My name is Katie Hill. I'm 24, currently working on my undergraduate degree. I went to University of North Carolina for two years as an English major, and now I'm back in school and I'm Pre-Med. So, I will graduate with dual majors in Biology and English. I'm living in California, working at a local college to get some credits out of the way, and loving every minute of it!
I believe that it's a real privilege to be a tutor. We get to sit next to a student and help them as they grow into whatever kind of student and learner they want to be. I think that's a very serious thing, to be a part of someone's growth. But, it's also a really cool thing. We get to be there to support students as they realize exactly what kind of learner and academic they want to be. That, to me, is a very powerful thing.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Current Undergrad, English
Elementary School Math
Study Skills and Organization
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I think everything you do as a tutor should be with the ultimate aim of helping your student become an independent learner. Our job is to help students to get to a place where they can help themselves, where they have the tools and the confidence to succeed. So, that means supporting them, holding them to a higher standard, and ensuring that they are invested and responsible for their own learning. We give them the tools, the tips, the strategies, but we are simply coaches. They are the ones in the game.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
If a tutor is doing their job, they know the details of each student's goals. They know what it is their students are looking for, and what they're willing to give. So, sometimes that's all a student needs to stay motivated: a simple reminder of the goals they set together. But, sometimes motivation is lagging because the tutor is teaching in a way that isn't working for the student, meaning that the tutor needs to re-assess. A student's progress is a team effort, and, if that progress slows, it's a shared responsibility.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Usually, if a student is having difficulty, I assume it's my fault. So, I try different ways of explaining things, often using physical representations or examples that I know my student has in their daily life. First and foremost in my mind is, "What kind of learner is my student?" No matter how many times you explain a concept to them, a visual or kinesthetic learner is going to struggle. So, it's important to know your students and what works for them.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In the beginning, I take it paragraph by paragraph.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Honestly, the best thing to do when working with a new student is simply get to know them. I like to find out about my students' hobbies, their favorite books, what kind of stuff they like, and what they're into. Then, we can start to build a respectful relationship, which I've found is the most important piece of the puzzle.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
You just have to find that part of the subject that they can hook into. There's always something. Art students might think they hate math, until they see the ways that Michelangelo and the greats used grids to transfer sketches to canvas. Math students might hate English until they see the formulaic patterns, the tempo-ed mathematical perfection of Shakespeare's sonnets. You might have to really go looking, but there's always something a student can connect to.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I give them my own homework. Nothing huge or difficult, but a page or so of hand-written questions or examples that directly relate to what we learned. Some students actually ask me to give them homework part-way through sessions, so that they can be sure to remember everything.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I don't do it on purpose, but when my students start to get problems right in areas where they've struggled, I get really excited, I high-five them, and I'm just psyched. I just see their faces light up when I do that, and I know it's maybe not the most dignified way to do things, but I can't help it. It's such a cool thing to see somebody start to click on something they thought they couldn't do.
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy is, "Teach each student where they are." So, I never come into a session with expectations. I sit down, and whoever's across the table from me, that's who I'm teaching to. That might mean I have four students in the same grade at the same school with the same teacher, and I teach them four completely different ways. But, it's important to let your student know that, wherever they are in the learning process, that's okay. We'll just work up from there.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The first session is usually a get to know you type session, so I bring materials to test the subjects my student is interested in learning. I also really try to get to know who they are, not just as a student but as a person. I think it's important that we start off on the right foot, meaning that they know I'm there because I want to be and because I care about them as a person. Every one of my students means a great deal to me, and I truly want them to do well.