I've had a wide range of educational experiences, from my public high school in Texas to my time as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. If you had told me at age 15 that one day I'd be a graduate student at the University of Chicago, I probably wouldn't have believed you, because for most of my childhood and teenage years I hated school, even though I was often described as a "promising" student. Everything changed for me when I took an AP History course my junior year: for the first time, I realized I had a personal investment in learning. Most immediately, I realized that the better my grades were, the more freedom I had in the world. I spent my junior year giving every school assignment 110% of my energy, and it paid off: I was admitted to college a year early with a great scholarship. But more than the immediate freedom of college and a new state, my investment in my own education gave me an array of skills that have helped me in all areas of life: the ability to improvise in unfamiliar situations, to persuade and argue effectively, and to formulate interesting research questions that eventually got me admitted to highly competitive graduate programs. There's nothing I love more than helping other students realize how much they personally stand to benefit from a good education, and that they should be making excellent grades not for their parents or teachers, but for themselves. When I'm not researching I like traveling the world, reading novels by Roberto Bolao, making collages, and casually winning debates at family dinners.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Macalester College - Bachelors, U.S. History
Graduate Degree: University of Chicago - Masters, U.S. History
I like traveling the world, reading novels by Roberto Bolaño, making collages, and casually winning debates at family dinners.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I have a flexible teaching philosophy and tailor my lessons to meet the unique, individual needs of each student. That said, I tend to use two fundamental methods: first, explaining the "big picture" of why a particular piece of information or skill is important, and second, practice through repetition. "Big picture" learning is like showing a student a map of the educational terrain they are about to traverse: it is a form of learning that makes the student a co-participant in their own education, hopefully for their entire lives, and helps them develop the ability to move from a particular piece of information to a more general theme or idea. "Big picture" thinking helps students improvise on the ground when presented with new information, write persuasive essays, and develop original ideas. I find that "big picture" learning is tremendously effective for students who are bright but struggle to get motivated, and tends to help students retain information that they would otherwise quickly forget. Practice through repetition is more straightforward: it can mean taking practice tests to learn to answer a particular type of question, writing several drafts of an essay, or memorization. I truly believe that every student has the potential to perform well academically, and that helping them to do so is often a matter of working together to find the right learning strategy.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Chat with them about their strengths and weaknesses in school and their most immediate goals, while trying to get a sense of what style of learning is most effective for the particular student.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Figure out what the student's future goals are and then develop a long-term plan to help them reach those goals.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
By switching up our activities or approach to a particular problem to keep things from getting boring. By focusing on the student's strengths and reminding them of their talents: I believe that the most students rise to expectations. By reminding them of how a particular topic or skill relates to a larger story or problem.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I always try to keep the atmosphere light and fun: learning to read is easiest when a student is relaxed and happy, not anxious. I'd also try to use unfamiliar words and phrases in contexts that would be familiar to the student. Maybe the two of us would have a playful conversation and I would ask them to try to use the phrase at some point when responding to me. Or I'd give them a few funny, memorable examples of sentences in which a new vocabulary word would be used. If the student is having trouble with understanding the overall thesis or meaning of a given text, I'd alternate between reading together and then discussing what is being communicated, asking the student if they can explain it to me in their own words.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Really taking the time to get to know the student and their particular style of learning; what works for one student doesn't necessarily work for another. Also paying attention to the student's mood; learning isn't always fun, but I believe that if a student is frustrated or upset for most of a tutoring session, I'm doing something wrong, and I try to correct that as quickly as possible.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I'd start by talking to them about how the subject works in the real world; what interesting jobs do people have after becoming experts in this subject? Often, seeing an end-goal of knowledge helps students to move forward. I'd try a variety of approaches to the subject and watch their responses to see which ones get them excited.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Having them summarize information in their own words and explain why it's important. Basically, I would have the student give me a small tutoring session in the material they've just mastered.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
By giving them lots of praise when they improve or get things right! Also by putting ideas into different words; often a student is only intimidated by language they aren't familiar with, not the underlying idea. I try to emphasize to students that asking questions is never, ever something to be ashamed of, and that they can always ask for more explanation.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
By looking at their grades and test scores to see which areas they're having trouble in, and then looking at the specific kinds of questions or problems they're struggling with to find underlying problems. I also pay attention to a student's learning style and personality: students can underperform for a variety of reasons, and as a tutor I'm uniquely poised to give them more individualized attention than they get in a classroom setting.