So basically I love tutoring. I don't know why, but I love being a guide for people, it just give me this inexplicable rush. I started tutoring in high school, where I was sort of the "math authority". I would usually stay after school and tutor people in my schools "STAR" program, an after school volunteer program. There I would generally tutor my friends in their various math classes. In senior year, I decided to take my skills to the job market and work under a company called You Ask, We Tutor. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life. I met some really cool students there and even got a student to go from an F to a B in her physics class!(a point of pride for me I must admit :) After I graduated high school, I knew that I wanted to do this more. I went on to work for a summer camp called W Academy(a camp which I will be returning to work to this summer!) in which I taught the SAT math class and in general helped students adjust to the american college application system(this was a camp for international Chinese students). Like You Ask, We Tutor, I really loved this camp as well, both in teaching and in the relationships I got to build over those four weeks! These experiences have shaped me as a tutor. This process has allowed me to pinpoint my weaknesses, fix them, and put me in various situations where I had to be creative when trying to get students to understand. All in all, it's such a fun process and it is something I wish to continue now!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Duke University - Current Undergrad, Computer Science
SAT Math: 760
SAT Verbal: 730
SAT Writing: 780
Programming, tutoring, netflix, german
High School English
SAT Subject Tests Prep
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I am very careful to pinpoint the exact level my student is at, no matter what class they're in. I have had many students in calculus classes who were lacking algebra skills, for example. When I pinpoint their level, I work from there, starting with the basics, and building difficulty as we go along.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First, I'll of course ask them they're name and how're they're doing :). I'll ask them how they like the class or subject, what level they think they are in the class, and some specific problems they find themselves to be having. I'll then ask them to do a practice problem to get a feel of how they work through the material and to identify gaps in their knowledge. Once they start getting stuck, I'll pinpoint their problem and start working with them specifically on the problem they're having, explaining concepts they're having trouble with and doing practice problems, generally increasing in difficulty until they understand the material.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The internet is a wonderful thing :) There are many online resources that one becomes acquainted with. Personally, I'm a visual learner, so many times I'll hop over on youtube.com and watch some tutorial videos if I have trouble with something in programming. Of course, stackoverflow.com is another wonderful option. But more generally, becoming an independent learner takes time, trial, and many times frustration. It does not happen overnight, and I'll make sure the student understands that. I will point them to a plethora of online tutorials in their specific subject, as I have used many myself. I will teach them the value of practice problems and being patient with yourself, often working from the bottom up when learning a new subject. The most important thing I do in terms of independence, is, when I feel the student understands the material enough, to do a practice problem without my help. That means if they get stuck, I give a reasonable amount of time for them to try to unstuck themselves. Once you can do that in a subject, not only do you become independent but also you increase your test taking ability.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
In college, the thing I find that de-motivates me the most is when I fall behind on a class or stop paying attention in lecture. Therefore, I emphasize, pay attention in class! It is more tempting than you know to dose off during lecture, and very easy to underestimate it's importance, but I can't tell you how many times my life would have been made way easier had I just payed attention to what the teacher had to say. And when you start to fall behind in a class (especially by not paying attention), it can become very demoralizing. The other advice I have is that it is OK if you don't understand everything the teacher says. Anything the teacher says that sticks makes you’re learning a lot easier, so don't be discouraged just because you didn't get something. Even understanding half of a lecture is way better than not paying attention and understanding none of it! The more in class you feel, the more presence you feel you have in the classroom, the more motivated you are to do well. That's just a fact. Of course, I will also try to make the material try to seem as interesting as possible, by providing real world applications to how it works or fun practice problems, especially if they seem disinterested. A student is that much more excited about a subject when they like it, or can relate to it.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I will work extra hard on this concept, explaining it in different ways and giving different examples (I'm a big example guy, I usually don't understand things without examples) to see how the concept can work and be applied in different angles. Sometimes, a student will still have trouble and will need to do some extra work outside of the session to make sure they grasp the concept sufficiently, especially it is an important concept. In this case, I will point them to various online resources that they can use to help clarify the concept outside of the tutoring sessions, perhaps even referring to specific workbooks or textbooks that I've used or heard of that are effective.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
As with any subject, you have to start from a place where they understand and work your way up. I generally will start by giving these students easier passages so I can pinpoint what level of reading comprehension they are, and work from there. If, however, we are talking about test taking, such as the SAT reading comprehension, then the solution becomes practice practice practice! Most of the people I knew (including myself) had trouble with the reading portion of the SAT, and the key is to see how the test thinks and work from there, the only way being to practice a lot. I personally have used and know a lot of good practice tests for the SAT and would be glad to use them to teach students in tutoring sessions, as well as recommend they use them outside of the sessions as well if they are having extra trouble.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I generally found that explaining things to students in ways they understood, especially the concepts, and then having them practice works really well. I had this student my senior year of high school who was doing very poorly in her physics class, so what I did was I'd read a section of the textbook, and explain what the textbook was saying in laymen's terms, and when we were done with the chapter (the chapters were relatively short) we'd do practice problems in the end of the book. It was a simple method, and certainly not one I'd employ with most of my students unless it worked for them, but for her it seemed to work very well. She was able to raise her grade to a B (from an F) by the end of the semester. It just goes to show, understanding concepts is key!
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
It depends what subject! The humanities have some very cool applications, and if I were teaching them a humanities course I would start the session by engaging them in a really interesting discussion that has to do with what they're learning. With a math course, there are also a lot of cool applications, perhaps more tangible ones relating to technology, medicine, and even politics! If my student was having trouble engaging, I would explain to them some of these really cool applications, and perhaps would even start my tutoring sessions with a cool anecdote or discussion about the subject they're interested in. The other advice that I'd give is to get to know the teacher! A good relationship with the teacher of a class can transform not only a student's grade, but a student's life! I've known people who've changed their major because of a teacher they had. When you have a good relationship with the teacher, you feel more invested in the course, you more interested in the material. It's a win-win situation!
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Especially in cases where STEM questions are involved, I will show them more complex examples and give them harder and harder problems to solve, eventually showing or writing problems for them that are big enough in scope that they cover or require more than one type of material, or cover the material holistically. For example, if they are taking an AP class, I may ask them to do a few FRQs from AP tests, or write my own questions for them if I think it is more appropriate. The goal is that if the student understands the material, they should be able to do problems very quickly and with few errors, and I will make sure that they reach that stage, explaining concepts and guiding them along the way. One strategy I have for SAT testing is, once I want to make sure the student understands the material, I start giving them less and less time on SAT sections. That way, they cannot only do the SAT correctly, but within the time constraints, with time left over to check their answers.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Look, we all have to start somewhere. I love coding, but I had never done it in high school, so when I took my first coding class here you better believe I was the bottom of the barrel. If the class average was a B, I was getting a low C. The key is not to let it discourage me, because once you know satisfaction of getting a program running correctly, there really is now better feeling. While specific to computer science, this anecdote can be applied across disciplines. I will show students that they can be successful in a subject by making sure to not tutor above their current abilities. There is nothing worse than a tutor talking at a student and a student just sitting there and feeling dumb for not getting it. I will make sure this does not happen. I will tutor a student at the level that they are at, will make sure they understand everything I am saying, and will slow down if I need to. The satisfaction that a student has when they get a problem right is honestly a game changer. Essentially, I believe the power of positive reinforcement. I believe in being a positive energy during the tutoring hour, because if I am giving encouraging words and vibe to the student, they will simply do better. I sincerely believe this aspect of tutoring, making sure your student doesn't feel discouraged or stupid, is as important as anything.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I see where in the material they seem to falter, and work from there. I have no problem working with a student who needs help with the basics, nor do I have a problem with a student who just wants to perfect already good skills. But in any case, I take a very personalized approach in their gaps of knowledge and building skills that are lacking. No two students are the same.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Everyone's a different learner. Some people are visual, some people can just read something and they get it, and some people need to hear an explanation. I try all modes of communication, and pick the one that works best for my students. Personally, I'm an example guy. I need to see a bunch of examples before I really understand something. This is probably common, but certainly not universal. If someone gets something simply by talking about it in the abstract, I can do that too. In terms of problem solving, there is generally more than one way to solve a problem, and more than one ways to look at it. Once I find a particular style that a student seems to grasp on to, I utilize it to make my tutoring more effective.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Pen or pencil, paper, notebook, and textbook. The textbook is good for doing practice problems, and for simply translating something in the book that the student is not quite getting. Of course, if need be, there are some wonderful online tools like graphing calculators that I will use if need be, or simply a website that has good material the student can work on during the week.