecting Mr Coughlan with his wife and three children. Then the other Mr Coughlan turned up – with the rest of his family.


Tutors greatly appreciate if you are considerate in this regard. If a female tutor is arriving they are grateful if they are greeted by a woman especially if they arrive at night. If you are extremely welcoming you might even greet them yourself.




It is good to make things plain from the start. Where does the tutor stand in relation to the family? Is the tutor a servant? Is the tutor the highest status servant? Is the tutor virtually part of the family? Sort out this issue in your own mind and spell it out to the tutor. There is no right or wrong answer. Ask yourself what you are comfortable with.  Families sometimes send mixed signals on the tutors status. Tutors too get it wrong. Some are too familiar and some are too distant. One of the key indicators is does the tutor dine with you? If your tutor eats at your table that implies a certain parity. If he or she dines with the servants then that sets the person apart from the family.


Larissa Evans, the Head of The International School of Etiquette says, ‘’It is vital to explain this lucidly. The family should maintain a certain distance from the tutor. He or she needs to know their place. Do not involve them in certain matters. They are to respect you and not be your friend. Do not confide in them too much.’’


You bring the tutor to your town. Does he or she stay in a hotel, a staff house or your house? Their pros and cons with all of these. What is the situation with the room? Is it the tutor’s private space in which he or she can do as he wishes such as smoking or leaving it untidy? It might be that you consider that the tutor is required to keep the room in good order. Tell the tutor what time they are expected to start and finish. Do they need to interact with a nanny or other staff? It may be useful to introduce the tutor to the major domo.




The tutor will meet the children and get to know them. Do not expect the tutor to be an instant success. The children may be timid especially if they are young. Over the time the tutor should overcome the children’s reticence and develop a rapport. It could be that the tutor is laconic and reserved. In that case perhaps he or she is bad. Tutors are sometimes wary of imposing themselves on children because this can backfire. Does the tutor come across as enthusiastic? This tutor should command the respect, win the affection and command the trust of the family. However, this will take time. You should ask yourself if the tutor has made a good start.


Parents sometimes complain that the tutor on trial was too cold and quiet. Children sometimes complain that the tutor on trial was to voluble and interfering. It is a tricky balance to get right. No one is perfect in this regard. What would you rather? Someone who is overly active or does not make sufficient effort? Probably the former. Moreover, the tutor should be deferential towards you calling you Mr_______ and Mrs________ unless you invite them to do otherwise. Someone who is too forward lacks decorum. Australians tend to be very egalitarian and outspoken. This may come over as disrespectful.


Explain any rules you have. Some parents are extremely concerned about health. They say if a tutor sneezes she must take the day off because she may give the children a cold. Are there rooms they are not allowed in? Are there any do’s and don’ts they need to know?





You can have regular discussions with the tutor and the children separately to assess how the trial is going.


Nobody performs their best on the first day in a job. You can expect that while this person is trying their best on trial he or she will feel gauche and nervous. He or she will perhaps be overly circumspect. This person will grow into the job and come to understand the personalities of everyone in the family. Do not anticipate instant perfection.


Observe some lessons. You do not need to be an educational expert to evaluate the quality of a lesson.  Are their clear goals in terms of skills and knowledge. Are these goals achieved? Is the lesson enjoyable yet serious? Does the lesson move fast but not too fast? Is it interactive? Are multiple strategies used? Is there plenty of material? Better to have more than enough than not enough. Do the children like and respect the tutor? Does the tutor interact with the children well in informal situations? Can you imagine this relationship working?


You can speak to other staff. They will have observed the tutor either deliberately or just by chance. What comments do they have to offer? Has the tutor disparaged you to the other staff?


It is irrefragable that a tutor who feels well treated is more likely to want to work for you than one who feel mistreated. Some families are very indulgent and have their driver take the tutor on the tour of the city. Such generosity is likely to have the tutor signing on at the end of the trial. However, the tutor needs to know that he/she is there to work and not as a tourist.


Even in a month long trial you will have a fairly good idea about the tutor within a few days. Does the face fit?


Before the trial ends you could have a last discussion in which you and the tutor candidly express your conclusions. If both sides think this is a perfect match then they should say this. But if you are dissatisified with the tutor or the tutor is unhappy with the situation then both parties should say so. There is nothing to be gained by deceiving each other. There is usually some minor issue. You were generally happy with the tutoring but felt he or she was under dressed. On the other hand it could be the tutor was delighted with the situation except she disliked her accommodation. This is the time for a candid exchange of views. If a long term contract is to be signed it is best to iron out these problems sooner rather than later. It is rare that a tutor is either marvelous are terrible. Most are good. After all she or he has already been through a gruelling selection process to get on the trial. If you have a long trial and you reject the candidate then the lower choices are probably gone. It is back to the drawing board with that agency. There are other agencies to speak to.


You tutor flies home after the trial. You will probably have made your mind up even before this. You should give the tutor a decision quickly. If this person is tremendous then call the person fast! Otherwise he or she will take another position. If you reject this person then it is good form to reject them quite soon. If someone is satisfactory, not brilliant, you might say nothing for a while. Speak to other candidates and if you find no one better then settle for the satisfactory candidate.


Occasionally after a trial a family is unsure about the tutor. He or she was good but there were some reservations. Families sometimes express their concerns and invite the candidate out for a second trial to see if these problems can be resolved.






There may be some cultural misunderstandings between your family and the tutor. There are certain rules that go without saying in many countries. In many countries it is the norm to remove one’s shoes in the house. In the Anglosphere and Western Europe it is not done. Therefore you may need to point this out to an English speaking tutor.


There may be different gender roles in your country. If there are things that only a man does or only a woman does then you might need to point this out to people.


Handshakes are more important in some countries than others. In former Soviet countries people shake hands every time they meet even if they have met earlier that day. In Western countries people shake hands when they are introduced for the first time. When they meet on subsequent occasions they might shake hands or not. If someone met you in the morning and happens to see you later the same day he will probably not bother to shake your hand because he has already done it. He might greet who and acknowledge you informally. For a Westerner this is not bad manners. However, when in Rome do as the Romans do. If you want your tutor to conform to your culture in this regard then say so.


Anglophones usually smile when they greet people even if they do not especially like the person they are greeting. Americans are especially enthusiastic about this. This is considered courteous. You might think this is bizarre. How can somebody like you straightaway. He or she has not got a chance to know you. This person cannot possibly have formed an opinion yet. It may come across as deceitful to you. However, according to Anglophone culture the tutor has done the right thing. Russophones are perceived as stony faced in the Anglosphere. The adage goes, ‘’Russians never smile.’’ Of course Russians do beam but only when it is heartfelt.


In English speaking countries people do not have compulsory identity cards. In the USA people normally carry their driving licence with them and this serves like an ID card. If you tutor comes to China, Russia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates or some other country where it is normal you carry an ID card at all times the tutor will need to be told this.  He or she might need to take their passport with them at all times. English speakers are loathe to do this because they consider a passport so precious that they must not risk carrying unless absolutely necessary. It might be lost or stolen.


In some countries large payments in cash are commonplace. In the Anglosphere cash is not king. People will be reluctant or worried about being paid in cash.


In Far Eastern countries tattoos are very much disapproved of. They are closely associated with gangsterism. In Western countries tattoos are no longer the preserve of prostitutes and sailors. Having a tattoo is the sign of a slightly daring person. Someone with several tattoos might be regarded as stupid or delinquent in the West.


In Western countries a couple living together whilst unmarried is accepted by all but religious fundamentalists. 50% of children are born out of wedlock in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark etc… If you say that anyone who has a child whilst unmarried is a disgrace then you might offend your tutor. He or she could easily have a relative who has given birth whilst unwed.


Christmas on 25 December is by far the most important festival for Christians of the Western denominations (i.e. Catholic and Protestant). Even people who are not remotely religious view it as vital to reunite with their family at this time. They will desperately want a week off around this time.


Thankgiving (Fourth Thursday in November) is a major festival for Americans. Note that only Americans celebrate it since it does not reflect the historical experience of other nationalities. Canadians also have Thanksgiving but at the end of October. If you insist that your American tutor work over Christmas then giving them time off in lieu at Thanksgiving will be warmly appreciated.


Your staff should be aware of some of these cultural differences. The tutor might inadvertently offend them or indeed by puzzled by their conduct.


The bedroom is a very private place for Westerners. They do not show their bedroom to all but their closest friends. A single Russian woman showed a single British man around her apartment and brought him into the bedroom. He got quite the wrong idea about her intentions!



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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