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Jobs 101: Tuition teacher

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She enjoyed her part-time tutor job so much, she decided to make it her full-time career.

Like many other undergraduates, Karen Khoo first started giving tuition during university to earn extra pocket money. 

Even after she graduated in 2009, she continued giving tuition to primary school while working as an accountant. 

Gradually, Karen realised she enjoyed teaching her students more than crunching numbers. After working as an accountant for five years, Karen quit her job in 2014 to focus on working full-time as a tuition teacher

Youth.SG met Karen to find out what it is like to be a tuition teacher in the competitive industry. 

Who: Karen Khoo, 32 
Occupation: Tuition teacher at Tender. Love. Care. Learning Centre
Studied: Bachelor of Accountancy in Singapore Institute of Management 

english-tuition-teacher-PSLE-singapore-classroom
Karen started tuition centre, Tender. Love. Care. Learning Centre, with her husband, Dashure Toh.
They have taught more than 3,500 students since 2009.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG 

Tell me more about yourself!
I love reading ever since I was a child. Whenever I have free time, I would spend my time reading books. 

Through reading, I hope to spark my students' interest in English and creative writing by brainstorming story ideas with them. 

How and why did you become a tuition teacher? 

Teaching is something I thoroughly enjoy, and I am comfortable around young students. As I got to know more students from different backgrounds, my passion for teaching grew. 

Gradually, I realised that teaching is more than just imparting knowledge. It also about building trust and rapport with students and their parents. 

Describe a typical day at work. 

Preparations for my lessons varies daily as I usually focus on what I can do to enrich my students' learning experience. Occasionally, I look for resources online to prepare for my lessons and to better understand my students psychologically. 

Since I am in charge of the day-to-day operations of the tuition centre, I also have meetings with the teachers to talk about our students' progress. 

After that, classes start at about 4pm and I will teach for about five hours, around three classes a day. 

tuition-teacher-marking-worksheets
Karen spends at least three hours a day marking her students' work before her class starts.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG 

What are some challenges you face as a tuition teacher? 

One of the biggest challenges I face is encouraging my students to improve. But students need to be motivated first if they want to improve themselves. 

The primary school students I teach tend to be less motivated than older students as they have a shorter attention span and are less mature. 

One of my approaches is to build rapport by talking to them. I try to get to know them better and find out about their weaknesses. 

english-tuition-teacher-teaching-in-class
"Most of my students are like friends to me because of the rapport that I've built with them," said Karen.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG 

What is the best part about your job? 

Seeing my students improve with my help is the best part about this job. I feel accomplished when I am able to help my students 'unlock' something they thought they could not achieve. 

I had a student who was very apprehensive about writing. He was daunted by the fact that he had to write a whole story. After guiding and encouraging him on, he was able to write a composition he was proud of. 

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Karen still keeps the encouraging cards and notes she received from her former students.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG

What advice do you have for youths who want to become a tuition teacher? 

Money should be the last thing on your mind. Although it is a lucrative job, you need to have the passion and dedication to teach your students. 

You have to sacrifice your time to focus on your job. This includes working on public holidays and working when your friends and family are taking a break. 

If you are passionate about teaching, you won't dread all the sacrifices you need to make. 

Educational requirements: At least a Bachelor’s degree. You also need to be well-versed in the subjects you are teaching.

Qualities needed: You have to believe in the value of teaching and be patient with students.

Salary range: Basic salary starts from $3,000 a month. With more experience, it can go up to $12,000 to $15,000 a month.

Working hours: You can expect to work at least five hours per day and six days a week, as your schedule revolves around the school’s academic calendars.

Career prospects: With the interpersonal skills you have gained by interacting with students and adults, you can pursue a career in the education line or be a private tutor.

BANNER AND PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHANI YONG

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