One of my greatest strengths as a tutor is that I have worked hard to master the subjects I teach. I believe it is essential for teachers to remember how overwhelming it can be to learn a language or write a well-argued essay. When facing a student who is confused about a certain concept, I try to be mindful of how I felt in a similar situation. My goal is always to build confidence and to teach students that improvement is a constant process. In Plato’s Apology, the philosopher Socrates said that a wise man knows that he knows nothing. The older I get, the more I see the truth in this statement. No matter how fluent I am in Latin, I still have to look up vocabulary words. No matter how well I think I argue a point in my dissertation, my professors always have suggestions. The trick to being a successful student is not knowing everything; the best students know when to ask questions. As a tutor, I utilize a "back to basics" approach that allows students to take on the challenges of writing, language, and history. When I see a student work her way through a difficult sentence without my guidance, or analyze a difficult passage on his own, I take pride in knowing that they have gained confidence. To me, this is the most rewarding aspect of teaching.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Kansas - Bachelor in Arts, Classics
Graduate Degree: University of California-Los Angeles - Master of Arts, Classics
Running, video games, knitting, cats, science fiction
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy is that good questions make good students. The most successful students are those who know how to ask specific, targeted questions. One of my goals is to help students ask questions that can allow a teacher or tutor to help them most effectively.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I always ask a new student what his or her favorite and least favorite subjects are, and why. That way, I can gauge his or her interest. If what I'm tutoring isn't your favorite subject, that's fine! I'll do whatever I can to make it more interesting.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I remind students that no matter what, they can always go back to basics. Sometimes, starting over with what you already know can be just what you need to solve a problem. I am also not afraid to challenge my students; I encourage them to try difficult concepts. They are often surprised at how well they do!
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I make sure my students are aware of both the small victories and the big picture. Looking at the big picture sometimes reminds you of an overall goal and can keep you going. For instance, "Let's focus on getting an A on that history test!" In other situations, it's important to remember how hard you work on the smaller steps, as in "You have a clear and interesting thesis! Now you have something to guide the rest of your paper." I stay motivated both by the overall goal and the small steps in between.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would go back to what the student does know and build on that. In my experience, connecting a new concept to something you already know will give you the "ah-ha" moment you need.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I help them break passages down. It's far easier to consider something bit by bit. We would start by considering individual sentences, and I would guide the student with additional questions on the material. This will be a slow process at first, but like everything worth doing, it takes practice!
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I ask a lot of questions to really pinpoint where students are having trouble. I also go over their work with them so that I can see how they've been doing in class. I try to get to know them so that I can get an idea of how I can be most helpful.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I truly think that Latin, writing, and history are exciting, and I try to pass that enthusiasm on! I'm also a huge fan of nerdy Internet memes related to the subjects I teach, and I pass them on to my students. Having a sense of humor is important, and it can be a great way to connect to a subject!
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
When I can tell a student is starting to grasp a concept, I challenge him or her with something that's more difficult. My goal there is to see if the student has developed the confidence to try something difficult. I am never judgmental if a student still struggles...that just means we need more practice!
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I teach students the steps they need in order to solve problems by themselves. I show that if something seems too difficult, they can always go back to what they know and start from there. That way, they can at least start to solve any difficult problem and often surprise themselves when they finish it correctly!
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I start by going through completed assignments with the student and talk to them about the strategies they use to complete their work. Then, I go through new problems or writing problems with the student so that I can get a firsthand glimpse at their approach to problem solving. That way, I can identify a student's strengths and weaknesses in a given subject.