A photo of Alena, a tutor from CUNY Hunter College

Alena

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I have been teaching ESL for 12 years, and it is the job I love. Helping people learn a new language is a great honor and responsibility, since being able to communicate in another language makes such a big difference in one's life. It is an incredibly rewarding experience - to see learners overcome their language barrier and begin to express themselves in a foreign language.
I have taught adults and children speaking, listening, reading and writing skills,using a variety of communicative activities and games in a lesson. Preparing students for IELTS and TOEFL is also part of my work.
I have a BA from CUNY (New York) and international teaching certificates CELTA and DELTA 1, and I am currently studying for a MA in TESOL.
I also enjoy teaching Russian, because it is an opportunity for me to share the language and culture of the country where I was born.
In my opinion, the key to a successful lesson is being truly interested in the students and sensitive to their needs.

Alena’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: CUNY Hunter College - Bachelors, Anthropology/Art History/ Special Honors Curriculum

Graduate Degree: University of Birmingham, UK - Current Grad Student, TESOL

Hobbies

Writing, blogging, parenting, cooking, psychology, Russia and international relations


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that the following things are important: friendliness, competence, patience and creativity. A teacher should be able to understand what is best for each student.

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

I will try to learn more about the student: what his or her study goals and priorities are; ways of learning that work best. I also like to get to know the students better: their interests, hobbies, daily life. It helps to build a friendly relationship and to choose topics for future lessons and discussions.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I would help students to become more self-confident as learners; support them by showing their progress and giving positive feedback whenever possible. I would help them to develop individual study techniques that work for them, based on their preferences, available time and resources.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I would help a student to set both short-term and long-term goals, and we would monitor the student's progress together. I believe that positive feedback and acknowledgement of the learner's progress helps to increase motivation.

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

I would choose a different approach and try a variety of methods and techniques and keep encouraging the learner, so that they stay motivated and know they can do it.

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

I try game-like activities depending on the student's age: jigsaw reading, treasure hunt using written clues, dominos with pictures and words, etc.

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

First of all, building communication and developing a friendly relationship. The learner should trust the teacher enough to be able to discuss the problems and concerns they might have with studying.

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

I would help to boost their motivation by showing how they can benefit in real life from mastering this subject. Learning more about different kinds of professions might help. In addition, I would try to approach the subject from a different angle. If a student is bored with the textbook, I would use some real-life materials and situations to get them interested.

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

I often use board games or other types of games for this. For example, when you roll the dice, get on a square with a question and receive some reward for answering (win points, get ahead of another player, etc.). Games usually work well both for adults and kids.

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

We go from simple tasks to more complex, moving gradually, step by step, and do a lot of revision. It is important to have a sense of achievement to feel that you are making progress.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I talk to the student (and, possibly, his or her parent) in order to learn more about the student's situation and study goals. Then it is necessary to assess the student's level of proficiency in the subject, identify problem areas and decide on the best learning strategy for the student.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

I believe it is necessary for teachers to be flexible in their approach, because every learner is different. The teacher needs to know a variety of techniques and activities to see what helps the learner best. While getting ready for a lesson, I always prepare several alternative ways of presenting and practicing the material so that there are various options.

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

It depends on the subject and the contents of the lesson. With ESL, I prepare a lot of communicative activities and games. We often need paper, scissors and dice; sometimes we use everyday objects, such as things around the room, in one's bag, in the classroom, etc.