I am a former college professor with fourteen years of classroom experience. For a variety of reasons I have chosen to leave higher education to pursue other career interests. However I have always been and will always be a passionate educator. I believe I have the opportunity as a tutor to make more of a difference in the lives of my students than I did as a traditional educator by giving my students the kind of personalized attention they need to succeed in a way that was not possible to deliver in the classroom. I am committed to helping students prepare for college by boosting their basic skill sets in critical thinking, argumentation, reading, presentations and writing and by hopefully kickstarting their own internal passion and curiosity for learning.
Colorado State University - BA, Speech Communication
University of Utah - Ph.D., Communication
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy has always been more philosophical than applied. I love knowledge and learning for its own sake. It is not just a means to an end, like a job or a grade, but it is what is an essential part of our human condition. This is what motivates my approach to learning and instruction. As a result of this, I think learning is fun, and I love challenges. I want to find answers to problems that are challenges, and I love to work collaboratively with students to discover those answers together. I don't always have the answer to every problem a student presents, but I will do everything I can with the student to try to find it, and that process, in and of itself, is valuable.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I like to spend time talking about what the student wants out of their sessions with me. I want the student to have a sense of power and control over their own learning needs and goals. It's not my learning experience and philosophy that should define the session. The student sets the tone. I want to encourage them to learn how to take control of their learning and determine their own needs. Once a student gets used to my more collaborative approach, they will usually tell me what they would like to see happen, and we can then determine what resources or learning materials they might need to achieve those goals. We develop a plan together, but it is a plan that is student-driven, and that is what is very important to me. I don't take a "top-down, teacher knows everything approach."
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I interview students to get an understanding of where they feel confident in their learning, where they feel they need more help, and where they struggle the most. So much of learning is about attitude and approach. It's also about knowing how your own brain works. That is a process of self-discovery. I work with students in my questions on figuring out how their own brain works and then designing learning and study tools around their learning style. I also like to find a silver lining in whatever they are struggling with. A mentor of mine told me that "failure" is just another form of feedback. So failure itself is fascinating. Failure is a powerful opportunity for self-discovery and empowerment and can be a great source of personal insight. Once I help students to stop fearing failure so much, they start to push themselves more and to take more intellectual risks. This always leads to greater independence as a learner.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I spend a lot of time in our early sessions figuring out what kinds of goals the student has for themselves. It is important that the student define their own goals and put them into their own words rather than parrot what others think are important goals for them. I also try to encourage them to start out with very specific, feasible goals that seem achievable for the student. Maybe they have been told that they should have a goal of getting an "A" in geometry, but maybe what is more possible and achievable for the student is to improve their next test score by 10 to 20%. I find that when students actually achieve goals that are manageable, they are more inclined to set a harder goal the next time. My second strategy is to help the student set up their own system of self rewards, withholding some of the activities and pleasures they most enjoy in favor of turning them into rewards for themselves. It could be something as simple as their Xbox, ordering a pizza, going to a concert, or watching a dvd or tv show. They withhold something they enjoy or that they know they need to moderate in favor of studying or working on a specific academic goal. Once they make sufficient progress on that goal, they can reward themselves with that object of joy.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I try to make sure they have access to plenty of practice problems or materials that present that concept in a variety of ways until they feel confident they understand it. I also try to find a variety of methods for explaining a concept. I usually find that most concepts have multiple correct ways to explain or develop the concept, and not everyone responds to the same method. It is important to find lots of different ways to teach a concept, especially a difficult one. Every student is different. Finally, patience is essential-- and not just for the teacher/tutor, but for the student as well. The student has to be patient and forgiving of themselves. There are those "geniuses" out there. Most of us "mere mortals" just have to take the slower, harder route. However, that doesn't mean we cannot or will never learn/understand something. And, I find, that when you win a hard fought battle, you feel that much more pride in your learning success.