How to Politely Reject a Request to Tutor

As language teachers, we’re normally happy when a potential student comes along or when a student indicates that he would like to continue having lessons with you. When you’re new to teaching, saying “no” to a student probably won’t occur to you. Most of us still have this image of a classroom situation in our minds where neither the teacher nor the student has a choice. They just have to get along with each other. Students who opt for private classes have already learnt that they do have a choice. When they’re not satisfied with a teacher, they disappear and look for another one.

But what about the teachers? Do we also have the right to say “no” to a (potential) student?

Too demanding students

Sometimes a potential student comes along and you already feel while exchanging written messages that it won’t be a good match. Students who can clearly express what they’re looking for, are normally great students but once in a while, a very demanding and unpleasant person comes along. So if you think that a potential student asks for much more than the price of your lesson normally includes, you have two options.

Firstly, you can simply reject the student by telling him that you currently cannot accept new students. Secondly, you can offer the student “Special Request” lessons at higher rates – explaining the reason, of course. Most students will then prefer not to study with you but if they do, you’re a compensated for the extra work and everything is fine.

Clash of personalities

However, if you exchange messages with a potential student or perhaps had a trial session with someone and feel that it’s an unpleasant person, then just trust your gut and don’t start or continue with that person. No need to go into details regarding your reasons, just say that you are not a good match and move on.

Lacking knowledge

It may happen that a student has special needs and you’re simply not the right teacher for him. One example are students who need to learn the language of their working field and a general business course is not sufficient. For example, if you have a medical background and an engineer asks you to teach him technical language it would probably be best to decline student’s request simply because you don’t have the knowledge.

So if your student asks for something, you can’t provide (or not at this moment), be so fair and tell him. In such a case it’s not your right but your obligation as a teacher to reject the student. Perhaps you can refer him to another teacher who is able to meet his requirements.

Saying “no” to a current student

Obviously, this is significantly more difficult than rejecting a person you don’t know yet. Why would we do this at all? Well, have you ever felt bad, almost anxious, before starting to teach a class? It means there’s something wrong with the relationship between you and your student. You can certainly try to talk about it but often the problem lies within the different personalities of the teacher and the student. Sometimes it’s simply not a good match.

So what can you do when you feel absolutely uncomfortable with a student and don’t want to continue with that person. When you already have lessons scheduled, this is extremely difficult, of course. It’s the best moment when all current lessons have been taught and the student would like to schedule more. Make sure to be polite when you do something like that. There’s no need to tell your student that you disliked working with him.

Have you ever turned down a student? What was your experience like? Would you do it again?