PoliticsIAM William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense, and I think there is a deal to be made with North Korea - AMA!
May 9th 2017 by SecDef19 • 25 Questions • 60 Points
Our short bio: We’re Lisa Gartner and Zack Sampson, reporters at the Tampa Bay Times. We just published several stories about how children who steal cars have become one of the biggest crime problems in our Florida county. Police here made almost 500 arrests for grand theft auto in one year, more than just about anywhere in America, including Miami and Los Angeles. The kids were as young as 10. They were too small to ride all the rides at the amusement park. But they sped 100+ mph, the wrong way on bridges, and crashed a lot. Some died. The kids told us their reasoning was simple: to have fun. One boy we wrote about, just 13, was considered the most dangerous kid on the street. Cops thought he had an AK-47. He was barely 100 pounds.
EDIT: We're humans. We need to go to lunch. We will come back after we're done and look for more questions in about an hour! Thanks for checking in.
EDIT TWO: Alright everyone, thanks so much for tuning in. There were quite a few great questions, and we enjoyed discussing the stories. We're at nearly eight hours, which is about our limit. Please keep reading!
With irrational leaders in both the US and North Korea, why would you say this is still possible ? I expect that most negotiations assume sanity on both sides.
So you guys are suing Trump for these acts against the environment, of which he's used executive orders to do so. Since you guys are merely suing, does this actually stop the executive order from being executed? Or is there only a fine? What are Trumps repercussions for you guys winning a lawsuit?
How did you get started in terms of marketing? I imagine once you get going that word of mouth referrals take care of new clients but how were you able to break into what I'm assuming is a very competitive field?
I'm a property crimes prosecutor. Our motor vehicle theft detectives and I have noticed a weird new trend. When the cars are recovered, a noticeable amount have had the rear view mirror removed. Theories range from the thieves are keeping them as trophies to they think there's some sort of tracking device in the mirrors, like onstar. It's a newer trend so we think it's younger thieves. Notice anything like that with your subjects? Opinions?
North Korean leaders are ruthless and reckless but not crazy. Against all odds, they have stayed in power for many decades playing a very weak hand. Their main objective is to maintain the Kim dynasty, and we must negotiate with them with that key fact in mind.
Our goal in filing the lawsuits is to get court orders reversing the illegal actions. For example, in our challenge to Trump’s order that purports to overturn Obama’s withdrawal of most of the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic Oceans from availability for offshore oil drilling, our goal is to get a court order declaring Trump’s action illegal and invalid, which would have the effect of confirming the protection of these ocean waters against oil drilling.
I started out by getting experience in the market as a contractor for other tutoring companies. People told their friends about me, and I started getting organic leads that way. Nowadays it's almost all word-of-mouth referrals, and I only need around 5 clients at a time to keep my schedule full.
Sometimes, when I release a new product like my GT practice books, I will put up flyers around the city to generate interest. For that particular product, most other companies charge 2-3x what I do, so I wanted to have a more obvious form of advertising.
We've heard of this and were told it's because they think there's GPS in the onstar mirrors. Haven't heard that from kids themselves though.
You float in the story a couple of potential explanations (population density, public transportation issues), do either of you have any other pet theories to explain the car theft issue in Pinellas County?
We don't have any particular theories. We tried really hard in interviewing kids to find an origin or at least a time when this kicked off. But they described it in extremely plain terms. "It just happens," basically was the answer. We're planning to look further into this as we continue reporting out car theft. There's something to be said for the West Florida laid-back atmosphere and unlocked cars. Multiple official-type sources told us they thought people feel safe here and thus are less vigilant in locking up their stuff. I'm not sure that's true, but it's certainly interesting to consider. We read in police reports about victims saying much the same to police -- I thought my neighborhood was safe; I was gone just a minute.
As to pets, Lisa has a wonderful dog named Landon.
Is there a logic behind $140/hr figure or is it fairly arbitrary? (Do you think you could charge much more without significant drop-off in clientele)?
Is my truck really safer because it's a stick?
I chose that figure based on undercutting with other tutoring companies charge. Most charge upwards of $180, I know some that charge $240.
I could probably raise it significantly if I targeted new students in the wealthiest neighborhoods, but I wouldn't want to double the rates for my clients I've had for the past years. I love working with my current kids, they basically feel like siblings at this point.
Another factor is that I aim for year-round clients. I work with my kids for test prep, education enrichment, and for a fun summer school. But for clients who are only doing a few weeks of test prep before their SAT/ISEE/SHSAT, etc. I can charge a higher rate since it's more temporary. But it would be quite a significant amount for somebody to pay $240/hr all year!
Yes -- almost certainly. We saw a case where the would-be thieves couldn't drive stick. Others involved some stalled cars.
Have you thought of doing a sliding scale for charging? I imagine for some clients $1000/hr is no more a burden than $100/hr.
What was it like talking to the kids? Were they shy or boastful or somewhere in between? What kinds of questions did you ask them?
It wouldn't be "fair" really to the clients on the high end. I try to look at it as what I charge for my time, not what they can afford for my time.
It was strange to talk to the kids. I cover public safety/crime, but it's really atypical to speak to convicted people who are this young. I actually expected them to boast more, since this was seen as such a cool thing to do. But they generally undersold their history to us. They said they stole only a car or two, or didn't steal any at all, even when police records contradicted that. They said they never crashed (crashing is called "blowing it;" it's not cool). They didn't embellish their crimes, they diminished their history. And ultimately talking to them was like talking to pretty much any teenager. They were shy, they mumbled, they were slow to open up. They thought they could get one over on you. One of the most shocking moments was when a 15-year-old told me he'd never steal eyeglasses. I asked why, and he said "because people need the to see." They're smart kids, they're saavy, probably smarter than people give them credit for. But underneath it all they rarely had some profound reason for stealing a car. They spoke about it so plainly. It was just something to do.
I read your op-ed and it seems like you're advocating "More of the same... now with 100% more China!"
What sort of long-term deal do you think is possible now? Not just something to defuse the current crisis, but to mitigate future ones as well?
Are you still litigating over Dakota Access? If you are, is that a prudent use of charitable assets given that the odds of prevailing are between slim and none?
My daughter is taking the SAT in the fall, and she's really nervous. Do you have any tips for SAT test prep?
Did you talk to the parents? If, so what did they say?
The keys to a longterm solution are security assurances and recognition from the US. If those were real and credible, it would take away the need that North Korea sees to act aggressively with its neighbors and the US. However, conditions in both the US and North Korea make this hard to achieve politically.
We are still litigating over the Dakota Access Pipeline. We may or may not win the case. But we don’t give up until the case is over, and the case isn’t over. Whether or not we succeed in stopping the pipeline, the case has been incredibly valuable. It’s galvanized unity and empowerment among Native American groups. Things will never be the same in the fight for Native American rights, thanks to the courage and commitment of the Standing Rock Sioux. It has been an honor for Earthjustice to represent them.
I can sympathize, I hated taking the SAT too.
The first thing you want to look at is if the ACT is a better fit. The ACT is more "common sense" based, and if she has scientific aptitude, it does also have a science section.
Regardless of which test she takes, it's important to break things up into manageable chunks. I like to split the sections up by question type. So for math, split the problems into Geometry, Quadratics, Simple Algebra, Number Theory, Trig, etc. Khan Academy has 8 college board approved practice tests and keys online, they're really great for this.
This part's important: Take a FULL LENGTH, TIMED practice test, and analyze which question types she gets wrong. There is almost always a pattern. For example, on reading, she might miss the "why do you think the author said _____" questions, but not the content questions. For math, she might miss the quadratics, but be excellent with trig.
Focus on the areas of need without neglecting the other sections. Once she's mastered a specific area of need, don't drop it completely. Just work in a few review problems into her future practice. So once she's confident doing geometry, move onto a Trig focus (but work in a few geometry practice questions with each practice session, along with the other questions she's already proficient in).
For the other sections, do the same thing. If she's always missing comma usage in Grammar, focus on those questions while still "maintaining" proficiency in the other questions.
For each practice session, try to do at least one set of each test section to keep it all fresh. Don't have overwhelming amounts of practice, I'd say 3x/week works well for an average kid.
We did talk to parents. Most of them were frustrated. They said their children did not respect the courts, which made it harder to get them to respect anything at home. They also said their kids always started the same way -- falling in with a bad crowd -- before they began committing crime.
Any idea what the average amount of money they make if they sell them? I'm sure a lot go for joy rides, but I wasn't sure how lucrative the stolen car market is...
Thanks! It's essentially what my AP Bio teacher did for my high school class, and it wasn't stressful to prepare at all. We were used to seeing the question style in small doses throughout the year as we completed each unit, so it wasn't hard to just do more problems when the test came.
Great q. First, they don't really take these to chop shops. If they sell a car, kids told us, they do so only after police have chased them and they know it's "hot." At that point, just get rid of it, right? So they might flip it for $20 or $30 to a friend or someone older who is desperate for a short-term means of transportation. Sometimes, they claim, they can get $100 or $200 off a car. But as you can see -- selling the vehicle is not really the point, it's an after-effect of the ride itself.
What are your general thoughts on the Trump admin and ties to the Russian government?
With respect to North Korea -- will increased military pressure from the US shake anything loose diplomatically?
I don't intend this to be a frivolous question, but if an action (say, dismantling the Clean Air Plan) has a negative impact on everyone who breathes, doesn't everyone with lungs have standing? Can a lawsuit be mounted on behalf of human life?
Have you ever worked with celebrity kids? If so, how was it?
Part of their post at the top is showing about police arresting a lot of them. I'd think that's a consequence?
With respect to any Trump/Russia ties, I do not have enough information to come to any conclusion.
To your second question, successful diplomatic initiatives with North Korea probably need to be coercive; the coercion could include the threat of military action. A better coercive technique would be China threatening to withhold fuel and food aid.
The nature of an environmental dispute can affect the number of people who have standing to sue. For example, a mining proposal that would harm a place that only a few dedicated hikers visit might have a relatively small number of people with standing to sue over it. On the other hand, a wide-ranging proposal to weaken protections for clean air might have a large community of air-breathers with standing to sue.
Yes and no. I haven't worked with them as a private tutor, but I my first teaching work as a TA at my old high school. A few celebrity kids went there, including Terry Crews's daughter (who was in the year above me) and Zack Snyder's kids. One of Zack Snyder's daughters was a student in the Bio class I TA'd. She was a sweetie :)
It is, to some extent, but a lot of kids said they don't care about the arrest because they're often sent right back home. They laugh as the cuffs click shut. One girl asked police to take her through the McDonald's drive-thru. Several said they'd be right back out to do it again.
An entry exam toddlers have to drill for? Doesn't that strike you as straight up dystopian?
The article linked at the top was great. It suggested that the viral nature of social media seems to be a large component in the unusually high concentration of car thefts in the Tampa/Clearwater area.
is there one preferred social media platform that the kids are favoring or does it cross over?
Absolutely, it's terrible. I hated having my abilities reduced to a set of numbers as a student, and I hate it now as a tutor. It's dehumanizing.
One of the things I aim to do is make that test prep more accessible and affordable for people. Most test prep companies keep their materials under lock and key, and charge something like $100 for a crappy book with a day's worth of exercises. So I released a free test, and a bunch of inexpensive downloadable practice tests, along with a free book on at-home prep methods. Free videos are coming this fall, too!
Hopefully with more companies like Khan Academy offering free prep, and more ethical tutoring companies, standardized tests can be less of an issue for everybody.
It definitely crosses over! But Facebook and Snapchat seem to be leaders.
Are people really leaving their guns in their cars unattended that often? What percentage of car thefts also include gun theft?
Besides changing sentencing, do you have any other potential solutions suggested by your sources?
In my current work, I carefully choose the 5 or so families I work with to be sane haha. But when I worked for other companies (usually a few hundred different kids every month) I saw some shit. What stands out most was a little 4-year old who had some trouble focusing on his test prep for the Gifted and Talented Exam.
He didn't have terrible focus, just what you'd expect from a kid who is used to playing all day and now has to sit through an hour of drilling questions.
His mom got into a screaming match with him about his poor focus, was threatening to call his dad to come home from work and punish him, etc. It was really sad. Some kids just aren't ready to sit through that many questions at once. But if he has any hope of focusing, screaming at him isn't the way to get him to do it. You gotta make it a positive experience, reward what little focus he does have, etc.
First -- yes, people leave their guns in their cars pretty often. More than you could imagine. We did not calculate an exact percentage of car thefts including guns because we looked specifically at police reports involving an auto theft arrest. If you looked at all auto burglaries, not just thefts, you'd likely turn up a lot more gun cases. But just in car thefts, we saw guns involved in some way in more than 50 cases. A decent chunk of those guns you can guess are stolen -- most 13 or 14 year olds in stolen carfs don't have legally-purchased Glocks.
Sources told us, aside from changing sentencing, they'd like to reach more kids/families with resources like counseling and mentoring. They said they believe this kind of juvenile crime overlaps with dependency issues, substance abuse, mental health problems -- and keeping kids/families involved in schools, support programs, etc. will help keep them away from crime. Of course, that's an unsurprising response. Actually fixing that problem, or determining who provides those resources, and how, brings less clarity.
Does the U.S. have a long-term strategy for North Korea, or what do you think a long-term strategy should be? It seems like foreign relations with North Korea have historically just been maintaining the status quo and not letting North Korea expand their influence. Is there any realistic way to end the Kim regime or at least improve the lives of North Koreans without military conflict?
Man, if you want to give your kid test anxiety, that's definitely one way to do it. Poor thing.
What do you think mostly influenced them to do this other than to have fun?
The policy of the last 2 administrations was basically hoping that the Kim regime would collapse. But hope is not a strategy. Our policy should be to have North Korea become a more nearly normal nation that does not feel as much need to continually threatening its neighbors and the US. To achieve that would require the US to offer credible security assurances in return for North Korea backing away from its nuclear threats.
Are local politicians and law enforcement embarrassed about the story?
I expect continuity with past policies but it’s early in the process so I could be wrong.
Do people really leave their car keys in their cars in 2017? I feel like this doesn't happen in the UK, outside of perhaps isolated Scottish islands and the like...
I am not current on the intelligence on this matter, but I believe it is more likely that North Korea got nuclear cooperation from the AQ Khan network in Pakistan.
I've found that almost any science high school level science experiment can be simplified to an elementary schooler. People have this preconceived notion that some stuff is too complex for kids, but that really isn't the case.
Here are some examples of stuff I've done in the past few months with my kids in grades 1-5.
Endothermic and Exothermic reactions: Brief talk/review on how molecules and atoms interact with each other, but this involves energy changes. Heat is energy. Some reactions absorb heat (called endothermic), and some reactions release heat (exothermic). Discuss the etymology of the words.
Prepare two reactions in glasses. Use baking soda+vinegar for one, Hydrogen peroxide+yeast_soap for the other. Both reactions produce a volcano, kids love it. You can add red dye too. Have kids guess which one is endothermic and exothermic (they try to remember the different vocab terms here, or refer to a sheet where they wrote it down).
Discuss the use of endothermic and exothermic reactions in the real world. Challenge them to think of where something getting cold/hot is useful. Most kids will bring up medical uses at this point, and you can discuss how hospitals have chemical hot and cold packs to help people soothe their injuries. You should also discuss the gas production in both reactions, and talk about where that might be useful (filling a balloon, or harvesting a specific type of gas).
Depending on the age and interest of the kid, I'll look at the products of the reaction to prove that things "changed." Specifically, for the baking soda and vinegar, there isn't any vinegar left once you add enough baking soda. They can taste it to prove it to themselves.
Other recent experiments include: using google cardboard and stereoscopes to talk about our brain's perception of 3D, and then brought over the Vive to have a fun day. This week I talked about mass, volume, and density, and we built a density column in my graduated cylinder out of different fluids. We sometimes do less "involved" experiments, like illustrating probability by counting the responses in 100 shakes of a magic 8 ball, etc. One of these days I'll probably write a blog detailing what I do every week, haha.
Yes they very much do. That happened in 250 cases here in 18 months. It probably happens more than you think!
We have also locally seen a giant rise in car thefts in the area. 250 reported thefts in 2017 in a city of 150,000 These are also attributed to minors. Do you think this is becoming an epidemic in the US ? What do you think we as peers can do to curb this in minors ?
Our standard contingency plan was for preparing for a North Korean attack against South Korea. We developed a contingency plan for destroying the nuclear facility at Yongbyon with a missile strike. But we put that on the back of the table in favor of diplomacy, which led to the Agreed Framework.
What do you think is the most effective way of teaching someone to teach themselves? Or is that just within them?
I live in the Midwest. The city I'm talking about is Davenport, Iowa. The news sites around here are aggressively pushing the issue in the media. The police had put out a notice around 2 months ago that they had seen a huge jump in car thefts and had advised everyone to keep their cars locked at all times.
I do this by asking leading questions, and encouraging the research process. I don't pretend to know everything with my students, and I'm very open about when I need to look something up.
For example, I did a density column recently with my younger kids. We talked about what density is, and how denser things will sink opposed to less dense things. They got to hypothesize about whether molasses or water has a higher density, and then experiment to see if they were right. I asked them questions about where they think the alcohol would settle in the column. If they asked about a chemical I didn't have on hand, we looked it up together online, and discussed the results.
If you do all the talking and thinking, you teach people to be complacent. But kids are naturally curious, and it's easy to teach them to design their own experiments and do their own research.
Thanks -- that's something we'll take a look at. Do people seem to be locking their cars more, now?
What use is a test to see if a student is gifted if students train for such a test?
How did you first approach these kids?
At that point, it's really measuring how well the absorb the teaching (much like a test in school does). Which still measures something, but it's not as valuable as a metric and people seem to think.
Many different ways. Some we cold-called. Some we met after court. Some we met on police ridealongs. Some we requested interviews with in jail, which is a process. When we sat down to talk to them, we tried to keep it simple, to let them talk, to just hear what they had to say. There's a question above about what it was like to talk to the kids. Most of them were pretty bright. They were more than capable of explaining themselves and talking to adults. They've spent a long time in the very confusing criminal justice system and in many ways have mastered its intricacies. Every interview was interesting.
I have two kids and none of them took the G&T because I'm zoned in one of the best elementary schools in NYC and didn't see a need. what percentage of your kids make it?
This is all so interesting. How did you get an in with this kids? How did you get them to trust you?
It sounds like many of the factors that go into why this happens is similar to why you see children getting into trouble in lots of inner-city, high density areas. Do you have any ideas for communities to take steps to reduce this type of crime and provide other outlets?
Pretty much all of my kids end up placing in a GT program. One of the things that I feel is broken about the system is that my work has proven to me that with enough prep, nearly everybody can get the scores. It's less about innate intelligence than it is about learning to focus and learning the rules for each puzzle.
That said, I've been pretty disappointed in what the programs end up looking like once you're "in." One of my students, an absolutely brilliant second grader, recently had a homework problem along the lines of "Bob read 5 books, Carol read 6 books, Susan read 3 books (based on a picture graph). If Jose read 4 books, how many students read fewer books that Jose? Explain how you know."
This is a kid who already understands fractions and multiplication. Facepalm.
To the first part, we pretty much just asked them if they'd like to talk. I know that may sound ridiculous, but a lot of it was asking, being told no; asking, being told no; and so on. There were so many kids, we thought some of them would probably speak with us. And they did. Sometimes the kids were trying to change their ways and wanted to warn others. Sometimes they just were willing to talk. They didn't always trust us, but part of it was showing them we knew what we were talking about. We spent months researching, understanding this, building a database. We were able to demonstrate knowledge, to show that we understood and were genuinely interested in their side, and that helped build trust.
There are certainly some similar factors. I think everyone is looking for ideas and ways for communities to stop these problems. Good schools, social programs, opportunities -- that's always the answer. But still a lot of people need help or support.
How do you feel about a higher proportion of rich kids being identified as "gifted" only because their parents can buy test prep?
Hey man, a different question; This article clearly took a shitload of work, if we want to be scientific we can say it took a "Metric shitload" of work.
With how difficult it is to source, cite, find, and corroborate all of this information, and with the contrary, low effort opinion pieces, getting a lot of buzz, how the hell do we rejuvenate journalism on a large scale when the major news outlets in the states seem to be actively working against it? And what's your opinion of how the biggest news outlets with the largest reaches approach the dissemination of information?
It's terrible. One of the things I aim to do is make that test prep more accessible and affordable for all people. Most test prep companies keep their materials under lock and key, and charge something like $100 for a crappy book with a day's worth of exercises. So I released a free test, and a bunch of inexpensive downloadable practice tests, along with a free book on at-home prep methods on my website. Free videos are coming this fall, too!
Hopefully with more companies like Khan Academy offering free prep, and more ethical tutoring companies, standardized tests can be less of an issue for everybody.
Hey interesting question. I'm sure a lot of journalists could talk on this for hours over a few beers. This did take a lot of work. I think the important thing we've seen is that readers really value long takes and accountability work. This story gets plenty of buzz, too, but part of the dilemma is defining value. At the Times, editors place a lot of emphasis on watchdog journalism, which sometimes involves projects like this. There's value in that, people really do read those stories and sometimes they lead to positive changes. Buzz or not, any impact in that sense -- a change that improves a dangerous situation -- is what we hope for. Sure, that sounds grandiose, but I think that's what a lot of reporters are after. I think anyone with a big platform or a mission of informing the public should be striving for accuracy and relevance.
Why did you become disillusioned with the field of genetics or the medical field?
Former child car thief checking in.
Have you guys talked to any older ex-thieves to get more clarifying answers on why kids steal cars?
I worked in mosquito research at Caltech, in the most awesome sounding lab I could find. The work we were doing was to genetically engineer mosquitoes to pass on the malaria/dengue/other disease resistance gene at a higher ratio than wild mosquitoes. This is the type of work that could save countless lives if it worked, get a nobel prize, etc. And yet, there was no guarantee that it would ever work, even if it looked great on paper. And in the end, it was decades of just pipetting the same reaction with a new variation over and over again.
I have enormous respect for those called the field of research. But I was going stir crazy just sitting in the lab. What I thought would be an exciting journey of using your wits to solve a new problem ended up being like 2% of the process. The rest was just getting the reaction to work.
However, my experience in that lab did inspire me on one of my latest projects, which is a portable mosquito netting design. I wanted people to have physical protection in addition to bug spray, so I developed a DIY tutorial for making an adjustable net that fits over an umbrella. That tutorial is at www.Zikashield.net
For medical school, I realized that while I loved learning the material, I just couldn't handle the process of human dissection. I know a lot of people donate their bodies to science, and want to help medical students learn. But I couldn't emotionally handle peeling somebody's face off, or sawing their genitals in half. The school handled it...poorly to say the least. They told me I could skip the labs if I kept my grades up, and I did. But then it ended up becoming a political thing about the curriculum value of an expensive anatomy lab, and they changed their mind after the first semester, essentially forcing me to repeat the year (and classes I had already passed) if I wanted to stay (while accumulating 8% interest on my loans, not to mention the apartment lease, etc.) So I left.
We haven't reached a ton of older thieves but it's something we've looked at and will possibly keep trying to do. The interesting thing is a lot of older thieves stole cars with screwdrivers/forced entry. The crime today is a little less technical, and some different people are doing it. You from the area?
Just graduated from med school in NYC and I don't want to start residency. You hiring?
I'll let you know!
Reading this makes me think about doing this.
How would you warn someone not to do this?
I wouldn't! It's great (as long as you're a good teacher and get along with kids), and I love my job!
Do you feel that training young students to devote large blocks of time in the pursuit of maximizing their score on a standardized exam is missing the point of applied intelligence entirely? Let's be real here: the world needs critical thinkers that can analyze empirical data and draw relevant conclusions in conjunction with "soft-skills" that are difficult to measure (i.e. leadership ability), not people that are skilled at taking a multiple choice exam. What are your thoughts on society's over-emphasis on high stakes testing?
Absolutely, standardized tests are totally evil. I really wish we lived in a world where they had little to no emphasis on standardized tests. And most of my work isn't really test prep, it's educational enrichment (which is a lot more fun for the kids and for me!) For my year-round clients, I anticipate which tests they'll be taking and just work in some occasional prep questions here and there. That way, it's not overwhelming, it doesn't take too much time, and it still gets them used to the wording and test style.
When I do have to do focused test prep, I try to make my prep as "fun" as it can possibly be, by teaching questions with respect to their applications to in other fields, using experiments where I can, and even using games to teach the logic concepts for the younger kids.
Maybe one day haha.
Not while tutoring, I don't snoop around my client's houses, haha. I have found a hidden sex chamber somewhere else though, which was at a party in the Hamptons. My friend got tickets to a party at Sir Ivan's Castle, and he had a sex dungeon with a bunch of giant stuffed rabbits in chains. No, we didn't use it haha.
How much of an advantage do you think private tutoring gives, would you want it for your own kids?
It gives a huge advantage. I got the occasional tutor in school myself for subjects where I needed help or didn't click with the teacher, and it made a world of difference. I'll definitely tutor my own kids, or if they don't want to hear it from me, I would 100% hire somebody if they needed it!
How many billable hours do you do in a week, summer and winter? How do you work around school hours/weekends?
I basically don't start work till 3PM on most weekdays, and hours are definitely less in the summer. I spend my mornings writing and working on other projects! One of the toughest things about this industry is that for my kids are on vacation, I don't get paid. If I'm sick, I don't get paid. So I have to budget for that all year.
Hey nice AMA! I am kind of in the same boat as you as I currently private tutor kids of the upper middle class in HK. I charge a bit less than you, around $85-95 per hour for a 1:1 class. Most of my students are between ages 3.5-10.
My question for you is do you feel this is sustainable in the long run? Is there a reason why you choose to work 10-15 hours a week as opposed to working a few extra hours for a few extra hundreds of dollars?
I have been doing this for that past 5 years now and I am not sure if it's just me, or how it works being a private tutor, but I equate everything into hours working. For example if I want to buy something, I'll just think "oh it's ok, that's only 40 mins of work, no problem". It's actually quite a bad way of thinking but I can't stop it. Do you feel the same?
My hours are limited by the hours kids are in school. I usually only get one day off per week, and I can only fit in 1-2 students on a given weekday.
I totally get what you mean about thinking about spending in terms of hours worked. I then have to remind myself that it's hours worked before tax :P
What were your goals before deciding to start your tutoring company?
I wanted to do either a PhD in Genetics or Botany or go to Medical School. A PhD I worked with at Caltech convinced me to go to med school, but I hated it and left after the first year. I always tutored on the side though, and loved it. So this was a natural direction to go in.
even though you find standardised tests totally evil, (which I agree with,) do you still devote most or all of your focus with the kids to test prep? or do you spend time teaching them how to teach themselves or work on critical thinking etc which may not be 100% relevant to their upcoming exam(s)?
I spend very little time doing pure prep, most if not all of the time on an average day is science experiments and critical thinking!