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I have been an educator for 40 years. During that time I worked with students from kindergarten through the first year of college. More than two decades of my career have been devoted to the teaching of writing and literature at the high school and college levels. I have collaborated with struggling, average, and honor students. I began my career by teaching language arts to students in grades 7 through 12. I also developed a course designed to improve the verbal SAT scores of my eleventh graders. While working as a school administrator for 16 years, at both the primary and secondary levels of education, I was often called upon to give speeches. Therefore, I can also provide instruction in public speaking skills.

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Ralph’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of Connecticut - Bachelors, English

Graduate Degree: University of Connecticut - Masters, English


Reading, Home Improvement Projects, Cycling, Swimming

Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that every person is capable of learning and improving themselves in a vast number of ways. The role of the teacher is to ascertain a student's beginning abilities, determine the student's learning style, and lead the student to new levels of understanding by matching the student's learning style with the appropriate teaching strategies.

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

It is crucial that the tutor establish a level of trust with the student. If the student does not trust the teacher as a knowledgeable and well-intentioned individual, then the maximum benefit of their collaboration will not be achieved. Therefore, I would introduce myself, describe my professional background and experience, initiate a non-threatening ice breaking activity, and then administer an instrument to assess the student's baseline ability in the subject area I was to address. I would give as immediate feedback to the student as possible and place emphasis upon the student's strengths on the assessment. Finally, I would use the strengths as a springboard to present and reach new learning.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

Students need to have new learning presented with the appropriate scaffolding. For example, the concept of allegory could be presented as follows: 1. Provide a definition of the concept. 2. Explain how writers used the allegory to put forth political beliefs while escaping persecution (i.e., provide examples of totalitarian regimes). 3. Supply a simple sample of allegory (i.e. from Orwell's Animal Farm). 4. Challenge the student to write a short, short story in allegorical form.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

There are several approaches that might be used. The one with which I have had the most success works as follows: 1. Determine mutually with the student the extrinsic reward that he or she seeks (i.e. more cell phone minutes). 2. Work out a schedule of events that the student must achieve to attain the reward, but make the steps incremental so that the student is not discouraged if he or she does not reach the full goal. 3. Write all of the conditions for attaining the reward in a contract to be signed by tutor, student, and parent.

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

Take a step back to ascertain whether the foundational knowledge needed to succeed is strong. In math terms, a student having difficulty with long division concepts may not be strong in multiplication yet. Once the weakness is uncovered, it can be addressed with practice and strategies (i.e., use of a calculator for the multiplication portion) in order to reach the end goal.

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

1. Assess baseline ability. 2. Use strengths to connect to new reading concepts. 3. Pre-teach challenging vocabulary found in the selections. 4. In advance of the reading assignment, provide guiding questions that the student must answer as he or she reads the passages.

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

I believe that it is crucial to establish trust between the student and tutor as soon as possible. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is to find common ground between the tutor and student so that a rapport can be built.

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

First, it is important that the tutor presents all material in an enthusiastic, upbeat manner. If the material does not seem enjoyable for the tutor, the student will never find the subject matter exciting or interesting. Next, it is important to show the student that he or she has some knowledge of the material being covered. The tutor gives the student opportunities for success with the familiar before launching into more challenging, unfamiliar material.

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

I would employ a pre-test and post-test method. Sometimes alternative forms of assessment must be devised to make this determination.

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

Using verbal praise to emphasize small successes with incrementally more difficult tasks has worked well with my struggling students in the past.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

To begin with, I ask students to self-evaluate their ability in a given subject area. Then I indirectly assess their strengths and weaknesses through a one-to-to discussion. Finally, I administer a pretest to ascertain details about the student's ability.

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

The best method I know to accomplish this goal is to place myself in the student's position as much as humanly possible. Once I see the subject material from the student's perspective, I can draw from my repertoire to adjust appropriately over time.

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

I try to address the student's needs by attacking the subject matter with different modalities. I include verbal, graphic and hands-on activities.

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