Science, digital drawing, and education have always been my top interest while studying in the University of Washington. Ever since learning from my high school biology teacher, who both educated and entertained his students with captivating slide shows, I dreamed to become a helpful and approachable teacher as he was. My passion for teaching others solidified when I had my small opportunity to tutor and teach my peers during my high school. I've never felt so much joy when I had the chance to walk her through concepts that was difficult for both her and me to understand. At that time, I didn't have that much of a biology background myself. I was still taking AP biology class while she was taking the general biology. I wasn't even the best student in that AP class, but my AP biology teacher approached me and asked me to sit down with that friend after school and tutor her in preparation for her up coming biology exam. Even though I was lacking myself, I remember reviewing all my notes ahead of time and really tried to remember everything I learned from AP biology class. Despite my extensive preparation, unexpected questions still came up in our sessions and we both had to struggle together to learn the concepts. But what struck me the most and gave me the small spark of passion towards bettering education for others was that moment when my friend finally connected the dots between the concepts and gained a sense of confidence at the end. I had to use all sorts of methods: drawing cartoons, wildly gesturing (even though we were in a library) and coming up with all sorts of analogies. I remember being pretty drained from squeezing out all my energy to help my friend understand the material. But all was paid off when she finally understood and even scored above average in that test the following week. Even while studying in UW, I took time to shadow local high school teachers and enrolled in programs that gave me hands on experience teaching other students. I wasn't successful all the time, but whether I failed to help or not, I saw myself always worrying for the students and wanted to come up with more ways to help students improve and understand. As of now, I have switched gears and am looking for ways to combine my love for drawing and biology in the context of education where I try to create educational graphics to help others understand complicated topics. However, the underlying desire is still the same; I want to use all my skills and energy to help people learn and understand.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Teachers and students always need to communicate together what they know and what they don't know. When the teacher locates what specifically the student doesn't know, from there the first step to understanding can be established. The student has the responsibility to educate their teachers what they really don't understand; the teacher has the responsibility to guide the student back to the right line of thinking.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Get to know the student and figure out what kind of style of learning they prefer. Also figure out what kind of study habits and schedule they have. After that, establish their expectations and goals they have for the tutoring experience.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
They first should have a tangible goal in mind and their own personal motivation to study. After that, break down their daily schedule and pick a designated time he/she would like to set apart for studying (or have a goal in mind how often and how long they would like to invest in their studies). Guide the student to ask a lot of questions (both from their assignments as well as from their own) and help them realize that much of the answers can be found out through the resources that they already have (textbook, peers, teachers and the internet). Having a study buddy from class and peer accountability also can help one to become an independent learner.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It all depends on the student's motivation to study, their attention span and the style of learning of the individual student. If they have a short attention span, taking frequent breaks and reviewing the material often could help. If their expectations and goals are already established from the beginning of the tutoring session, then I could also remind them both the short term and the long term goals that they could look forward to if they put the effort to work a bit more. Figuring out a good study style that can give the student joy while learning the material can also be a form of motivation itself.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would first start off by asking a lot of questions to the student to figure out what specifically the student is struggling with. From there, I would do my best to help connect the dots for them or give them practice that skill or concepts through practice questions. If all fails, then taking a break from that concept, returning to older concepts (retrace the steps) and coming back might also help.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading over the material and analyzing what we read afterwards before looking at the questions might help with this problem. From here, we could also come up with questions on our own to better understand the reading material and have a chance to practice understanding what we just read as well.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Drawing out diagrams to communicate ideas seemed to work best for me when helping students learn concepts. You need a good understanding to even start drawing on a blank page. It helps both me and the student to discover which concepts are solid and which concepts are hazy. Also, even when explaining a general strategy or to make my ideas to come across during a discussion, having visual cues seem to best organize my thoughts and helps my students stay focused when I'm explaining.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Associating things that the student enjoys with what they are struggling with could be a good strategy. If for example, Biology was a subject that the student was struggling with, but they enjoy jokes and having fun, then I could come up with funny analogies to illustrate the concepts or draw cartoons to help them be more engaged in the topic. A quick alleviation for this type of issue could also be by breaking up the session into smaller shorter sessions and providing a tangible reward for staying engaged in the sessions.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I would ask them follow up questions that are key to test whether or not the student understand the material. I might also ask them to teach me what they learned through our sessions and recall things that they remember the most. If there was a diagram involved in our study sessions, I might ask them to draw that diagram from memory while explaining to me what they are drawing. Another easy way is to tackle some of the extra questions provided from their textbooks or come up with alternative questions based off of the same questions.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I would encourage the student and recall which areas the student seem to have a solid understanding. Help them remember how much they have improved so far and show them specific areas that they could improve (so that they will know that despite there are still ways to do better, the steps are within their reach).
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I normally ask a lot of questions ahead of time and ask them to teach me what areas they know and what areas they don't know. Also while teaching, I take note of what could be the student's weakness and try to shift my teaching strategies accordingly. Basically, I try my best to communicate with the student as best as possible until I get a grasp of the student's needs.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
This would depend on the individual students, but first I would definitely try out what I know best when teaching others. Afterwards I would ask the student to evaluate my teaching style. Through communication, I will cater to what the student wants and come up with different ways to help the students. I will also look up ways and turn to outside resources to learn different strategies that would best suit the learning styles for different people.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I usually use the textbook that the student uses, lots of scratch paper for practice/diagram drawing and a computer to look up things if there are concepts that I can't understand.