02 August 2010


Tutor Tales, Volume 18

A little under two weeks ago, I was contacted by two very different mothers. One of them got my name from a friend who had decided not to hire me after I told her my rate. (Yes, that one!) The other found me when she googled "Hekasi tutor" and found Tutor Tale, Volume 1.

I had a bad feeling about one and a good feeling about the other. I'll bet you can guess which was inspired by whom.

The second mother was the first to get back to me. Let me spoil my own story now by calling her Mrs. Delight and implying that her daughter already has a My Little Pony name. =P

She suggested we do a "trial" tutorial session. One hour of supervised tutoring--fully paid, of course--to see if her daughter and I would be a good fit. It sounded like a great idea (especially since I had no other prospects at the time), so I agreed.

After I had more time to think about it, I realised it generally is a good idea. Parents are naturally hesitant to hire a stranger to tutor their children, even a stranger with a totally amazing blog like this one, and don't want to commit to something they might regret. A one-time trial means that if it doesn't work out, there are no hard feelings on either side and the tutor at least gets an hour of paid work.

So I offered the same deal to the other mother, when I called her back. She wasn't too crazy about the idea. A "trial," she argued, should be a real trial that she shouldn't have to pay for. As vehemently as I disagreed, I knew that I needed new tutees for this school year and had to do whatever it took to get them . . . so I told her that I wouldn't be charging anything.

Not that I expected to be writing off a huge loss. What I didn't tell you at the beginning (because I wanted this post to have a certain structure) was that Mrs. Cotton Flower also rang me up at around the same time two weeks ago, asking me to spend two days with the mad, bad Doctor Brothers. (!!!) They live in the same area as this other mother's family, and since I would see them right before going to see the new boy, I wouldn't have to worry about paying for more than the usual there-and-back taxi rides. (Still, you know: the principle!!!)

So last Wednesday, I rang Mrs. Delight's doorbell, was let in by the nanny, and met little Angel Delight for the first time. What a sweetheart! A very quick study, too! She picks her lessons up very quickly and seems to think that homework is one never-ending activity book. After five minutes, I started silently praying that I would ace this audition. And because I spoiled it for you, well, you already know that I did! =)

Later, I also got to meet both Mr. and Mrs. Delight in person. They're a youngish, happy, bright-eyed couple. I wasn't too surprised: I could see a reflection of what kind of parents they were in their daughter.

As I told Fire Storm's older sister once, "When you look at the child, you see the mother." She agreed, with a proud tilt to her chin because she knew her mother had done quite a job with her. =P And that's just my way of setting the stage for the story of my (unpaid) trial tutorial with the other mother's little boy . . .

He doesn't have a G.I. Joe name yet because I'm not sure that I want to take this job. Maybe I'm just unfairly prejudiced because: a) his mother got my name from the penny-pinching mother; and b) she seems to have her own skinflint tendencies herself. But there was something about their dark house at the end of the last street in the village . . . and their old, slightly deaf housekeeper who answered the door . . . and the red votive lights in their family shrine . . . and oh, did I mention the pouring rain? I might be Final Girl, but that's because I know that the first rule of surviving a Horror movie is not walking into one, if one can help it.

Then there's something about her son . . . He seems like a bright enough boy--and he's friends with the Doctor Brothers' younger cousins. But he also reminded me of the way dogs get when they're well fed, well groomed, well trained, and well loved by someone who doesn't take them for walks. (Dogs have this psychological need to go on walks. Keep them cooped up and they feel sad and don't understand why.)

Well, okay, maybe I'm unfairly prejudiced against the boy because of everything I went through just to get to meet him. But you haven't heard what happened after I had met him . . .

Okay, so I was a little late on account of the rain and the house numbers being difficult to see. (Mea culpa! I take full responsibility.) Was his mother just putting me in my place when she said, "I didn't think you were going to show up at all! We've already finished all his homework, so there's nothing for you to do"? Then again, if I had made such a bad impression, why did she want me to try again tomorrow night?

Ah, maybe money will save me, after all--even if it's money I never get to earn. I've just e-mailed her to explain why I can't go any lower than my usual rate, despite what she might have heard from her friend who referred me. What she will say to that will determine whether her little boy gets a G.I. Joe name or not.


Sullivan McPig said...

That econd mother sounds terrible. and there couldn't have been that much homework to begin with if it was all finished with you being just a little late.

Michael said...

If they are demanding in a bad way before they hire, they will be a PITA after they hire you. People, for example, who want to complain about my prices, or don't want to pay me even for a trial, or complain about the terms of the contract, are in my experience not worth it.

I simply won't take the business unless it is for an extraordinary rate. And now I'm not even willing to do that. Such folks make up maybe 20% of a typical clientèle but cause 80% of the headaches, even when they pay top dollar and pay on time.

I never take on clients like that. It is not worth the emotional energy even if the dollars are good.

Now I realize the Philippine market may be different than the American market. Someone with your apparent skills could make six figures working less than 40 hours a week in certain parts of the US.

Its big business, at least in my neck of the woods, even in this economy. Of course you gotta do what you gotta do, but it sounds like a disaster in the making to me.

Enbrethiliel said...


@ Sully: Not just late, but also free, remember? =P And in the rain!!!

@ Michael: I do have a feeling the mother is going to be unusually difficult to work with. I'm hoping that when she reads my rate, which is about double what she is prepared to pay, she won't think I'm worth it.

But even then, who wants to bet that she'll hold me to my promise to meet her son for a trial tutorial? =P

mrsdarwin said...

"When you look at the child, you see the mother."

That's so true.

Boy, second mother couldn't have found anything for you to work on after you came to her house for free? Why exactly does she feel her son needs a tutor, then? Someone who demands that much emotional energy from you even before you start work for her is only going to get worse... But the Delight family sounds lovely, and I can't wait to hear the stories.

I have to say that Tutor Tales is my favorite segment of the blog. If second family ends up hiring you, at least you'll get some good stories out of it... though I don't know if that makes it worthwhile to take a demanding client.

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

I bet trial tutes will spread goodwill and bring in more business-- I'd probably do it for free but maybe cut the trial down to a half hour-- then if they wanted to continue immediately, charge them half fee for the next 30 minutes. Just an idea.

Beware 2nd family! A creepy house and mean ways... Run, E, Run!!!

But I can tell you feel sorry for little Dogboy...

Suburbanbanshee said...

Sigh. Yup, this isn't gonna be pretty. (Unless it was just a bad day thing.) But I've worked retail during a Power Rangers-heavy Advent season, so I submit that you can get through just about anything with a smile, a sympathetic look, and a can-do customer service attitude. A lot of people just want to vent, and since you're there, you get vented upon.

Off-topic, but Rich's ComixBlog has just started a crossover story, one of the elements of which you will find of great interest! Lo, I plant the URL upon you! Make sure you read the comics page all the way down to the bottom....

Enbrethiliel said...


@ Mrs. Darwin: Nope! Second mother wanted mostly to talk about fees and scheduling. So, honestly, I don't know if the money and the stories will be worth it, either.

@ Lesa: That's a good idea, too, and if the family lives in a place I won't have to taxi to, I just might do that! Thanks. =)

And well, maybe the little boy was also having a bad night, as was his mother--as Banshee has suggested.

@ Banshee: Perhaps it was just a moment when she needed to vent, tried to hold back a little, and didn't manage. (That doesn't explain the creepy house, though!)

Thanks for the comic. Would you believe I didn't have to read all the way down to the bottom to know which band they were listening to? I know the lyrics to most of their songs. It makes my love for Duran Duran look like the classier aspect of my love for 80s music.