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Nick

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As a theater artist who's traveled up and down the northeast over the past couple of years, one of the consistent goals of my work has been empowering people to learn and tell their own stories--a goal which has dovetailed nicely with my tutoring career. Stories are one of the chief ways that human beings define and interact with the world around them, and helping my students to tell their own stories in the best way possible is the focus of my work as a tutor, whether it's with a student learning English as a second language, someone who wants to tell their story to a college admissions panel in the most effective way, or helping an American student learn their own country's history and find their place in it. My passion for language, critical thought, and engaged dialogue was honed at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where I had the great fortune both to study with several excellent teachers of English and Theater (among many other subjects) and to work as a writing tutor for a group of freshmen learning the work of August Wilson. My work there led to one of the most challenging and rewarding tutoring experiences I've had: acting as a Thesis Tutor for several of my classmates in our final semester, helping them develop and polish their work on capstone papers until it was the best it could be while still working on my own thesis. Although this was a challenge even with just four writers, it was some of the most exciting work I've done as a tutor, and I remain grateful to those students for letting me into their process and their fields of study.

Since graduating, I've continued to work as a writer and educator at theaters in several states up and down the northeast: I'm a published dramaturg thanks to my time writing for Portland Stage Company's "PlayNotes" educational magazine; I've worked with some of the most successful and promising writers in the nation at New Dramatists in New York; and I've helped develop emerging voices by performing script analysis and administrative work for Premiere Stages at Kean University (in New Jersey) and Young Playwrights, Inc., in New York. Throughout this time, I've remained keenly engaged with bringing others' ideas to life, and I look forward to continuing to do so with Varsity Tutors.

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Nick’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Wesleyan University - Bachelors, Theater

Test Scores

SAT COMPOSITE (2400 SCALE): 2330

SAT COMPOSITE (1600 SCALE): 2330

SAT Math: 750

SAT Verbal: 800

SAT Writing: 780

SAT Subject Test in Literature: 760

Hobbies

Reading, theater, creative writing, tabletop gaming, storytelling in all forms, and cooking.


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe 1) that students learn best when given the opportunity to explore and study a topic on their own terms, 2) that the role of a tutor is a guide and curator, rather than a lecturer, and 3) that the role of a student is that of an emerging critical thinker.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

In first sessions, it's essential for me to get to know my students, both personally and academically. Why do they want instruction in this subject? What specifically do they feel they need help with? Do they enjoy this subject or not? What do they like to do in school and outside of it? Setting a groundwork of knowledge and figuring out what the student already knows is key.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

As far as I'm concerned, one of the best ways to do this is to take a back seat: give the student a problem or assignment, sit back, and then see what they do with it. If they're going badly astray, perhaps it's useful for a tutor to intervene, but even coming to the wrong answer can be quite educational if the steps taken to get there were rigorous. If they weren't rigorous, that can be a teaching moment too, if the student understands where they went wrong.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I think it's crucial to praise a student who is doing well, and (more importantly) to figure out what makes a student tick and why the subject matters to them. I truly believe most people enjoy learning--we just enjoy it for different reasons. Figuring out why a science student wants help with writing, for example, is the first step to figuring out why a science student should care about writing for its own sake (or why a writing student should care about science!).

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

I've found that usually the best approach to tackling students' difficulties is to find ways to make the skill or concept more engaging or fun to explore--for example, by assigning creative writing assignments designed to let students use literary techniques in their own writing rather than drilling practice questions.

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

I've often found it useful to return to the fundamentals of reading comprehension, which means going back to the basics of English comprehension itself. I investigate whether the student understands the grammatical niceties of the passage they've read, and the ones posed by the question. Another common problem is the student reading or answering questions too quickly, trusting to their "gut" or their assumed ability rather than taking the time to actually think about what they've read and test their answers against the passage.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

This varies greatly by the subject area the student is working on, but one of the constants in my work is trying to get a grip on where the student begins, before any teaching has taken place. Sometimes this means reading the student's recent essays or creative writing, seeing them deliver a speech, or having a conversation with them about their goals. Other times, it may be as simple as administering a practice test (particularly if the student is primarily looking for test preparation). I try to establish a "road map" of what the core skills the student needs are, what skills they currently have, and what skills they need to work to improve (in order, if possible and applicable). This is usually something I share with the student; then, we both have a clear idea of where we are, and where we need to get to together.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

I'm not a huge user of official study guides, although they can be invaluable for students who are strictly interested in standardized test prep. The one thing I'm almost never without is a writing guide, which is a spiral-bound pocket book that lays out every grammatical rule likely to come up from parts of a sentence to citations, with clear and easy-to-follow examples. Other materials I commonly bring to a session include hard copies of any required readings, hard copies of the student's past work, and examples from other sources (classic works of literature, etc.) of the topics we'll be discussing.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

One of my favorite ways of making sure a student understands the material we've been working on is to ask them to replicate what we've been working on, or to ask them to explain the idea to me using their own words. Having to elaborate on answers they've given in practice tests or assignments is another great way to explore the student's depth of knowledge on a subject.


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