I teach because there are few thrills greater than that "lightbulb" moment when a student, regardless of age, background or aspiration, looks up and says, "I get it now!" My job as a tutor is to find unique paths to lightbulb moments for each and every student, and in so doing, instill confidence and create opportunities for continuing success.
All too often, a child's classroom experience becomes one of frustration and discouragement. It's not the fault of the school or the teacher, necessarily. Schools only receive a fraction of the support they need and teachers are overburdened by large class sizes, mandated testing and restrictive curricula. As an individual tutor, I can assess a child's exact needs and address those factors that inhibit a child's success with patience and creative approaches that nurture curiosity and impart a sense of discovery.
For reluctant readers with lagging comprehension, who view the task as a chore, very often the problem is a weak vocabulary and a lack of contextual understanding. I encourage students to learn new words as an act of discovery and record each in their personal list, which they can take pride in enlarging. Contextual understanding can be achieved by offering stories and sharing the process of exploration and discovery, both online and in books.
Writing, where many students have the greatest difficulty, should be enjoyed as an expressive activity, not dreaded as a mysterious and difficult task they will never master. I teach rules of grammar and the best practices for composition as parts of the process of writing, which empowers children to be their own editors and relieves then of the fear of making errors, or "saying something wrong." When children realize that their ideas and words are valid and that they have the power to improve them, writing assignments can become opportunities for expression and sources of accomplishment and pride.
As a lifelong science nerd, I can help students who are having difficulty with science and math see that these subjects are neither abstract, nor useless. Science and math are, in fact, all around us and in everything we do and experience, from the simple physics of a subway ride or baseball game, to being able to use math to make predictions about weather or finances. I can show students how humans are part of the natural world and linked to every other living creature.
Likewise, history needn't be regarded as a meaningless list of abstract dates and events that must be memorized. I can show students who don't think they care about history that all those events and dates are linked to the world we live in now. I teach that we are linked to the past through the people we know and share my own personal knowledge and experiences of times they think of as historical, but that I remember first hand. History is about stories and I can make that subject real and important by sharing some of my own stories.
Most of all, I work to inspire students' own natural curiosity and desire to succeed. There are no wrong, bad or incorrect questions. I encourage all the students I work with to ask whatever questions they have during a time I set aside after our work is done and I promise them that I'll answer them all as best I can.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: New York University - Bachelors, Liberal Arts
Fly fishing, aviation, soaring, sailing, science, environmentalism, evolution, poetry, fiction, history
College Level American Literature
College World History
Elementary School Math
High School English
High School Level American Literature
High School World History
Study Skills and Organization
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I work to find the fun in learning and scholarship for every student. The surest path to success in school is for students to realize that school can be a place of discovery, and that perfection isn't necessary or possible, but improvement is.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session, I explore a student's personal interests: hobbies, favorite activities, favorite subjects, etc. I use those interests as a starting point to engage their curiosity and desire for success, and then expand on those interests in the direction of their weakest subjects.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The path to independent learning begins with curiosity and the realization that one's own interests are valid. When that innate curiosity is combined with a few simple study and research skills, students can succeed more easily and feel empowered to learn independently.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Students don't need motivation if they are interested and see that interest rewarded with success (that is, good grades). I link subjects and lessons to students' own interests and experiences and build on each incremental success to build and maintain motivation.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student is having difficulty with a particular skill or concept, I always suspect that the material hasn't been presented in a way that matches that student's learning style. Perhaps the student is a visual learner and can benefit from a diagram, or is an experiential learner and needs a hands-on demonstration. Most often, though, there is a question at the core of the difficulty that hasn't been asked the right way yet. In such cases, I try to re-frame the concept or skill from a different perspective, trying to match the student's interests, experiences and learning style.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In my experience, reading comprehension is impeded by two key factors: an inadequate vocabulary and a lack of contextual understanding. I address the vocabulary problem by telling students that no one knows all words, and even the smartest and most experienced scholars read with a dictionary beside them. I ask them to read aloud to me and stop whenever they see a word they don't know. I either help them find the word in a dictionary or define it for them and have them write each new word and its definition (in their own words) in their personal "word list." This exercise reinforces vocabulary and gives them a sense of accomplishment as they see their lists grow. I address contextual understanding through storytelling and research. I tell students that not understanding context is not their fault; they simply haven't been taught yet. This way, reading becomes a process of discovery, not a frustrating chore.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I find that learning a student's successes and strengths is the best way begin. That way, the student feels encouraged and empowered.