Hi, I'm Michael. I graduated from Hawken High School in 2010 and have been tutoring students while attending classes. I've lived around the Cleveland area all my life, and just moved from downtown to Parma Heights. I believe most students who struggle with math and science actually fail at the first hurdle, not firmly understanding the meaning of the material. I think a natural discussion about the material is necessary to see where the student is confused and how they can understand it intuitively is needed both before and after working through problems. Of course, doing the problem sets is still crucial, and nobody will really understand or remember without actually doing the problems themselves both with and without guidance.
Northwestern University - Current Undergrad, Applied Mathematics
ACT Composite: 34
SAT Composite: 2370
SAT Composite: 1520
SAT Math: 780
SAT Verbal: 790
SAT Writing: 800
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
AP Physics C: Mechanics
GED Reasoning Through Language Arts
GED Social Studies
High School Biology
High School Chemistry
High School English
High School Physics
High School Writing
Middle School Reading
Middle School Reading Comprehension
Middle School Writing
SAT Subject Tests Prep
Statics and Dynamics
What is your teaching philosophy?
Despite what some students might think, teaching concepts in school is less about the details they will remember and use but more the methods and principles behind them. A student who understands how and why language or the natural world works in a certain way can carry that understanding with them to exam day and beyond, whereas a student who has just memorized a list of facts and rules is prone to forget it all due to nerves or missing a topic to study. When students learn how to think critically, how to analyze a problem and search for solutions, and how to learn in class, they are already most of the way there.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Of course the first thing a tutor needs to do is figure out what the student wants from him. I ask what they need to know for the class, what they have had trouble with, and also what they may not have had trouble with. Rather than simply reteaching subjects from the book, I ask a student to try to work through problems with me, and see where they get caught and why before specifically addressing that. Once I have a firm grasp of what they need from me, I can explain how I see the problem, and maybe how to see it in a different way from how they were taught. I try to focus on asking questions rather than giving instructions. In some cases I also ask them to show me how they study or take notes to see if I can help them there too. Sometimes, this makes the homework a much faster and less painful process!
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
All students will need to become independent learners eventually. Usually this means they need to figure out how to take notes, study, and do homework on their own. These skills develop from practice and also from getting clear expectations from teachers and professors. One important thing is to ask professors what to expect and to keep and look at the syllabus to plan around it. These are not the most fun things in the world, but they do ultimately save a lot of time and headache and improve grades.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
This is an open question, because it clearly depends on the student. But one technique I have seen work is giving some focus to the parts of a subject the student does do well. Tutors are usually tasked with improving the worst performances, and focusing on that to the total exclusion of everything else can reinforce the idea that the student is just "bad" at the subject by repetition.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Sometimes changing the approach to a problem or lesson can aid in understanding. Most questions can be answered, and most problems solved, in more than one way. Some persistence is still necessary of course, since improvement usually does take time. By focusing on incremental improvements and also by offering multiple perspectives, I usually succeed in helping kids learn difficult concepts.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
This depends a lot on the age of the student. My strategy would include trying to connect passages to things in the student's own life, and to encourage them to ask themselves questions while they are reading and see if they know the answer, or if they can expect to find out the answer in upcoming pages. For older students who can comprehend the surface meaning but have difficulty grokking the characters' motivations or recognizing the metaphors, I would opt for a Socratic discussion, and encourage the student to try to participate in discussions in class.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Most subjects are inherently interesting, but the most boring parts get presented first. I talk about ways the subject gets used in the real world to show what the student can expect to get into if they succeed.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Students should be able to explain the material in their own words in a way someone not familiar with the subject would understand. They should also be able to solve the problems presented in the class. If you can't do the problem sets, you don't really understand it.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I focus on incremental improvements and show how much more the student can do now than they could at the beginning of the year or last year. I also point out that most people aren't as confident as they appear to be, and that it is normal to struggle.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I ask the student! I also ask to look at previous quizzes, tests, and homework to see where they are struggling.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The only materials that are required should be supplied by the student: the textbook and any homework, tests, or quizzes they have struggled with (and sometimes also ones they have done well on). I do also keep a notebook of my own to track their progress.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I try to create a good impression by personally connecting with the student before diving into the problems. I also try to ask a lot of questions, and guide students to answers rather than giving them another lecture.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Some students are motivated to do well in a class but are struggling with a poor teacher or difficult material. They simply need more time grappling with the questions to learn it completely. Others (the majority) suffer from lack of motivation, and they need more focus on doing homework, solving problems, and studying; in that case I serve more as a drill sergeant than a tutor, though of course it's a bit of both.