The World of Private Tutoring

By Caroline Thirkill

The first thing you should know about me is that I’m a tutor. In New York – a world of full-time teachers, babysitters, and live-in nannies – the surest way to tell a private tutor is to look for the tired, harried young adult on the subway. They could be running to catch the nearest train, bending over an enormous textbook pulled from the bulging bag on their back, or walking quickly past the security guard – greeted by name – in the poshest apartment buildings on the Upper East Side. They’re trying not to attract too much attention, dressed professionally but not expensively. You should also know that this is one of the best paying jobs out there for someone our age.

Sure, there are plenty of different types of tutors out there. Some work with people with disabilities, others with children from low-income families – I shouldn’t generalize. But I can tell you about me, what I do. I tutor students in Latin, a language mostly learned by the children of more affluent families. That means I come into people’s homes to teach their children. I charge thirty-five dollars an hour, which for a tutor is a lot. If I do well, sometimes they are willing to pay more. For a college student, this is an incredible resource.

So why do I do it? Well, I like Latin, and I generally like my students. But most of all, I love getting to see parts of the city that I would never otherwise come into contact with. Tutoring forces me to run all over Manhattan, from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village and everywhere in between. I go as far out as Brooklyn and Roosevelt Island, but never for more than an hour or so and never anywhere that can’t be reached by subway. Trust me, there is no other option. The buses never come when I want them to, and cabs are so expensive that just the ride cross-town and back is over half my pay. Be warned, travel takes up an insane amount of time, so I do most of my homework reading on subways.

I also really love being my own boss (or at least sort of my own boss). I get to decide whether or not to take on a student and when I work with them. The biggest problem with this is figuring out when my schedule and those of the students intersect. Sometimes it can get tricky, and I have to do some difficult planning, especially when students want to arrange a lesson last minute. Of course, there is also the website that puts us in touch. I use WyzAnt, which is really useful for connecting me with students but also takes forty percent of what I make – it’s a bit of a raw deal. Eventually, I will have enough students that recommend me to others that I won’t need the website anymore, but for now it is a limitation I have to work with. Still, it is the closest I will get to being my own boss for a long time, so I’ll take what I can get.

In the end, being a private tutor is an interesting job. I make a good amount of money, especially around midterms and finals while everyone is scrambling to study. Most of the time it is not particularly challenging since I already know Latin, but there is quite the feeling of accomplishment when you get a student to finally understand a tricky grammar question they’ve been avoiding asking in school. While it can be frustrating and hard to deal with around my own schedule, I love my job and all the opportunities that come with it.

Caroline is a sophomore at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Interested in being a tutor? This is the website Caroline uses to find her tutoring jobs.

Image courtesy of


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