Problem Student

Hi all. I’m looking for some tips/thoughts on how to best handle a problem student. I’ve been teaching this person for about a year and they are constantly cancelling. At one point a few months ago I messaged them saying that we should call it a day as she was always missing lessons but she insisted that we keep going and that she’d be happy to be charged full price if she cancelled within 2 days. That was OK for a while but the cancellations started up again (outside of the 48 hours notice) and the excuses are literally unbelievable (“urgent appointment with a dog groomer” is a personal favourite) then last week when she did show up I was subjected to a 20-minute monologue on how 5G is causing me to have migraines. I honestly thought that those people only existed in the wild…

I try to steer the conversation back to the lesson when she starts on this kind of nonsense but she really enjoys sharing her theories.

I’m at the point where I’d rather not teach her at all but I’m concerned that any reason I give will result in a poor review. And I HATE confrontation. But maybe it’s worth it?

I just wondered if anyone has had to handle a similar situation and how you dealt with it.

2 Likes

Unfortunate situation! I’ve had situations like this in the past and I have just dropped the student. I’ve been tutoring full time for around 8 years and it’s only happened twice.

It would be good if tutorful could give us some kind of guarantee to remove bad reviews if they result from situations like this. I know in general tutorful will consider your case if you appeal a bad review but it would be reassuring to have some kind of acknowledgement of types of reasons they would be likely to accept, such as constant cancellers!

2 Likes

Sadly Tutorful are incrdibly unreasonabe regarding unfair reviews. I recently had a student who verbally abused me in their first lesson by shouting at me and behaving extremely agressively, which is the first time I have experienced this behaviour in 6+ years of teaching. Obviously I ended the lesson, and the student immediately posted a retaliatory review. By their own admission, the Tutorful recording failed due to a known glitch so the lesson could not be rewatched and they decided not to remove the review because it was their right to have their opinion. They told me they would instead consider adding a feature where tutors can respond to reviews. To me, this feels that students’ poor behaviour is aceptable to Tutorful and tutors must accept “the customer is always right”, for the sake of the precious lesson fee.

3 Likes

That’s pretty unfortunate CelesteC! Please don’t feel any pressure to elaborate on what must have been an unpleasant experience but I’m just so curious wondering what sort of thing they were shouting at you about? I’ve never experienced anything like that but of course there are people like that out there, unfortunately, and I guess you were unlucky - or perhaps I’m lucky.

Honestly if it were up to me, I would have removed that feedback. However, I don’t know that I’d go as far as to say that tutorful are ‘incredibly unreasonable’ though. I can see from their side that there’s just no evidence. It would be a terrible standard to just remove negative feedback if a tutor could simply say that the student was abusive and left the feedback because of that.

Nonetheless… there should be evidence - and it’s tutorful’s fault that there isn’t, in your case! Furthermore, if you stated that they were abusive while you thought that there was video footage that would prove it, that really is very strong evidence of your good intentions. So I agree they should have removed it, but I still see the reasonable principle they are operating with, I just think from what you’ve said it sounds misapplied in your case.

Negative feedback really does suck and I’m looking forward to 5-10 years on where us tutors have so many hours taught that we all inevitably have caught some negative feedback - then it won’t feel so bad!

I’m often delighted if students cancel late but say they’ll pay anyway. I get paid and can go to the gym. The 12 hours on the Tutorful system isn’t really fair on us. I had one student who kept cancelling with 12 hours notice and didn’t offer to pay. She also happened to be one of my richest students, son at one of the top public schools. I dropped her, it’s easy no need for confrontation. Praise them, praise their children say your situation has changed and you can no longer fit them into your schedule, then wish them luck for the future. Regarding reviews, if bad ones are removed they become meaningless. If Tutorful is to remain credible they must leave all reviews but give tutors the opportunity to respond.

1 Like

I would definitely never want to censor a review from a student who feels that they’ve had poor service but it’s an entirely different matter if the review has just been written out of spite and is baseless, which is a bit of a concern with the student in question. I agree that having the opportunity to respond would make a huge difference.

To be honest, I think I’m at the point where, bad review or not, I just need shot of this person, and while it’s great to be paid for doing nothing I really would prefer to be actually teaching and getting paid for that.

4 Likes

i.e. take on another student who bothers to turn up.

1 Like

Hi Roger, it sounds like you think that no bad reviews should be removed ever? But surely you think there is a limit to the acceptability of a bad review? For example, if a bad review accused a tutor of terrorism, or being a mafia boss, or being a Russian secret agent - then you would support it being removed?

I just take those extreme examples to see whether you would accept any limit to your principle on never deleting bad reviews. From there, if you do indeed think that bad reviews should be deleted in these extreme cases on the principle that they are wildly inaccurate, I would just ask where you draw the line on that spectrum and why.

Interesting examples. We are getting onto the limits of free speech here. I think the reader of a review claiming a tutor was a mafia boss may be able to judge the absurdity of it. If a review makes a damaging and libellous accusation the reviewer may be subject to legal proceedings. I like the bad reviews on trip advisor they normally make me laugh and as the reader, you can generally see the malicious intent. To answer your question I would remove reviews that contain abusive language, that’s all.

1 Like

Fair enough! Ok how about this, what if the bad review claimed that the tutor taught them something incorrect, when the video evidence clearly shows that actually the tutor did not teach them that incorrect thing. Would you support removing that bad review and if not what would be your reasoning?

No, I’d give the tutor the right to reply and explain why they didn’t teach the wrong thing. If it could be proved that the reviewer was lying to discredit the tutor then I’d sue them. This is almost a discussion on cancel culture v free speech. If you disagree with someone don’t try to remove their platform to express their opinions, argue against them.

“By their own admission, the Tutorful recording failed due to a known glitch so the lesson could not be rewatched and they decided not to remove the review because it was their right to have their opinion. They told me they would instead consider adding a feature where tutors can respond to reviews. To me, this feels that students’ poor behaviour is acceptable to Tutorful and tutors must accept “the customer is always right”, for the sake of the precious lesson fee.”

Unfortunately this is another example of Tutorful doing nothing to support tutors when on the wrong end of an injustice.

1 Like

I don’t know that it is a free speech issue. I suppose we’d need to establish what the reason for these reviews are. To me it seems that the reason for these reviews are to give an accurate picture of a tutor to potential clients. Therefore, any reviews which can be shown to be inaccurate are not going to be helpful for that purpose and should therefore be removed, would be my reasoning.

I love free speech in general, but I think it’s fine for companies to have complete editorial control over small things like reviews on their own website if they have a certain purpose/goal in mind for it. I don’t see a conflict of interest problem in this case for example, since it’s in tutorful’s interest for tutors to receive accurate reviews, it’s not in their interest to help tutors avoid negative but accurate reviews.

Hi Rossco242, this is well meant but may be harsh. If you’ve put up with this for year it may be sending a stronger, unspoken message that you’re kind-of okay with her behaviour compared to the one challenge you’ve sent back. You have the choice to quit and fill those hours more happily with a better client and get paid. Just pull together your stats on how many times she’s cancelled late, to use in a rebuttal if she sends a negative review.

As for the client talking about 5G or the meaning of life, again its a choice. She may be valuing you as a listening ear for other stuff in her life. And you’re getting paid albeit as a therapist rather than subject tutor. The risk is that if you’re marketing yourself as, say, a maths tutor and she whinges later about slow progress because only half the lesson ended up being on maths, it’s hard for you to defend. In the few cases I’ve had of this, I’ve been firm pretty firm about cancellations and how we use the hour.

All told, it sounds like you deserve a break from this rigmarole. There are more fish in the sea. Good wishes.

2 Likes

It’s up to the customer to decide which reviews are accurate, not the company. If everyone has all 5-star reviews it tells customers nothing. A bit like every student getting an A* in maths. If customers know Tutorful are blocking bad reviews it makes all reviews meaningless. Total transparency is the only way, people can make up their own minds. I know tutors are worried about upsetting customers in case they get bad reviews but I think this is very rare most just give 5 stars to be nice.

I’m not advocating that tutorful delete all negative feedback though. I’m only suggesting tutorful delete negative feedback that can be show to be objectively inaccurate. So this will not result in everyone having all 5-star reviews, it will result in everyone having accurate feedback, including accurate negative feedback, which will tell customers much more than if the inaccurate feedback were left in.

I don’t see how it’s up to the customer to decide which reviews are accurate. Surely it’s up to reality?

Thanks Mohan. I really appreciate your response - not harsh at all. I think you’re absolutely right and I do need to be a bit more firm - and I should have been firmer at the start. I have 22 students in total and she’s the only one that I have any problems with, so I count myself pretty lucky, overall. It all counts up to experience in the end, eh.

Thanks again.

2 Likes

The first thing I would do is make it clear on your profile what your standards are. I don’t think there’s any shame in doing that. I make it clear that I expect students’ attendance to be perfect/close to perfect giving allowance for exceptional circumstances which affect us all and holidays providing they are discussed ahead of time.

Secondly, I would simply drop the student. I have had three students where this has been the case. The first student would just not show up and whenever I asked the parent I would always get a cock-and-bull story about it being everyone’s fault but theirs.
The second student was an in-person student who would make me feel uncomfortable when I showed up anyway but there was an occasion where they cancelled a whole month of sessions and then week after week of illness or clubs to the point where they’d missed I think something like 8 out of 12 sessions between March and June last year so I stopped that one.
Then again this year, another student booked a weekly slot but after a while cancelled weekly because they were saving up (so why look for a tutor then?).

Make it known to them that this is your valuable source of income and if they are not respecting your time then you are better off finding a student who will respect your time and attend weekly. Be stern with them. I have had to be a little ruthless in how I’ve gone about my business and have yet to receive a review that isn’t 5*. In fact 3 of my reviews were from the aforementioned students.

2 Likes

Phone up Tutorful and demand to still be paid for the lesson. I still charge if my students haven’t turned up but then again mine very rarely cancel lessons themselves. I had one that cancelled, but for some reason, a glitch in the system accidentally booked the same lesson twice, and I was able to claim the money because I wasn’t sure if she meant to cancel the lesson or just the extra lesson.
If you explain the situation, Tutorful staff can be remarkably understanding (you should still be paid if they cancel last minute, as it’s Tutorful policy). But honestly, if she keeps cancelling, she’s deliberately wasting your time and it’s not acceptable. Kick them to the kerb and get someone who values your time.

2 Likes

I have a policy where if a student cancels 3 times without giving me at least 24 hours notice, then I no longer work with them. I feel like if it is a recurring thing, then they do not value my time, which isn’t really fair. I could use that time to work with another student or spend time with my loved ones, but instead I am rushing to plan a lesson or get home on time to have the lesson which is frustrating.

After the first time of them being late, I explain this policy to them and if it happens 2 more times, I tell them I am unable to help anymore. At the third time, I tell them that I am unable to work with them, and send the referral link for Tutorful (explain the £25 for you and me), and recommend for them to find another tutor.

I also have a policy where if they are more than 10 minutes late with no message or telling me prior, I cancel the lesson. And again if this happens 3 times, then I no longer work with the student.

2 Likes