One fine evening in 2007 my younger brother Priyam walks up to my room and says, "I am in big trouble this time, please help me! I have a physics test tomorrow and I have to get an A!" For a kid who is pretty good in academics he looked genuinely worried. He was good in science and mathematics, it’s just that he liked chemistry more than physics; you know how it is, everyone has their weak spot. I on the other hand absolutely love physics, so I decided to give it a shot. I glanced over his syllabus and it looked very basic, just labels and definitions, all I had to do was explain the concepts of Friction in Rotational Motion and he'd be all set. Sounded pretty easy to me, at least at first! Five hours and a couple of cups of coffee later we had accomplished nothing. We were both tired and exhausted, and he was more stressed than he was before he came to me for help. I was frustrated too, how can someone so smart not understand something so basic? I tried all the examples in his books as well as from the internet but he just couldn't understand them. I used the exact same method used by my teachers and I was confused why it wasn't working. And then it hit me, Priyam and I were different, the learning process that worked for me may not necessarily work for him. I knew how hard it was for me to understand chemistry, may be it was the same for him with physics. Once I realized and accepted the fact that the problem was not with his learning but with my teaching I started thinking outside the box. I thought of a silly idea but when I told him he was game for it.
I pulled out a DVD from the Fast and Furious movie set and played Tokyo Drift. This adrenaline pumped movie was the latest release from the Fast and Furious franchise and it featured RWD sports cars drifting through the streets of Tokyo. We didn’t watch the whole movie, not that we didn’t want to, it’s just that we didn’t have the time. I skipped to the important bits where all the drifting action was and I explained what was happening from the point of view of rotational mechanics. I explained how kinetic friction played an important role in gliding the car sideways on the street and how static friction was responsible for the cars toppling over. An hour later he was prepared both for his physics test and a street race in East Asia!
Needless to say, he aced the test. And when he told his friends about this story they asked me if I could help them too. Next thing I know I was teaching science and mathematics to high school students. I discovered I was good at it, I enjoyed the challenge of finding innovative ways to get through the students and help them with their studies, and I was able to earn good money too! Later when I joined college to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering I continued to coach students with their regular academics as well as test-prep subjects to support myself through college. I graduated with Honors and then I took multiple tests, like the GRE, TOEFL, and GMAT, to advance my studies; in various cases this experience proved useful in coaching students preparing for these tests.
Last month in December 2015 I graduated from Duke University with a Masters degree in Engineering Management, but I don’t feel like saying goodbye to the academic world yet. Engineering is my true passion, and I love designing things, but teaching has always been close to my heart too. Even though I now am a professional engineer I still wish to dedicate some of my time to keep in touch with the academic field and help students learn. There are many Priyams out there struggling with their own physics problems and I wish to help them.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Sharda University - Bachelors, Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Degree: Duke University - Masters, Master of Engineering Management
Wood Craft, Origami, 3D Modelling and Printing, Building RC Cars and Planes, and Martial Arts
GMAT Integrated Reasoning
GRE Subject Test in Mathematics
GRE Subject Test in Physics
GRE Subject Tests
High School Accounting
High School Business
High School Physics
Technology and Computer Science
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
No two kids can be taught the same way. Every kid has his/her own method and rhythm of grasping information; all we as teachers need to do is identify this rhythm and sync our teaching styles in resonance with it.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Learn what his/her favorite subjects/activities are and then try to modify my teaching techniques accordingly. For example, teaching fundamental of frequency and harmonics to a guitarist is different from teaching the same topic to an athlete.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
By getting him/her in to the habit of questioning everything and finding the answer from various resources (not necessarily the internet).
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Studies prove that implementing a rewards-based system works wonders in keeping a student motivated towards a specific goal.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I will try to create analogies using his/her areas of strengths to explain topics he/she finds difficult. For example, I can use aerobics as an example to explain center of gravity to a dancer who is having a difficult time with physics.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I'll advise them to start at a slow pace, and then gradually work their way through the article, one paragraph at a time. This will also allow me to identify any specific problem the student might be facing, and help me in solving it.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
It is best to spend the first few sessions getting to know the student, their interests and hobbies, their goals and aspirations. If I know what inspires them to be what they want to be, I can help them achieve what they desire. The smart woodcutter spends more time sharpening the axe than he spends cutting the wood.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Using live and vivid examples, preferably from the topics they like, can make a boring subject seem interesting and fun. For example, internet memes are an excellent tool to make grammar fun and easy to remember.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Short exercises, mini-quizzes, or even a quick oral quiz can help assess the level of understanding of a topic. I also encourage students to be frank in giving me feedback about my teaching. It doesn't matter if they ask me a question once or for the tenth time, as their teacher it is my responsibility to ensure they are grasping the material completely.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
After the successful completion of a short exercise or a mini quiz, the students start feeling confident about the topic. Gradually, they learn to attempt and solve advanced exercises on their own with minimum help, and that is when they feel confident about the subject.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
By asking them. Sometimes, it takes longer to dig deeper in to their long-term goals and aspirations because in the beginning students only say what they think a teacher might want to hear. They may not necessarily lie, but they are not frank either. Once the students feels comfortable being honest with the teacher they can open up about their needs.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I modify my teaching styles according to the comfort of the student. I do this by speaking to the students in the language they understand and acknowledge. I also take time to learn about their hobbies and interests. This helps me bond with them quicker and helps me choose relevant examples to teach the difficult subjects.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I usually use the textbook or reading material prescribed by the school along with my personal notes on the subject. For subjects that involve calculations, like physics or mathematics, I also use a bunch of practice problems downloaded from the internet or from a practice workbook recommended by the school.