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Samantha

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I am a certified social studies teacher with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I have been teaching middle school Social Studies and English Language Arts in the classroom for the past four years, but I really love the individual interactions I can have with tutoring. I have been tutoring SAT and ACT prep for four years as well, helping my students to gain confidence, improve their scores, and eventually get into great colleges!

My tutoring is based on personal relationships and individual needs. I get to know my students, and tailor my approach to their personality and skill set. I create problem sets, find online exercises, and provide frequent feedback to parents and students to help students achieve their academic goals.

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Samantha’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Wellesley College - Bachelor in Arts, International Relations

Graduate Degree: American University - Master of Arts Teaching, Teaching Secondary Social Studies

Test Scores

SAT Composite: 2220

SAT Math: 720

SAT Verbal: 800

SAT Writing: 700

GRE Verbal: 710

Hobbies

When not teaching, my hobbies include historical costuming, cooking, and reading history.


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that all students are capable of achieving at a high level and that they all deserve an opportunity to do so. In practice, this manifests as instruction differentiated based on students' individual skills, interests, and learning styles, as well as a holistic approach. Students are best set up for success when teachers approach them as full human beings rather than only students.

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

I like to introduce myself and share some of my own interests and personal characteristics. I then ask the student about their hobbies, goals, and learning styles to get an idea about how to approach future sessions. I will give the student my expectations for tutoring and ask them to provide me with the expectations they have of me so we start off on the same page. Finally, I will work through some of the practice problems and content I have prepared in advance with the student so that I can get an idea of their academic needs.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I help students to become independent learners by carefully scaffolding my instruction with the example, guided practice, and an independent practice model. I will show how I approach a problem, work with the student to approach a problem together, and then ask the student to approach a problem on their own. If a student shows particular difficulty with a concept or skill, I will do more guided practice with them, prompting the student at each level of the task with "What should I do here? Why?" and asking them specific questions to guide them to come up with the correct answer rather than handing it to them.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I always start by setting goals with the student. What do they want from this tutoring session, what do they want from the tutoring experience, what are their life goals? I then work with the student to set specific, achievable, and measurable steps to reaching that goal. I use these goals to help focus the student on their existing intrinsic motivation. I also try to make lessons and assignments relevant to students' lives and interesting. If goal setting and relevant, interesting lessons do not succeed in motivating the student, I have worked with parents before to create reward systems for thoughtful, complete work.

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

In addition to testing the students with problem sets, I like to ask students to explain how they got their answer and why it is correct. Requiring them to give a summary of the lesson can show that they have not only retained the information, but have processed and synthesized it.

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

I would first question the student to find out what part of the concept the student is struggling with. Sometimes it is as simple as explaining it another way. Other times, the student simply requires more practice with the tutor, guiding them with what steps they should be taking to approach the skill or concept and how they should execute those steps. Oftentimes, students will benefit from practicing the skill or concept in a different mode - maybe they should create visual images of a vocabulary word's definition instead of using it in a sentence.

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

I usually administer some sort of assessment to determine where the difficulty lies. Most students I have worked with are excellent with decoding - identifying the letters and sounding out words - but struggle with vocabulary and syntax. I work with students on improving their ability to determine the meaning of words based on context, and then work on building students' vocabulary using Greek and Latin roots. This approach allows students to transfer their knowledge of a root word like 'bene' to understand that, just like a 'benefit' is a good thing that a person can get from a situation, someone who is 'benevolent' is a good person. I also work with students to find strategies that work for them. Annotating (adding their thoughts and interpretations) or chunking (summarizing) the text can help students to break an impenetrable wall of text into comprehensible pieces. I use other strategies as well, such as reading out loud, following words with your finger, discussing text with a partner, asking questions about the text, and picturing the action in one's head.

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

By far the most successful strategy I have used is getting to know each student as an individual. Every student has different goals and a different personality. While Student A might need a gentle approach and lots of encouragement to keep them from becoming discouraged, Student B might need strong redirection to help them focus on the work and their ultimate goal rather than goofing off. I ask students about their hobbies and learning styles, and what teachers they like and dislike and why. I also ask their parents about what they notice their child doing well with or struggling with. In addition to getting to know the student, I let them get to know me. While I take care to maintain a professional distance, I make sure to show warmth, humanity, and above all, honesty with my students. If I can't show students that I am a person with vulnerabilities as well, then it is difficult to build the kind of trusting relationship that is necessary to succeed in tutoring.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

To help a student find excitement in a subject they are struggling in, I would first find out why they struggle with the subject. (Perhaps they have a personality clash with the teacher, or they take the subject at a bad time of day, or they struggle with information presented orally.) Once that is addressed, I generally move on to find out what DOES interest the student, and I connect the subject to those things. For example, a struggling French student with an interest in fashion might be more engaged if she completed French exercises on the subject of French fashion.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

I build a student's confidence by giving them problems and tasks that are difficult enough to challenge them and may even require assistance, but are easy enough that they can complete them. I begin by completing the exercise with the student, and then I slowly release my individual support until the student is completing tasks on their own.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I look to a variety of sources to evaluate a student's needs. First and foremost, I ask the student and their parents. I then look to any tests that have been administered - SATs or ACTs, grade-level standardized tests, etc. I then administer several low-key assessments myself in my first session with the student. If I still find myself unable to reconcile the student's reported needs with test scores and my own assessments, I will often contact the student's classroom teachers to find out how their performance in school compares to their performance in tutoring.

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

My materials depend on the subject being tutored and the method of delivery. In an online session for test prep, I generally use a test prep book, a calculator, and several websites with excellent practice questions, vocabulary lists, and writing prompts. For in-person test prep, I use a calculator, a timer, a test prep book, and lots of paper and pencils. If I am tutoring a younger student, I frequently use crayons and colored pencils to enhance our study with illustrations.


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