I have always loved teaching in almost any setting, but when I started to tutor online over eight years ago, I discovered my greatest passion. It's a joy to work with students individually and to use their strengths and interests to customize lessons "on the spot." My approach is often unique because I have a background in both math/science and English language arts. (For example, if a student loves math but struggles with writing, I can help him or her understand writing rules by using analogies from algebra class--or vice versa!) Also, because I am state certified in both elementary and secondary education (and have extensive experience helping college students prepare for Accuplacer exams in both writing and algebra), I am very flexible and can work with learners in many age ranges. I did my undergraduate work at Houghton College and post-graduate studies at State University of New York College at Buffalo.
Houghton College - Bachelors, English / Writing and Education
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
There are many ways of doing this. One method that works well with elementary and middle school students is to encourage them to "teach the teacher" after they seem to understand a concept. Another way is to ask open-ended questions that encourage students to "see" their own solutions instead of dictating the "right answers" to them.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would think of a different way of presenting that skill or concept based on pre-existing knowledge or a student's own interests. (I really enjoy opportunities to be creative in this manner.)
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
There are several techniques that can help: 1) Pause after reading short sections and discuss them rather than asking a student to read an entire passage. 2) Encourage students to use context clues and/or word analysis to determine the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary. (I often find that students have difficulty understanding what they read because they either do not recognize key terms or don't know what they mean.) 3) Teach pre-reading skills such as skimming, looking for boldface terms or subtitles, and predicting the main idea of a passage.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I am not sure if this is a "strategy" per se, but nearly everyone--regardless of age--will learn and respond better if a teacher is warm and personal in his or her approach. Please see my response to the "first session" question for more information.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would look for ways to incorporate the individual student's interests and life experiences into my teaching. For example, college students who struggle with integer operations suddenly understand them much better when we talk about "red" (negative) and "black" (positive) checkbook balances!
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I like to use lots of oral questioning. (When I do this, I make sure that students understand that I am not implying that they don't "get" the material; I am just checking.) It also helps to ask students to explain a concept in their own words or make up a question/problem for the tutor to answer/solve. And, as stated previously, it helps to review after each subconcept is presented before continuing on with a lesson.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Age-appropriate praise always helps. Also, it is good to remind a student how much he or she has already learned before presenting new concepts. In addition, I like to "pull back" little by little, going from initial instruction in which I guide students step-by-step to asking them to tell me what the next step is, and then finally encouraging them to complete an assignment independently.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
There are several good ways of doing this: 1) Ask the student!! Even very young children can often tell a tutor what is "hard" and what is "easy" for them. 2) Ask oral questions before introducing a topic to determine what a student already knows. 3) Careful observation. This is especially important in math instruction as students often get thrown off by the same step or subskill in similar problems. (It is important to ask learners to show their work and/or verbalize steps as thoroughly as possible.) 4) Carefully check and note any information provided by the company or parent.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I always have reference books on hand that are appropriate for the subject and level. If I am tutoring in person, it is fun to bring along games, stickers, and other motivational items for younger students and supplemental materials for older learners. Dictionaries and calculators are also helpful, when appropriate.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First, I would ask a younger student about interests and favorite things. I might ask an older student about similar things, or perhaps, if it seems appropriate, some questions about what he or she hopes to accomplish through tutoring. I've found that students also like to know a little bit about their tutor as well. Many of my online learners have been interested in the fact that I live very near Niagara Falls. They also often surprised to hear that even though I live in New York State, there are "more cows than people" in my rural area! If I am tutoring locally, it is always fun to tell some silly stories about the antics of my large family. After a short introductory discussion, I would begin to talk about the tutoring subject, but would not immediately begin instruction. Depending of the age and needs of the student, we might discuss some pre-lesson assessment questions, or we might talk about how learning about the subject would be personally beneficial to the student. After this, we would probably begin to address the actual content.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Like most teachers, I believe that learning should be relevant, fulfilling, and fun for students. However, this general philosophy will take shape differently depending on the age of the learner. Very young children often learn well when they can move, sing, or play short games during sessions. Students in the middle grades enjoy jokes and silly mnemonic devices. Older learners appreciate appropriate affirmation and discussions of "real life" applications.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
What is your teaching philosophy?