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The online tutor experience log


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In the interest of sharing experiences and helping set realistic expectations among those who seek out online tutoring, I thought it would be interesting to have a space where we can share our stories and experiences with platforms such as Preply, italki, and LTL.


A couple house rules first...

1.) No doxxing. In other words, don't link to the tutor that you are talking about here.

2.) If you want to find out a tutor because someone else is having a good experience and you think they might not mind sharing, just reach out to them via PM.


I'll start -


Tutor 1 - a recent college graduate from Taiwan. She always provided materials, gave me vocab, would look at a paragraph of my writing and correct it. At $20 an hour, she was quite expensive.  I stuck with her for almost a year but I found that I could not really justify the expense, also if there is one bad thing about her it was that she did have a pension to use way too much english. But looking back, she was pretty good. Tutored regularly from 2019-2020.


Tutor 2 - my first time booking a tutor in years. $15 hour, Shangai woman. I should have seen it as red flag when she sent me a hsk-6 PowerPoint on the topic of love and romance right from the jump.


When the lesson began we were just talking casually and at some point she told me that she did not think I needed the slides as we could just spend the lesson chatting. At some point she started showing me a bunch of photos of herself wearing different clothing in the style of the Chinese dynasties of the past. There were a couple internet issues and the entire session her WeChat and phone was buzzing notifications which was quite distracting.


Against all better judgment I decided to buy more credits with her, but transfered them to a new tutor when she messaged me canceling the 2nd lesson moments before on the count of not having electricity in her home. Her excuse might have been valid, but in my credit transfer notice I simply wrote that I was transferring them because the first week had too many internet issues in the second week had another technical issue with the power outage. 


Tutor 3 - ???

My 5 hours with the woman from Shanghai became 8 hours with this $9 Chinese literature major from Qingdao upon transfer. Looking forward to our first lesson on Tuesday night.

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I've had one tutor on iTalki so far, from Handan. He was a "professional" tutor who charged something like $14 USD an hour (that may have increased since then). That's not super high, but it's a little more than the community tutors. I purchased 5 classes, one hour a week, for about $100 (after adding together all the fees). One of my biggest fears is having a tutoring session filled with awkward silence, not knowing what to talk about. Fortunately, this tutor always had a way of keeping the conversation going, and he was highly disciplined and prepared. He would often go about 15 minutes over the time I paid for, almost to make the point, "I'm giving you your money's worth!"

One day, he announced that he was moving to Beijing to take up a "996" job, and his availability would be extremely limited. That also happened to be a season in my life when my wife's uncle went on hospice (he lived alone and needed us to come take care of him), and several large expenses made our finances rather tight. I wasn't sure how much extra cash I would have to spend on iTalki lessons, anyway, and I've already been paying tuition for unrelated graduate studies. So iTalki lessons fell way down on my priority list. I finished 4 classes (I missed 1 and just let him keep the money), and later, the tutor came back and said that the 996 job was way too grueling, and he decided to quit and return back to full-time teaching. That was back in early March, and I've just lacked the motivation to return since then. 


One quirk that he had was that he was extremely self-deprecating about his own culture. On more than one occasion, we had a long conversation (initiated by him) about how little money Chinese people earn--a Starbucks coffee costs about the same in China as it does in the US, but it constitutes an enormous chunk of the average weekly pay of a Chinese person, so only rich people go there every day. Young people might go there on a rare occasion so that they can take a selfie of themselves drinking a Starbucks coffee and post it on social media. I was wondering...is he trying to send me a message about how I should pay him more? I mean, I would be willing to do it, but it would be awkward to address the topic directly. My wife asked me if there was a way to pay iTalki tutors more money through the platform (because she thought that $14 an hour was exploitatively low). But I couldn't see a way to do that through the prescribed methods.


When I return to tutored sessions, I think he'll be at the top of my list of candidates. I have no problems with him.


On 7/8/2022 at 8:14 AM, PerpetualChange said:

I should have seen it as red flag when she sent me a hsk-6 PowerPoint on the topic of love and romance right from the jump.

That is one of the funniest things I've read on this website! Wow, that's awkward. :) 

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On 7/8/2022 at 2:14 PM, PerpetualChange said:

she told me that she did not think I needed the slides as we could just spend the lesson chatting

Instant red flag for someone who isn’t a qualified teacher. Chatting isn’t teaching.


I tried a few tutors on italki but couldn’t make it work for me. I’m not great at online stuff in any language.  And I found they were mostly undergrads looking to make some extra cash and relying on their enthusiasm rather than any actual skill - hence the above excuse being commonly pulled.

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On 7/8/2022 at 10:25 AM, Woodford said:

I was wondering...is he trying to send me a message about how I should pay him more? I mean, I would be willing to do it, but it would be awkward to address the topic directly

I wonder if he would be surprised to learn how many Americans make less than $14 an hour. 


I have had a similar experience like that. I think a lot of people just tend to think that you are made of money if you are from the West. And maybe they are just feeling you out to see if it's true or not. When I was paying my previous tutor $20 an hour I often thought about how good of a rate it probably was for them being a grad student in Taiwan. I'd asked her about her tutoring after I had gotten to know her pretty well over several months, and she told me that while she did make a lot of money by the hour from Western students, that it wasn't really steady or stable enough for her to count it as a real career. 

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All iTalki tutors:

Tutor1: Community Teacher located in China @ $7/hour. Is a new-ish tutor. He has no relevant credientials but likes learning languages and is great at answering questions. Is LGBT friendly (on profile, i haven't talked to him about it). I've had 15-20 lessons and will continue. Currently availability is 12hours/days. 


He is also very open to any lesson ideas or structure you might want. Malleable. When I first started we just played some "would you rather" games and why we made our choices. Was fun

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