by Sharon Haag1

Another article, Relationships with Tutors and Itinerant Teachers: Making It Work!, mentioned that good communication about the setting and the expectations for the relationship are key toward making the experience successful. 

Though each situation is unique, the following topics of discussion are helpful by both parents and tutors. We hope that they will give you a starting point for developing a list that is specifically appropriate to your situation. 

Since the majority of tutors and itinerant teachers are single females, we write these tips specifically with them in mind. Most issues, however, would also apply to single males or to married teachers who come to work closely with you.

What a tutor needs to know

  • Culturally appropriate behavior, especially with local people of the opposite sex and household help
  • The type of clothing culturally appropriate for the climate and anticipated activities
  • Household routines and ways of doing things, such as hygienic practices, availability
    of resources, family members’ and house helpers’ responsibilities
  • When to join family activities and when the family needs private times
  • Items that are scarce, such as water, soap, certain food items, and treats
  • Your discipline standards and practices; what things are acceptable for the kids to do; what things are dangerous in the village setting
  • When traveling: what to do in case of emergencies and how to avoid problems; tips such as sitting by women, not traveling at night, taking a small bag on board rather than storing luggage outside; how to carry cash and documents. If the tutor does need to travel alone, she should travel with you the first time and be introduced to “contact” people along the way, in the event she should ever be stranded. Remember that even if you travel alone, it may not be appropriate or comfortable for the tutor to do so if she does not know the language and is not familiar with the culture.

Things to work out together

  • Household responsibilities 
  • Responsibilities regarding children during both school and nonschool times
  • Responsibilities with village people (remember the stress load on the teacher, even if she only teaches a half day). If she wants outside/additional responsibilities, start slowly and make short-term commitments.
  • Private times—understand each others’ temperaments and privacy needs; understand and accept differing energy levels
  • Ways to meet the social needs of the tutor, including scheduling break times and time to go to the city to be with friends
  • Finances—how you will share expenses
  • A regular schedule for short-term progress and evaluation discussions regarding both the school program and personal and interpersonal issues. Focus on positives, but do not be afraid to bring up difficulties and, if necessary, work through a facilitator.

Suggestions for tutors and itinerant teachers

  • Settle the question of singleness at this particular point in your life (you will feel worse about it when lonely and under stress). Realize you will probably have to work through it again at different levels and under different circumstances.
  • Plan for your own entertainment, special projects, and personal development and growth areas.
  • Plan for your own spiritual growth; take devotional materials including message tapes if desired, Christian music, Bible study materials, and a memorization program.
  • Know your own stressors and ways to relieve stress. Realize that you may have to adapt these in a field setting. Make sure you can engage in some culturally acceptable exercise program.
  • Go as a learner, especially in cultural areas such as appropriate and modest behavior and dress, and even regarding the teaching situation. Realize that the parents know their children far better than you do and can give you tips about what works well with them and what does not. Trust each other and work together as a team for the good of the children.
  • Develop communication skills—good listening practices and team problem-solving skills.
  • Build an outside friendship network and develop ways to communicate (letters and visits). It is especially helpful to get together periodically with other teachers and singles to be refreshed and encouraged.
  • Work on the language if you plan to be in a location long-term—at least work on the
    national language to help you get around more easily.
  • Fit into the family’s way of life as much as possible.
  • Add your own “spice” to family life with your interests and talent areas (music, reading to children, hobbies, medical ministry).
  • Become a prayer partner.
  • If you are a woman, strive to be a much better friend to the wife than to the husband.
  • Stay out of family discipline; discipline only when you are in charge of the children.
  • Be tactful. Don’t give advice unless asked. Even then, be careful to stay in your own area of responsibility. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when appropriate.

First published in “Parents Teaching Overseas, an SIL publication. Permission is granted to copy, but not for commercial use.

  1. Sharon Haag grew up as a third culture kid (TCK) along the northern border of Mexico. She received her K-8 teaching degree through Biola University and an MS in school counseling and School Psychologist’s credential through Cal State Long Beach. She joined SIL in 1974 and taught TCKs in southern Mexico, piloted the Field Education System (FES – a support program for homeschooling families) in Guatemala, and was an itinerant teacher in Cameroon. She later worked from the United States supporting homeschooling families overseas and doing educational evaluations and consultation. She is now retired.