I am an elementary substitute teacher and former home school mom of two grown sons. I received my Bachelor's Degree in Language Arts and my Teaching Certification from Seattle Pacific University. I most enjoy teaching reading skills and elementary math.
I am a natural with children, but also know how to set friendly but firm limits. For the last eight years I have worked as a substitute elementary school teacher in the Edmonds and Mukilteo school districts working with students Kindergarten through fourth grade.
I enjoy helping children understand things. I believe my job as a tutor is to investigate what is going on that may be causing the student to not move forward and then to find a new way of looking at it instead of just regurgitating what was done at school and assuming it will work. You can be sure that I will work hard to find solutions for the child so that they can increase their confidence and grow.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy about teaching is that: all children can learn given the appropriate instruction, learning is impacted by environment and relationship so the teacher must build a hopeful and encouraging environment, one that fosters a sense of emotional safety. It is the teacher's job to find the appropriate teaching strategies, not the student's.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The first session would be primarily for relationship building and pre-assessments. I would introduce myself and talk about things that I liked and disliked and my experiences in school that may relate to the child's experiences. With some connections made, I would give the student some type of assignment that would start well below where previous assessments showed them to be. There are two reasons for this: 1) to give the child immediate success working with me and 2) to look for the baseline place at which their skills begin to deteriorate. From here, I would be able to make a plan for where we would go next.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Part of being an independent learner is being taught how to find answers for yourself. One way to do this is by making "cheat sheets" with the students that they can refer back to during their work if they have a question. A "cheat sheet" might include new consonant blends and their sounds or the steps in solving a certain type of math problem. Primarily though, it involves building the confidence of the student that they CAN think about what they've learned before and try it out on the current assignment. Many children are so afraid to fail that they won't even try. Often in class when a student asks me how to spell something, I say "Well, what do you think? Let's see how far you can get." They start, and I help them at any point I think they won't know and let them go on. Then, I always give them positive feedback. Many times, they get the entire word correct or nearly correct, and I always say something like "See, you knew how to spell it all along!"
How would you help a student stay motivated?
One way to help students stay motivated is finding out what kinds of things they like and using those things to build in rewards or breaks from work. For example, if they really enjoy building with Legos, I could build in a Lego break saying something like "If you will work hard to get these problems completed in 15 minutes, we will take a three minute Lego break." This helps them be motivated to complete the task within the allotted time because they will then get to do what they want to do. Other rewards can be stickers or marbles in a bucket with a special reward for filling the bucket a certain number of times. Reading motivators can be getting to choose their book or parents being willing to purchase a certain book for them once they have completed a certain battery of assignments or are having a good attitude.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student is having difficulty, the first thing I would do is stop, take a break, and reassure the child that we will figure it out together. Then, I would go back to the last place they were successful and ask them to tell me about that skill: explain to me how you do this type of problem, how did you know how to answer this question about your reading? or what strategies did you use to read the words in this book? The goal would be to determine where their understanding stopped or if they had just been successfully guessing, and I needed to go back and reteach something. Often it is an issue of needing to be creative in how I present the skill or concept. If they don't grasp it the first three ways I try, I need to find another way. I would be looking for different strategies, perhaps utilizing different learning styles like kinesthetic, auditory, or visual, etc. Often using multiple senses in the learning will help the student overcome the block. I had to do this very thing while teaching my oldest son how to read.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Issues with reading comprehension can come from two main places: difficulties with decoding that make it impossible to process the meaning of the words together or issues with creating pictures in our brain of what is going on in the reading. If a student is struggling to decode 1st grade material, it is silly to expect them to read and comprehend 2nd grade material. Again, I would go back to the place they had success in decoding and check their comprehension at that level. If they have good comprehension, then I would focus primarily on decoding skills. If they still didn't have good comprehension, I would choose a book below their grade level and read it to them without showing them the pictures. If they could tell me about the story in some detail, I would again know that it was a decoding issue. If they could NOT, then it would tell me that there was also an issue with their sensory imaging. In other words, they couldn't make pictures of what the words were saying. If I determined that it was more a sensory imaging issue, we would work on the student's skill of creating pictures of things represented by words.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The most important strategy when beginning to work with a student is to help them feel at ease. If they feel guarded, they won't talk to me, and it will be very difficult to make determinations about what is working or not working and why. Building relationships with students determines in great part their willingness to work with you and expose their weaknesses, which they may feel very bad about. Academically, pre-assessments are vital as is beginning our work at a level where they have some proficiency.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
First, letting them know that I understand the struggle and that they are ok. I also want them to know that if we work together, we can find a way. Going back to where they had proficiency and giving them positive feedback is also important. I would then take smaller steps forward, with more rewards and more informal assessments along the way.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Assessments: both formal and informal. Questioning. Reverse role play. Independent work to be reviewed together.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Always start where they have demonstrated success. Always point back to places of success when they start to struggle, reminding them of their victories. Helping them to speak positively about their ability to learn. Take baby steps and review often. Make games to practice skills in a fun way.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Informal and formal assessments, speaking with parents, reading reports and notes from teachers, talking to the student, if age appropriate. Starting at a place of proficiency and moving forward.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
As it is my job to figure out how to teach a student a certain skill or concept, I have to consider their maturity and readiness, their learning style, their learning preference (hearing, seeing, using their body etc.). Talking to parents and reading teacher reports will help me understand the student needs as well. It's my job to change strategies as often as necessary to find the right one.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Depending on the subject and lesson, I might use manipulatives of whatever sort I can find: paperclips, buttons, blocks, toy cars, pillows, etc. I might also use household items like straws, rubber bands, dry erase boards, 3x5 cards, books, pictures, and videos. The type of materials would be determined by the lesson topic and the individual student.