Tutoring has been an incredibly enjoyable activity of mine over the course of the last 3-4 years. I appreciate the opportunity to positively impact a young student's academic success, while instilling successful studying habits and fostering a sense of confidence in the classroom for each student. I am in my 4th year of volunteer tutoring at a non-profit organization in Cambridge, MA where I have honed my tutoring skills across a multitude of academic disciplines.
I come from a science background having graduated from Villanova University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Bioengineering. After college, I went to work for a Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company in oncology clinical research. After 1 1/2 years at the pharmaceutical company, I realized my passion for medicine and took the next step towards pursuing that dream by enrolling in a graduate program at Boston University School of Medicine. I graduated in May 2015 with a Master of Science in Medical Sciences, and I am currently in the process of applying to medical schools while working full-time in a lab in the Division of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.
Undergraduate Degree: Villanova University - Bachelors, Biology, General
Graduate Degree: Boston University School of Medicine - Masters, Medical Sciences
MCAT Physical Sciences: 9
MCAT Verbal Reasoning: 10
MCAT Biological Sciences: 11
Medicine, basketball, triathlons, football, camping, reading, creative writing, traveling
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that each student has an optimal method of learning specific to his or her academic strengths and personality traits. As a tutor/teacher, it is up to me to tailor my presentation of the material in a way that allows each student to fully grasp concepts based on how they learn best.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would first start off engaging in a casual conversation about what brought the student to me, as well as their academic interests, hobbies outside of school, over-arching goals for their tutoring sessions, etc. This would allow me to get to know the student a bit better, while also understanding their academic needs. From there, we might dive into some introductory material so that I can get a feel for how the student approaches the material, and where I can be of help to the student in this matter.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I believe independent learning is inherently sparked by curiosity of the subject matter. As a tutor, it is my goal to make learning enjoyable and fulfilling for the student. Part of making learning enjoyable, especially in the sciences, is to break down the material into parcels that are less intimidating to learn. Incremental learning, along with access to supplemental educational resources I can pass along, will help to instill independent learning habits in each student I tutor.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It is important to understand the source of a student's lack of motivation. Is the student having a bad day? Is he/she unmotivated because the material in challenging? Once I can diagnose what is holding the student back, there are steps I can take to properly motivate in an encouraging manner. For example, if the material is too difficult, I can engage the student (instead of presenting the material by lecturing) and apply concepts to something that is relevant in his or her life. This helps the material to stick better and makes the subject matter more relatable to the student.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Each student learns best with different modes of presentation. As such, if a student is struggling with a concept, it is up to me to tweak my presentation in a way that will allow the concept to better resonate with the student. It is important to make sure that a student doesn't feel that it is their fault if they don't understand a concept. Oftentimes, a concept must be presented multiple times before a student can fully grasp it.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
When students are struggling with reading comprehension, I like to gravitate to reading material that is of interest to them. I think this helps take some of the pressure off during the reading portion, and clarification of concepts encountered throughout the passage is more easily explained since it is a subject in which they are interested. Once we work through basic issues of reading comprehension, we can then move up to more difficult reading passages.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I like to establish a vocal, transparent relationship with each new student I tutor. Setting the precedent early of voicing questions or concerns helps to make each session flow more fluidly. I recognize that students may be shy sometimes about asking a question or admitting a weakness, but it is my goal to establish a comfortable environment where we can discuss any and all questions about the material they may have. This also allows me to better understand their learning style and predict which concepts they may struggle with in the future.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Students often get excited about subjects when they see tangible success. To promote excitement in a subject in which a student is struggling, I would first introduce easier concepts and problems to increase the student's confidence level. Then, I would gradually transition into more difficult material while still building upon the basic fundamentals previously established.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
In my studies, I've found that if you can draw it, then you know it. I would use this philosophy to have the student diagram or map out certain concepts on which we have worked. Additionally, I think it is helpful to have the student create hypothetical test questions, as it forces them to think through why each multiple choice answer they listed may be correct or incorrect.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Building a student's confidence starts by setting incremental goals. Incremental goals are more manageable to achieve than goals of a broad scope. For instance, I would encourage a student to focus on mastering a given chapter over the course of one or two tutoring sessions, rather than focusing on earning an "A" for the semester. Students see the outcome of short term goals more quickly, which leads to an increase in confidence if the student is meeting the manageable goals that were set.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I first pay attention to what the student identifies as his or her areas of weakness. From there, we may begin to cover a topic, and I will ask questions in a variety of formats to see in what aspect of the learning process the student is struggling.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
It is important to have a good understanding of a student's strengths and weaknesses as I consider how to adapt my tutoring methodologies to a student's needs. While I feel that conceptual learning is a great way to learn a subject, there are some areas that require a degree of memorization. In this case, I would work on coming up with creative and fun mnemonics/memorization schemes to help the student better recall the subject matter.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I like to use a lot of figures when I cover material with a student. I believe figures/pictures are a great learning tool, and they can serve as a platform for the student and I to dive deeper into the material. Additionally, I like having a student try to walk me through a figure to prove their understanding of a concept. I always find it beneficial to have a student go back and redraw a key figure, because if you can draw it without any help from a textbook, then you have a good grasp on the concept.