How to deal with demanding students?

I have a student who sometimes tells me what content they want me to cover within the same day of the lesson. I have told them many times in the past that I need a few days notice to prepare the content as I do have a life outside tutoring, let alone other lessons to prepare for! I don’t know how to deal with this anymore because it has happened on multiple occasions. It just creates a lot of stress for me as it means I have to prepare things in a more condensed time, and they insist they want an A* so I need to make sure each lesson is perfect, which is difficult in the short time they give me to prepare.

They are not my only student, and I can tell that they don’t respect my time at all. Tutoring has always been something I enjoy, and I love helping my other students, but I don’t really enjoy tutoring this student for this reason. I feel like I need to bring up the issue again, but I don’t know how to mention it without sounding rude, especially now that lessons are recorded I would feel awkward bringing it up in a lesson.

Has anyone had a similar experience?

I have had similar experiences. My general rule is to prepare the lesson that I want to teach them, usually agreed at the end of the previous session. If they want to do a different topic and I am able to do so, then I will, but if it requires preparation then I just say that will we do that next time instead.

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I usually ask what they want me to prepare at the end of each lesson as well, but sometimes this student says they will let me know during the week, and then fails to do so despite me reminding them.

I’ve decided not to tutor people who want an A*. I prefer helping people go from a D to a B than an A to an A*. I think that level of perfectionism is too much for me.

And yes, I’ve had a few demanding students. I usually deny them before we have any classes because I can’t be dealing with that stress.

If I had a student like that who was annoying me, I’d try to persuade them to find a different tutor.

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Hi, can I offer a different view that granted you may not agree with. Most of my students come up with stuff at the start of our class. Whether it’s a topic they’ve struggling with in homework or a topic they’ve just remembered is coming up next week in class. Or similar things like that. I encourage all of them to grab their school teacher and get the forward plan of when different topics are going to be covered in class, so that we can synch our tutoring to it. Almost none manage this but I don’t think it’s disrespect on their part. Laziness at worst but how good was I at that age? I have all the topics and materials to hand and we get through okay.

You mention the word ‘perfect’ and I find it nice to be in a community where people take pride and really want the best for their students. I hope though - in friendship - you’re not setting too high a standard. A great lesson and a great tutor from the students perspective could be about pre-planning and delivery. But it could also be about flex, improvisation and relieving an angst in their mind in the now.

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Tell them that if there is anything particular that they want to cover, to let you know in advance of the lesson but also assure them that you will have covered the curriculum by the end of the year so you won’t leave any stone unturned, even if it means revisiting that topic months hence.

If they still continue to ask about a topic prior to the lesson, assertively tell them that you cannot teach “off the cuff” as you do not have the materials available. However, if they go at a strong enough pace in the lesson which you have planned then you will dedicate the last 5-10 minutes of the session overviewing some practice questions on the topic which they want extra support with.

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This has not been uncommon for me but I have generally managed to train students to expect to give me some notice. I say that I teach better if I am prepared and like to consider how best to put a concept across to the individual. Students may think that tutors should be able to do absolutely everything well “off the cuff” but most I suspect will see your point of view. If this one doesn’t, then they should find someone who likes the spontaneity of improvised lessons.

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You just need to be diplomatic. This is the way I teach and my method, if you need me to prepare something specific I need you to tell me in advance otherwise it wont work like this. Firmly and precise!. Give him a couple of chances and if in the third continue the same, leave it.

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Yes this is a common problem. I make a point in my Bio and Profile that I only give prepared lessons. In regular lessons I encourage students to tell me what they are struggling with so I can address that in the following lesson. I believe it is professional online, to give the lesson you have prepared and advise the student that you will address their concerns at the next lesson. It might be an idea to offer to bring that lesson forward if they have a problem that needs to be addressed urgently. Trying to address a syllabus topic which you have not prepared, online, is a disaster and wastes time while you thrash around trying to locate the material. I suggest you adjust your profile/bio information to emphasize that… Good luck

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I have this happen sometimes, and I usually just adapt and teach what the student wants to learn if I have some resources that I can use (I teach English, so I usually just get a text that I know works well for the skill the student wants, for example) or I will say to them that we can do that next week.
I am usually pretty up front with them if I can’t do it, and I tell them that I won’t do the topic justice for their level if I don’t have time to prepare.

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