A year as a freelance tutor

After being a freelance tutor in Singapore for close to 6 years, I noticed that there is a certain rhythm to every year. I thought it’ll be interesting to note down my typical yearly journey, as part of my process to develop workshops for freelance tutors. If you’re interested in what concerns and challenges a typical freelance tutor has, this is for you.

January-February

I worry about students who graduated and how to fill up my days. My income is way lower at this point compared to the months before end of year exams.

Most students are slowly getting their engines started. I am also getting warmed up from the good rest in December.

School lessons are unfolding bit by bit. The challenge is to develop a teaching plan for my students.

March

I am suddenly faced with more enquiries. I crack my head about how to slot in students from different levels and staying at different place. The scheduling is challenging! Onboarding new students

April

Classes are almost full. Students are showing their differences in abilities. Those who are better are humming along, those who are weaker are starting to feel the heat.

May

SA1 is round the corner! I wish I have more time to give extra lessons to my existing students. A few anxious parents have called me wanting to join my class. I have to preempt them that it’s too late to enrol to my class and expect miracles in SA1. Still, the new students takes effort to coach; I have to help them catch up on the past 4 months worth of work. Will be great if I can make them stay back after class for remedial!

On top of students’ current topics, I also assign them to do past year SA1 papers. Some still make maddening mistakes in their papers! Not enough time to cover current topics and go through the mistakes they make in the past year papers. We only have 90 minutes a week and that is not enough!

June

Finally it’s the school holidays! I can use a breather. Most students who are not in their exam years takes 1-2 weeks off for school camps or just to take a break from studies. A few weaker students ask for extra lessons each week since they don’t need to go school. I am able to shift all my lessons to the morning or early afternoon, so I can finally meet my friends for dinner!

I also received quite a few new sign ups. The new students typically scored poorly in SA2 and now they are eager for help. This is probably the last batch of students I will take for this year. Anything enrolment beyond this point, I will not have enough time to teach them well at a once per week arrangement.

July

School resumes. New topics are covered. Nothing spectacular happens. It is a month of getting the students’ engines to start again. The june intake needs most of my attention to get them ready for SA2 in Sep.

August

The topics are a bit tougher at this part of the year. The performance gap is becoming obvious amongst stronger and weaker students.

September

SA2 is round the corner. PSLE is coming even sooner. The few gaps in my weekly schedule are filled up with extra lessons for the weaker students. There are a few others who very much can benefit from a few extra lessons with me, but we just cannot find a time slot to meet. Very frustrating!

I know I should not have done it, but a referred parent earnestly pleaded for me to conduct some crash courses at late night for her child. I simply cannot say no when both the parent and the child are both so eager and so understanding.

October

PSLE is over, now the SA2 for all other students rage on! This is a month of revision, past year papers, heart attacks, deep sighs, exam technique pep talks and managing parents expectations. For those still struggling, it’s crucial that I communicate to their parents what to expect, rather than waiting for the bomb to drop. Yes, I know I will still lose a few students, but this is one of the best way to mitigate the losses.

Some students get cold feet before the papers and fall sick. One girl is admitted to the hospital for acute stomach pain. Exams really mess up some students’ life.

November

Finally all the exams are over! I am so exhausted! My year end holidays are still one month away, so I am just happy now to sleep a little more and spend whole days binge watching Game of Thrones and Korean dramas. I also sign up for some short courses to upgrade. It feels good to be sitting in the classroom as a student. This is also a great time to network! If only every month is like this.

Oh yes, this month is the month of harvesting too. Results of my students are mostly out. There are many grateful parents who texted me stellar testimonials. I get all these screenshots and post them on my Facebook page to build up my marketing assets.

December

Going for my long awaited holiday, woohoo! Two weeks of playing and eating is great, although I kept having the nagging thought of how to pack my schedule for next year, especially when I am sitting in the coach with nothing much to do.

A few days after I am back from the trip, it’s time to plan for a glorious new year! I made a few phone calls to my existing students’ parents to confirm their enrolment for next year. There are a handful who – surprisingly – choose not to continue with me. I used to get really affected by these dropouts but have since learnt to let go. Will be great if I know how to conduct proper exit interviews to know the real reasons they drop out.

The last week of December I keep myself busy with arranging tentative schedule with parents (since everybody is still clueless about the new school year’s timetable). Before I know it, Christmas is here and year end countdown is here. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Cheers to another great year!

That’s it. The end of a glorious year.

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