I am physics major from Virginia Tech, class of 2015. I have been involved with sports for my whole life and am really into weight lifting and playing basketball. While studying at Virginia Tech, I have volunteered with Special Olympics, the American Cancer Society, Alzheimer's Association, and various other service initiatives. During the Summer of 2013, I studied Irish politics and culture at Queen's University Belfast on a scholarship from the Fulbright Commission. My favorite subjects to tutor are physics and calculus. I am familiar with the struggles that students often have in understanding a topic and am able to diagnose how much explanation is needed in order to help the student understand it in their own way. To me, being able to say it in your own words is the most important part of internalizing the subject.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University - Bachelor of Science, Physics
ACT Math: 33
ACT Science: 36
SAT Math: 770
GRE Quantitative: 170
GRE Verbal: 161
Basketball, weightlifting, youtube videos, science
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Teaching is about understanding what the student needs. Sometimes a nudge in the right direction is all the student needs to come to the right conclusion. It is best to try to give the student just enough so that they figure things out on their own. However, a teacher needs to be able to tell when the student is not going to make the connection. This could be because the solution is counter-intuitive, or because the student has misunderstood or forgotten a fundamental. In either case, it is important to work from the ground up and make sure the student understands the problem at a fundamental level. Regardless of how much work it takes to come to the solution, it is important that in the end the student is able to voice the solution in their own words.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I typically have the student begin by telling me about the classroom environment, how much they enjoy the subject, and how well they are understanding it. I ask them what they enjoy doing and what their plans are. I usually tell them about my educational experiences and about the other activities I'm involved in. Then I talk to them about how the subject we're addressing applies to other things that they know and things they might do, so that they get an understanding of why it is important and why they should study it. Next, I assess how they approach problems. Take physics, for example. If they read the problem and then address it by asking, "Is this the equation that I use?," then I know that we need to change how they are thinking about the problem and approach it from a more physical point of view, as opposed to a raw, mathematical point of view. The last thing I try to assess is their learning style so that I can tailor my next lesson to better suit their ability to learn. For example, if the student is mathematically inclined, I will prepare derivations for the equations we're using. By the end of the lesson, I should have an idea of what the student's needs, are and how to better address them in the coming lessons.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
It is important that the student learns to break problems down into the fundamental components. From there, they can identify where their problem is and try to address it. There are different ways to address their problems. Some students prefer to see the derivations of the equations that they use, while others prefer to address it more conceptually. In either case, I teach students how to do this on their own so that they can create a working knowledge of the material as they go along.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I always try to offer encouragement when the student struggles. It is important to keep them on the right track when they are approaching a problem. When they solve it, I try to put into perspective how difficult the problem was, and congratulate them for solving it and understanding it. It is also important to help students realize how their efforts are going to make them better and more prepared for achieving their goals. Sometimes students feel bogged down by certain subjects and think that they are wasting their time learning them, but if I can put into perspective how learning this subject is necessary and beneficial, then they will know that they are not just spinning their wheels.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I usually back out of our current approach and re-evaluate the problem. When the student struggles on a concept for too long, it is usually because they are forgetting something from early in the semester, or even from another class that plays into this problem. By stepping back, or even leaving it and coming back, the student has a chance to re-approach the concept and try to understand it from a different angle, or remember something that they are forgetting.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I have the student teach me how to do a related problem while I ask questions about the fundamental concepts. If they can teach it from the ground up, then they understand the material.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I usually try to end with a few problems that I know they will knock down easily, and that also covers key concepts to a difficult problem that I've picked out for the end. Then I get one the difficult problem and show them how to break it down into easy ones, and let them work on it. Most of the time, the students are able to tackle a much more difficult problem than they expected with relative ease. This makes them much more confident going into tests and future assignments, and also shows them how the hard problems are just combinations of the easier ones.