The issues – I find it inaccurate to label them problems – that students face in their own individual writing and learning processes vary. Due to the variety of issues that students face, I have found it necessary to form a strong foundation for my approach to instruction; but, I have also learned that this foundation needs to leave room for change. I learned early in my career that a teaching philosophy set as doctrine could serve as a hindrance to my ability to engage students, and it could serve as a hindrance to a student’s ability to learn. The latter prompted me to see that teaching is circumstantial; i.e., we can each have our individual way of approaching a text or an assignment, but in the end, we must have an ability to change with differing circumstances, including student abilities and course subjects.
I feel that teaching goes beyond imparting to students the knowledge solely within the parameters of a particular subject. It is extremely important to note that the umbrella of English as a discipline can cover other academic areas, such as sociology, cultural studies, and communications studies. This will not only help the student’s writing, but it will also give them skills they can use in other areas of their lives, both academic and personal.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: UNC- Wilmington - Bachelor of Science, Finance
Graduate Degree: SUNY at Binghamton - PHD, English
music, literature, writing, travel, hiking, kayaking, philosophy, economics, NASA
High School English
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
As an educator at the university level for seven years, I have had the opportunity to teach a wide variety of courses, including composition courses, introductory literature courses, and upper-level lectures. In both literature and composition classes, I prefer an approach that encourages critical inquiry and social and cultural awareness. I like students to see the class as a community, where ideas are openly shared and discussed; this environment fosters an open learning environment where ideas can be exchanged openly, as opposed to a more traditional lecture format. This leads to increased critical thinking and the dissemination of different viewpoints, as well as the development of important public speaking and analytical skills that students will need in future endeavors. I feel that an interdisciplinary approach to education in today's fluid social, cultural, and political climate is vital to bridging the gap of difference, and in ensuring a more open dialogue between disciplines.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Discuss some of the general issues with their writing. I would want to focus on their concerns before moving on to specific assignments. I feel that this foundation is necessary to understanding a student's approach to writing, as all students will have different strengths and issues.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The most important thing that I feel I can do is to provide a foundation for a wide range of skills, including reading comprehension, developing an individual writing style, and instructing the student on the varied aspects of the writing process. This foundation will be vital, not only in English and Writing courses, but in any field of study that a student wishes to pursue.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Interest. I have always stressed the need for students to choose topics for their writing that interest them. This can be done in literature, writing, and composition courses. If a student shows some spark of interest, then I focus on that and develop this interest into a motivating factor for their work.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
One approach is to try to tailor instruction toward something that the student is familiar with. For example, if a student is having trouble understanding the basic tenets of argumentative writing, then I relate the idea of argumentation to their everyday lives (e.g., the use of argumentation when choosing what movie to see; or, when choosing what restaurant to go to). Another approach is to vary the methods of instruction that I employ. Having a varied set of tools not only helps me as a tutor but also helps the student see the many ways that an issue can be resolved.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I make the assignment smaller. In other words, I focus on a line-by-line approach, and I break down each line to illustrate how they each connect to each other and a larger thesis. Like a musical composition, a long paragraph or essay is made up of parts, so with a student, I break down these parts and look at them on their own. This, I feel, will help them gain an understanding of how ideas are put together to form a larger whole.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I feel it is important to get to know the student before delving into the assignment. Through this inquiry, I can learn about the student's interests, their struggles with a subject, and their educational goals. This sets a solid foundation for a tutor-student relationship.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would ask them how a particular topic relates to their interests. Interest is key -- if I can get a student to connect their personal/educational interests to a particular assignment, then a solid foundation is formed for improving the student's writing.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Reading comprehension: I would ask rather simple questions on the assignment to make sure that the student understands basic concepts definitions, etc. The focus of the assignment: I would also ask questions to ensure that a student understands the parameters of an assignment. For example, I would ask questions pertaining to a literary analysis or rhetorical analysis. This would ensure that a student understands what is required of them in a particular assignment.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
First, you discuss the topic with them in order to find out their strengths. Then, you focus on these strengths as an indication of improvements in other areas.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Ask them what they are having trouble with. This is a good first step, and it asks students to articulate their own apprehensions. Then, you can gain a clearer sense of their needs through evaluative measures, such as practice exams, etc.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
First, you need to be well-rounded and well-versed in pedagogy, teaching methods, and the subject as a whole. This will provide a solid foundation for understanding the myriad issues that students encounter.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Pen and paper, practice exams, texts.