I recently retired from the US Army after 17 years as an analyst and adviser on Northeast Asian policy. I hold a BA in Japanese Language and Government/International Relations from Notre Dame, an MA in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii, and am currently working on PhD in Japanese History at Princeton University.
Over my time in the Army, I worked in 4 different countries with partners from over 20 different nations, both military and civilian. I spent 7 years in Japan working as a liaison, policy adviser, and sometime interpreter/translator. However, the job I enjoyed most was as the chief of a team training Army units preparing to conduct joint exercises with Asia-Pacific partners. I really enjoyed teaching and sharing my experiences in order to prepare soldiers to succeed and bring the same enthusiasm to tutoring.
The best way to remember something is to have it practically apply to you--I try to bring out the "so what" in every subject to help students understand why it is important. As a tutor for the past 3 years, 3/4 of my students in AP European History and AP American History have scored 5s on the AP exam.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Notre Dame - Bachelors, Japanese Language & Government & International Relations
Graduate Degree: University of Hawaii at Manoa - Masters, Asian Studies
GRE Quantitative: 168
Travel, Reading, College Football (Go Irish!), History
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I try to help the student understand the subject material by relating it to them. It is much easier to remember something if you see the connections to yourself.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The first thing is to know the student and their needs, so I'd ask some questions first to see where the student is at, where they need help, and where they want me to help them eventually reach.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
By coaching the student towards answers without giving them the answers, and making sure they understand the process. The whole "teach a person to fish" concept.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Setting achievable mini-goals, even if it's just arranging my tasks so I finish the easy ones first, always works for me. We all feel more motivated when it feels like we're getting somewhere.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
We all have things that take a little more time for us to process. I'd do my best to walk the student through the steps with patience, and find analogies or other examples to help explain the concept.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Read more! But in bite-sized chunks, stopping frequently to have the student explain what they think the text means. Sometimes a passage is daunting because of the length and the vocabulary, but one step at a time gets it done.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Every student is different. The best thing to do is talk with the student, find out their learning style, and adapt to get them from point A to point B.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
This also varies by student. For younger students, maybe turn it into a game, with rewards for completing smaller segments. For more mature students, find a way to relate it to their lives, and get them to re-frame it in their mindset as something that has value, even if it will never be their favorite subject.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I always ask the student to explain the material to me, or walk me through how they got to the answer or conclusion they reached. Anyone can guess an answer, but if you can explain why, then you really know the material.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Success builds confidence. Pressure and judgment don't. I'd break it down into smaller concepts so the student can get that "a-ha" feeling of success, without criticizing when they struggle. We all struggle.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
First and foremost, it's important to listen to what the student tells me their needs are. Then as we progress towards the student's goals, I can identify other areas for the student to improve and help them with those too.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
First, by talking with them in that first meeting to establish where they feel they need help, and what goals they want me to help them achieve. Then, by paying attention to feedback--conscious and unconscious--from the student as we go, I can adjust. Sometimes what worked with one student doesn't work with another--you have to be willing to adapt to provide that help a student needs.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
This would depend on the student and the subject. For Japanese, I am a big believer in the power of flashcards! I even have multiple flashcard apps on my phone. For writing or English, a computer we can type through ideas on, and internet access to resources for grammar, vocabulary, etc. For history, I might bring additional books to help a student with a particular subject. For all subjects, I like to have a white board, so we can work through examples together.