From Portland, OR — 11/16/2009
I haven't worked at Tutor.com for very long, but I think it's a great job. I was concerned about the comments that tutors weren't being paid on time, so I watched for my paycheck in anticipation. But so far, they've been paying me on time.
For anyone considering it, here are the pro's
1. The students--When you have a good session with a student, it feels like a million bucks. When the student gets it, and can explain it back to you, it's awesome. Students often tell me that I explain things better than their teacher. I just love it when they understand it and can go back to school with confidence.
2. Working at home is the obvious one. I stretch out around my desk with references, a calculator, and scratch paper and I'm good to go in my PJs.
3. Pay--in spite of what others say, work-at-home jobs generally don't pay even minimum wage. $9 an hour to start is not bad (although if they lower it any more, I'm gone on principal). They do only pay $5.50 per hour while a scheduled tutor is waiting for students. But, heck, that's $5.50/hr for doing nothing. Where else can you get that? And besides, the waiting is minimal.
4. The whiteboard classroom and the chat system they use is superb. This makes it much easier to teach a concept when you use the whiteboard properly.
5. Organization--they have it down to a science. The scheduled tutors get priority when it comes to assigning students. "Floating" tutors can also get students during busy times, but they won't always get students waiting. Tutor.com "holds" students in a queue unless there is a longer than usual wait. That way, when you are working your scheduled hours, you are pretty much guaranteed to get student after student with very little wait time in between. They keep track of all your sessions so you can go back and review them later, and they show you the student's comments from their survey.
6. Rapid-fire Tutoring--This is like the Super Cuts of tutoring. You get question after question in rapid sequence. You can't help getting good at explaining things fast with a general guideline of 20 minutes to finish up. This may not be my last tutoring job but it will be the one that teaches me how to do it.
Here are the cons:
1. The students--yikes! They sometimes think tutor.com is Cliffsnotes. They won't read a book, they'll expect you to tell them all about it, and then, when you don't, they give you a lousy rating. Sometimes they're just plain dumb. You can explain something in a very clear and understandable manner, and they just don't get it. And they often don't know their own language. The foreign speakers I get are very good at writing in English with a little help. The native speakers are sometimes unbelievably bad. They send an essay for me to proofread and I don't know where to start. Some of them are so badly written from start to finish that I just want to tell them to scrap it and try again. Then there's the students who don't know what their assignment is and want you to figure out what they have to do. Or the ones that don't remember the basic principles of the subject they were taught in class so you have to cover the most basic things with them. It can be frustrating. Fortunately, these students are less than half of the students I get.
2. The support--you do get responses from people in tutor support, but it often feels like you have no one to talk to. I do have a mentor and she's nice. But it took her ten days to send me an initial evaluation. I really needed feedback sooner. And I need to talk to her about the failures without feeling like I might lose this job. She has given me a few things to work on and her evaluation of my performance was very accurate. I hope she sees my improvement.
3. The tutoring--it's harder than you'd think. You never know what question is going to hit you. My first day was awful. I think I did everything wrong and sounded very unfriendly. I was discouraged and wished I had someone to talk to, but there was no one. You really have to know your subjects and you have to know what the student is asking. Sometimes that's hard to get within the allotted time.
4. Rapid-fire tutoring--I know I said this was a pro. But it's also a con. Constantly conscious of the time I'm spending with each student, I try very hard to finish with them within 20-30 minutes. Sometimes that just doesn't work. In fact it's often impossible. The students don't always respond to you quickly (some of the belong to the Christopher Columbus school of typing where you discover and land after a long voyage). Sometimes you just strike the wrong chord with a student and they hang up on you. Sometimes it's hard to do any research or figure something out thoroughly with the time hanging over your head.
All in all, I think it's a good job. But you can't expect it to pay like private tutoring or be like private tutoring. It all becomes worth it when your student says, "I get it. You're the best tutor I've ever had."