Blog Tutors Tutoring Tips Are You Humiliating Your Students Without Even Knowing It?

Are You Humiliating Your Students Without Even Knowing It?

Students come in all types of behaviours that make them unique from one another.

As a tutor, dealing with these different learning styles and personalities can be difficult. In getting young students and teenagers to bend to their will, some tutors (or parents) may unconsciously resort to using humiliation to get their students to heel. But, humiliating a student can cause catastrophic impacts on student-tutor relations.

In this article, we will discuss the impact of humiliation on students and what you can do to prevent it.

Different Types of Humiliation

There are 2 types of humiliation that a tutor can inflict upon a student.

Deliberate Infliction 

This is the obvious action that is usually shown through speech and body language. It can be acted out due to spite and pure meanness. The tutor may be biased against the student and judge the student due to family background, gender or race.

Some tutors tend to use humiliation to get their students to listen. It is also a way to frighten others or give a warning, especially if they plan to misbehave during lessons. A few use humiliation as a way to cover for their weakness of being unable to control their students.

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Indirect Infliction 

Whereas this type of infliction is usually ignorance and carelessness by the tutors. It is shown through the choice of words and tone of voice. Tutor themselves, may not even know that they have crossed the line.

Sometimes, an innocent remark can be construed as malicious by the student, causing misunderstanding and a rift between the bond of tutor-student. Other times, it can be due to a joke taken too far and out of context.

Humiliation is not okay

When you ask the tutors about their reasons why they use humiliation, some will argue they have the right to criticize their students. Others would say the student deserve the treatment and it is a way for the students to know they are not as great as they think they are. A few may argue that the students don’t mind it and may even use it as a motivation to become better.

However, humiliation is not okay because you run the risk of crossing the line of abuse. It is negative and degrading. Some students wouldn’t forgive their tutors and become belligerent towards them. Others may take it to the extreme and not cooperate at all. A few will hide their reactions, harbour negative feelings and resent the tutor silently.

How can you avoid humiliating your students?

If you are a tutor who is at wit’s end with your students, you need to remember humiliating them won’t do them any good.

As their tutors, you are their guide to be better adults and if you treat them badly, it will not improve their behaviour. You must also show that you are open into understanding them regardless of their behaviour. You can also exercise your power as their tutor differently without attacking your students.

So what do you do to fix your relationship with them if you accidentally humiliated them or want to prevent it from happening?

Here are some tips we can recommend you to do:

Open opportunities for your students to speak to you in confidence

You can allow some time after your session to talk about other topics or before the session so you can address their concerns.

If they can’t tell you what they are feeling during the session (or if your lessons are not held in their room), give them your email address so they can write to you about it.

Make it a point to review your students with what you are teaching or telling them

Students often process lessons or messages differently, which may cause conflict if you look back on the issue.

After every session, have a recap and ask them if they have any questions. This will help you see if they are getting the right signs you are giving them.

Avoid sarcasm as much as you can even if it is just to lighten the lesson

Students react differently to sarcasm and may hide their resentment about it during your session. Sometimes, they may show their discontent elsewhere.

If you want to lighten up the mood, stick to light topics or jokes that don’t have a second meaning.

Pay close attention to body language when you let your student speak

Sometimes, students do not admit what they are feeling, especially if they have been embarrassed or belittled. They will try to save face or act blasé as if nothing is wrong. However, if you see them acting differently, speak to them and try to clarify if there is something you said.

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Some students tend to shy away when confronted with questions, but if you show that you are willing to listen, they will speak up eventually.

Check your tone of voice when you speak to your student

Sometimes, even if you do not mean to belittle them with your words, the tone may imply otherwise. Stay neutral or casual to get your students to relax and not fear you are thinking bad about them.

You may also need to watch your facial expression and body language when you are talking to your students.

Do not use any religious, sexual or racial slur which criticises or belittles the student

Using such slurs can cause your student to avoid you or think you are a threat. If you are going to use slurs, it should be a part of the lesson and not directed to anyone.

Don’t say things like “Boys are always better at Math and Science. You are a girl so you need to study harder to understand these concepts.”

Do not ever say your student is never good enough or doing enough

Some students will take this as a criticism or a reason not to take part in the discussion. You can allow them to say “pass” if they do not know the question, but let them know you expect them to answer next time.

Use positive speeches like “I think you will increase your chances of getting an 80 grade if we practice more on algebra.” or “You are getting better at your grammar, let’s pay more attention to your sentence structure.”

Avoid negative speeches like “If you don’t study hard now, you will never be able to get a place in this school.” or “You are making so many careless mistakes. I think you are too lazy to check them.”

Get your students to share anything to you which they consider humiliating or embarrassing before class

We often have different concepts of what is humiliating or embarrassing. With this said, ask your student to share what they think is humiliating or embarrassing for them to help you get an idea on how to act before your students.

Share your experience with your students if you were once embarrassed or humiliated by a teacher or tutor.

You can let them know how you dealt with it and ask them what they would do if faced with the same incident. Doing this may also inspire your students to reach out to you if they know any case where a student has been embarrassed or humiliated by another teacher or tutor or if they experienced it.


Students see their tutors as their second parents or their mentors. Tutors are people whom they can trust to keep them safe and protected from all threats while teaching them how to become better people. However, if the tutors themselves are the ones who harass students, wrong signals are sent to the student. Students will feel unwelcome and their academic performance will be affected.

As a tutor, it is up to you to help these students become comfortable and make them feel safe in all aspects. Keep a close eye out and adjust your teaching style accordingly so students know you care for their well-being.

To improve your teaching style, here are some articles to help you:

10 Podcasts that will Help You Improve as a Tutor
Tutoring Strategies to Support Student Introverts

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.