I have always enjoyed sharing knowledge with others and helping people learn to learn. Even as a young child, I loved seeing others transcend the limitations that once intimidated them, and that feeling continues to drive me today. I began tutoring in middle school when my grandmother, a retired second-grade teacher, found herself struggling to serve effectively as an algebra tutor. I put in an enthusiastic effort, and it worked out surprisingly well. Despite once “struggling in math” (this was the questionable word choice of his teachers), he eventually graduated college with a degree in mechanical engineering. Over the years, I have taught math, English, science, computer programming, and Latin. When I tutor, I am always careful to be empathetic, attentive, and flexible. I have found that communication is always improved by these habits, and I don't leave home without them. I believe I can teach any subject (even those with which I am not already familiar, given adequate time to prepare). I don't have a favorite subject to tutor; if I am able to help someone understand something that was previously incomprehensible, I'm happy. I have a degree in psychology from The Ohio State University, where I spent two years writing computerized tasks for the Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory. In my free time, I read (history, philosophy, science, economics, and whatever else winds up being relevant to whatever first grabs my attention [in other words, everything]), watch documentaries, play pool, practice guitar, and write songs.
Ohio State University-Main Campus - BS, Psychology
SAT Math: 790
AP Computer Science A: 4
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What is your teaching philosophy?
Despite the norms of compulsory education, everyone learns differently; therefore, everyone is ready to learn different things at different paces, at different times. In every last one of us, optimal learning occurs when we positively and actively respond to a conscious awareness of our own individuality.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First, I seek to learn about a student's personal habits and preferences. All learning extends from our fundamental personality -- when we forget to account for personality, we often forget how to learn. Then I let them guide me through their current work, so that I can observe any weaknesses that may be present in their foundation. I find that we can always move forward from these two starting points.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I don't help them BECOME one -- I remind them that they ALREADY ARE an independent learner. Every concept must be actively taught to the self, even in the presence of a teacher, if it is to be understood. There is nothing inherently comprehensible about the phrase, "2 + 2 = 4." In order to think about any concept, however simple, our mind must break symbols into conceivable mental objects and then learn to move those objects around in our imaginations -- this process cannot be taught to anyone. It is essential to being a human being. Intellect is an innate component of our minds. My primary strategy of encouraging independence is to encourage students to give themselves more credit for the enormous amount of independence that they have already proven themselves to have. I also help them learn to more effectively use the Internet as a tool for learning. (i.e., I help them see that the Internet is much more than a repository for cat pictures and selfies.)
How would you help a student stay motivated?
First, I find out WHY they're not motivated. There is an ENORMOUS variety of discouraging stimulation in this world. If, e.g., a student is demotivated because their parents have divorced, I sympathize with their loss, and with their very-accurate impression that there are more important things than school, while encouraging them to remember that continued intellectual growth is vital to their ability to transcend their current circumstances. If a kid feels frustrated by school, we discuss WHY, and if they have legitimate complaints (e.g., about the nature of the student body; after all, some social environments can be very irrationally hostile toward certain kinds of people), I point out that they will be better-equipped to improve these circumstances if they have a thorough understanding of the concepts that underlie these problematic relationships -- especially math, language, chemistry, biology, psychology, and history. If a student has illegitimate complaints, I will try to help them see the silliness or contradiction inherent to their perspectives, in a non-confrontational, nonjudgmental way. If a student just can't understand any good reason to be interested in an academic subject, I ask them about their personal hobbies, and we discuss the way in which those hobbies relate to that academic subject. Of course, none of my strategies is "set in stone" -- I try to be as flexible as possible in my response to every student, given that every one of us is unique.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
That depends on why they're struggling, but, in general, I attempt to gather diverse resources that speak to their level of understanding. I genuinely believe that anyone can learn anything through appropriate exposure to the right information in the right context.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Aside from the probably-obvious (I walk them through examples, and break down passages with them), I encourage kids to spend more time reading, by referring them to material that speaks to their unique interests and abilities. All reading and writing trouble stems from a lack of practice in the art of carefully, patiently digesting literature -- many kids are discouraged from reading by the paradoxically rushed-but-rigorous (and often boring) practices of literary dissection that are so common in systems of compulsory education. In my experience, if you hand someone the RIGHT book, or the RIGHT link, they will want to read it, and they will AGGRESSIVELY make sense out of it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of schools apply a "one-size-fits-all" mentality, and force the same book on massive groups of significantly-different children, with widely varying interests, and a broad range of capacities for understanding. This NEVER works out for the majority of students, but sadly, schools continue to do this anyway. Inevitably, those kids who are prepared to like the given books, or who have practiced reading a lot, will do well on tests, while the remainder of the class will be immensely discouraged by their relative "failure" (compared to their peers who get much higher grades). The best thing for a student in this latter position is to discourage them from comparing their progress to that of others, and instead focus the student's attention toward reading material that actually intrigues THEM, even if that material is ENTIRELY extracurricular. All forms of reading practice are better than a complete lack thereof -- and kids do not get to practice reading in a patient, productive way when they're desperately trying to rush through an overwhelming chapter in search of "the important parts" that will be on their quizzes. They must be encouraged (but NOT forced) to get some other forms of practice.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Empathy and patience are absolutely essential to helping people grow. Every productive strategy is an expression of these traits.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I ask them questions and wait for them to explain what they know. If they can't clearly explain what they know, they don't yet know it well enough.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
First, I might need to remind them that they are human, and that all humans possess an immeasurable capability for growth. Then, I might need to remind them that they must accept their current abilities in a peaceful and honest way, in order to move beyond them as quickly as possible. Then, we practice.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I talk to them about their challenges, and I attentively observe the difficulties that they encounter when they work through their current material.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I figure out what those needs happen to be, and I do my best to meet those needs by any possible strategy. I never apply strict, formulaic recipes to students -- each person needs something a little different from the last.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Every single concept in every single textbook in every single school can be learned in many different ways from the Internet, if your Google-Fu is strong.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would identify various relationships between their personal interests and that subject, and I would help them learn about that subject through those relationships.