Four reasons to give up on big tutoring companies

What’s wrong with big tutoring companies?  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it for the longest time.  Then, this morning, it finally hit me, and I ran to the Bodsat Blog to get it down.

The thing is, some of these folks are colleagues, nice people, truly, and some very good ideas there. To say nothing of solid execution on a successful business model.

But then I saw this post on LinkedIn, seeking “recent grads” —
2015 06 LinkedIn
— and something snapped into focus for me.

I did a bit more clicking, and found:

  • Recent grads wanted (i.e. we want cheap labor, not professionals)
  • Available to tutor at least through December 2015 (i.e. this job is a waystation, not a career)
  • Work between 5 and 20 hours per week (i.e. this job doesn’t require much focus)
  • Higher rates for premium locations (i.e. you’re a commodity, paid for your location rather than for your effectiveness)

A big company is successful for itself: it gets lots of “good-enough” tutors to lots of kids.

But small firms and lone experts are successful for the families we serve.

As a result, our kids are changed, because we take self-improvement seriously. This has been our careers and our reputation for over a decade. This is not some summer job.

Bodsat Prep and our colleagues at the Summit really are better where it matters.

Who’s working with your son or daughter?


3 thoughts on “Four reasons to give up on big tutoring companies

  1. While I appreciate the candor of the author in this piece, as a tutor at the obliquely mentioned “big tutoring company” in this post, I feel the need to point out that the four points being made are categorically untrue.

    The recent grads that I work with are professionals from academic disciplines and, I can safely say, are not “cheap”. They get intensive training and ongoing development throughout their time with us. In addition, while many of our tutors do work for us for only a couple of years, there are quite a few who make tutoring with us their careers. In fact, many go on to work in full time capacities with our close-knit office team.

    The last point being made here comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of our operations management. We compensate tutors with a higher rate for going beyond their regional availability. Essentially, we want to ensure that our tutors are being fairly treated and paid for the work that they do.

    Ultimately, what we have here is a polemic that is shot from the hip. Further, it ignores just how much work, support, and time need to be funneled into meaningful test preparation. Our tutors come to us and remain with us because they are effective educators with excellent experience and a deep passion for the material. I dare say that none of them would describe themselves or their teaching ability as merely “good-enough”. We care about our students and are willing and able to grow in an effort to better serve them. If meeting the needs of our parents and students more effectively through building infrastructure is wrong, well…I don’t want to be right.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Genuine thanks for writing.

      I think that this is a debate we need to see more of. I have seen great work from tutors at your company, but I am sorry to say I have also seen work that I can’t imagine you’d be proud of.

      Also, I apologize for misunderstanding your payment policies regarding travel.

      Mine is certainly a polemic, but I don’t agree that it was shot from the hip. It comes from a long-standing dissatisfaction with what we commonly accept as “expert” teaching.

      Building infrastructure in order to serve families and students is great. Using it to empower non-experts to come off as expert is (emphatically) not. Surely you have seen tutoring companies do so, even if not yours.

  2. Hi Wes,

    Thanks for your reply – I appreciate your openness and your willingness to start a discourse on this topic. Still, though, I can’t get behind your sweeping assertions that big companies, by virtue of size, necessarily ignore individual clients’ needs and that smaller scale professionals are necessarily better equipped. Further, you make the assumption that these small scale professionals “take self-improvement seriously” whereas, if I gather your meaning correctly, companies like mine do not.

    The folly of your argument does not lie in the issues that you describe, but in the fact that you apply them so broadly and indiscriminately to the industry landscape. I’m certain that you have observed the pitfalls that you describe in your piece, but you must also admit that you’ve seen independent tutors fail miserably as well – failing to meet student needs and learning styles just as you assert that “big” companies like mine do. Sometimes the instructional methodology of one professional or institution might not jive with the learning style of a particular student – that’s just how learning works.

    I believe that it should be our goal, as experts in this industry, to rise above the pettiness of asserting who is “really better where it matters” and to avoid broad, sweeping claims. Ultimately, the choice of who to work with comes down to the comfort level and preference of individual students and families.

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