Having been a student myself for many years, I recall loving learning, but hating feeling unsuccessful. After studying and graduating with a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education, I am now on the other side of things, with a great realization of just how much is being asked of students. With high-stakes testing, high standards of expectations, and sometimes large class sizes, it's no wonder some students find themselves missing bits and pieces of information that they need to do their best.
As a teacher in the classroom, I'm dedicated to helping my students grow in their abilities, whatever it takes. Sometimes it isn't just about how I teach a concept to students-- it's about how I teach that one concept to that one student in particular. I find such an importance in individualizing instruction so that it is easy to understand and specific to student needs, and as a tutor, I hope to do the same.
Rhode Island College - Bachelors, Elementary Special Education
SAT Writing: 700
Elementary School Math
High School English
Study Skills and Organization
What is your teaching philosophy?
There is always more being learned than what is written on the lesson plan. This one sentence is so reflective of my philosophy of teaching-- at any time, in any subject or activity, students are learning more than just academics. They learn how it feels to be successful, to be encouraged, to feel motivated to complete a task. On the other side, they may learn what it feels like to feel frustrated or incapable or absolutely uninterested. At all times as a teacher, I find it important to keep in mind these little lessons that aren't written in my plan book, utilizing opportunities to help students recognize and appreciate those feel-good moments, and recognize and work through those feel-bad ones. Academics are important, but learning how to enjoy learning, especially when it's difficult, is even more valuable.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session with a student, I want to get to know the student as a person, learn of some of his/her interests which I can incorporate into future lessons, and create a rapport. There's nothing more awkward than trying something you know you're having a hard time doing when you feel uncomfortable with the person sitting next to you. For younger kids, maybe play some learning games to start. For older students, maybe just a good conversation to get us going. Next, I want to establish a baseline so I know exactly what the student knows and needs to learn so that we can move forward successfully from there. (Also, it's pretty cool to be able to see your own progress if you establish where you started, like an academic before/after shot!)
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Most times, in my own experiences, when a student was reliant on another person, whether it be a student or teacher or parent, it was because he/she was not aware of his/her own capabilities. It's important to point out and help students see just how much they do know, and help them use this information while learning new skills or in new contexts. While it is easier to just give answers, it is more beneficial to work alongside the student at his/her own pace.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
People need encouragement, no matter how old they are. With younger students, I like to play a lot of learning games to help keep the lessons interesting while still focusing on relevant and important information and skills. For older students, I think learning should also be made interesting, but also sometimes just helping a student see that a skill will be useful beyond just taking the test helps them to want to learn it.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
When I see a student is struggling to learn a concept or skill, my first goal is to identify the actual problem. Sometimes, students need a stronger foundation in or are missing entirely a prerequisite skill that they need in order to be successful. I try to pinpoint exactly where the student's difficulty lays so that I can help address it. Also, I think it's really important to remind students of all the ways they've been successful so far to keep their morale up while we figure out exactly what the problem is.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension involves a lot of metacognition-- thinking about your thinking. Often, I think aloud for students to understand what is going on in my own head while I am reading. When students are practicing, I find it helpful to have frequent pausing points in the text when students are expected to pause their reading, and ask some key questions to check if they have comprehended what has been read before continuing on in the passage.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I think it is critical to help the student feel comfortable and supported in his/her learning. It is much easier to take a risk, try a new skill, and answer a question even without feeling totally confident in the answer, if you feel comfortable with the person next to you. Getting to know the student often helps the student become more confident in his/her ability to make mistakes and still be successful. It also helps me! It is much easier to plan an individualized lesson when I know the individual beyond just age, grade, and subject.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I have two main strategies: 1) Make it fun! Games that center on learning a new skill or solidifying a skill are always a hit. Math practice drills are monotonous and boring, but a little friendly competition on a board game or in a card game can usually help change someone's mind. 2) Point out their strengths. From my own experience and from working with students, I've noticed a pattern of lack of interest and motivation when students feel unsuccessful. It is much easier to write off paying attention during writing if you think, "Well I've never been any good at writing." Finding those things that students ARE good at often helps them feel more able to learn something new, and look forward to knowing they really can learn it.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Assessment is such an overused word, but it's critical in knowing whether students have mastered a skill or not. I think it is important to remember that the point of assessment is to help both the student and the teacher. With that being said, an assessment doesn't have to be a paper/pencil test. Sometimes I have a little checklist of what I am looking for in student work, or write down notes of what I am noticing. Other times, a score sheet from a game tells me exactly what I need to know. Occasionally, I might rely on a little quiz to help me determine how well a student has mastered a concept.