I love to learn and to help others learn, a pleasure I had for nearly forty years as a college instructor in writing and literature at The College of Wooster in Ohio. Although I taught many classes in these subjects, much of my teaching was done in one-on-one conferences on how to write for a variety of purposes: explanations, arguments, analyses, research, poetry and fiction. I worked with writers from those having basic difficulties to sophisticated seniors working on complex research papers or creative collections of stories and poems.
My primary approach is first to try to understand you as a learner, to identify not just problems but also how you work best with a particular style, and to devise a way of learning that fits both you and the form of writing to be developed. Although a writer needs to understand the "rules," such as grammar, the goal is to discover how you can learn to use both the rules and your knowledge and creativity for your own purposes.
In literature, my tutoring begins with an emphasis on comprehending the text, identifying patterns and themes, and finally coming to an analysis or interpretation that arises from this understanding and makes sense of as many aspects as possible. Literary interpretation is not a mysterious game, iibut a skill that can be learned and practiced by you with excellent results.
In tutoring for tests, such as the GRE or SAT, my approach focuses on understanding the kinds of thinking the tests want to identify, the ways in which the questions try to identify them, and the best strategies for answering the kinds of questions asked. Importantly too, I help the you to recognize your past experiences with these questions--perhaps in other forms--as an important way of easing anxiety about the tests.
I am a patient, understanding and experienced tutor, mentor and teacher. My basic belief is that people learn best from encouragement and practice that brings insight, and never from ridicule or harshness. I look forward to working with you to improve your skills in the subjects and goals you want to work on.
Undergraduate Degree: University of South Carolina-Columbia - Bachelors, English
Graduate Degree: Duke University - PHD, English
Poetry, fiction, film, social justice work, golf
What is your teaching philosophy?
My goals as a teacher are to help students gain knowledge, skills and independence in particular subjects. My approach is to understand how individuals learn best and to use those abilities to strengthen performance. I use encouragement and confidence building as strategies. I never belittle, ridicule or embarrass students, who never learn anything from those techniques. Respect is the key to learning.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The specifics will depend on the subject, of course. In a writing, tutorial I probably would start with a subject to write about. Then, I would have the student do several things to get started, such as reading related material, brainstorming ideas and writing a few paragraphs. We would then go over the paragraphs to identify and discuss what was important about grammar, vocabulary, coherent structure, evidence and so on. After that, the student would rewrite the paragraph and the practice would continue until real improvements that the student recognizes begin to show up. For longer essays several sessions might be needed. For other subjects, reading perhaps, a similar hands-on approach in which the students is heavily engaged would be used.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I help students become independent learners by indicating the ways to improve their work. I then let them put those skills into practice so that they learn to master them.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Give clearer explanations, discuss the reasons for the skill, provide more practice, discuss improvements in the skill and next achievements to work for
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I try to identify the barriers--vocabulary, verbs, sentence structure, reference problems--and come up with exercises to help as well as go over passages with them to guide their understanding.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Strategies differ with the subject. In writing, for example, I have the student write a passage. We discuss it to identify its strong and weak parts. The student then rewrites the passage to see if any weaknesses continue and what gets better. This direct participation by the student continues as central to learning to write.