I'm a college professor with more than 7 years of experience teaching writing, critical reading and history at the college level. I love working with students as they gain confidence and overcome challenges - watching kids come to truly love learning instead of seeing it as a chore just makes my day. And if it takes some pop culture to do that, so be it. I'm not above using video games or historical TV shows to get student interested! And really, learning about something dull like the 95 Theses or past present verbs is so much more interesting when it's set to a catchy tune. I often blend short videos, games and writing exercises to get at a problem from multiple angles and keep students engaged.
My undergraduate degree is in English Literature, and I love teaching lit! I also studied several languages in the course of earning my PhD, and am fluent in Italian, with good Spanish and basic French.
I can help with mastering content (memorizing vocabulary and so forth), but what I really emphasize are building long-term skills so that students are learning HOW to learn on their own. I focus on building their confidence along with their skills: setting short-term, achievable goals so the student sees regular progress can help immensely with low academic esteem. I also strive to give positive, constructive feedback on a regular basis, which can really help change a student's attitude toward a challenging subject.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Smith College - Bachelors, English Literature
Graduate Degree: University of St Andrews - PHD, History
Cooking, running, video games (PS3, mainly), scifi-fantasy, travel knitting and gardening.
College Level American History
College World History
High School English
High School Geography
High School Level American History
High School World History
Study Skills and Organization
Q & A
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First we'll get to know each other, which helps me tailor our goals and tutoring plan to your interests. Then we'll talk about what you want to accomplish, what you find hard, boring or interesting about it. Together we'll sketch out a plan for reaching your goals that builds on your interest and strengths. Hate history but love video games? I can totally work with that.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
By focusing on learning long-term skills instead of drills, I help students develop their own coping mechanisms and good study habits for the future. For instance, if a student were struggling in Spanish class, we would spend half of our time exploring different ways of learning vocab (like watching Spanish tv or interactive games) instead of just drilling with flashcards 100% of the session. With time and practice, the student should work out good study habits and ways of learning tough material themselves - a crucial skill in advanced classes and college.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It depends on the student! In the long term, it's crucial to set regular goals so students get a sense of progress and achievement - a concrete sense of their growth. I also use favorite exercises (video or games) as rewards to encourage motivation. In the short term, switching between different kinds of work (from writing to video, or word games to verbal explanation of an argument) and short breaks helps both of us stay fresh during a long tutoring session.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
We step back, take a breath, and talk through their difficulties. Is it a complicated sentence structure, or unfamiliar vocabulary that's frustrating them? Then we address the root problem, and I teach them long-term study skills to 'grow their way out' of the problem in the future. For instance, if the problem is unfamiliar vocabulary, they may need to get in the habit of looking to the dictionary every time they encounter a strange word. I also try to steer them to 'fun' reading based on their interests. Finding casual reading that they enjoy also builds vocabulary in a less stressful, study-focused way.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Taking a little time to get to know them, talking about their hobbies and interests, often helps a great deal later on! Practicing French composition is a lot more fun if you're writing about your favorite graphic novel than everyday life. And research papers can be a dull slog until you hit on a topic that sparks your interest - a student who loves soccer and hates math might be much more interested in researching the role of sports in Native American cultures than the economic importance of the fur trade.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
See one, do one, teach one is an excellent strategy for fixing information and skills in the mind. First we'll discuss a problem, then the student will do it, then they'll 'teach' it to me - explain how they reached their answer, as though I were a fellow student.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I always begin with positive feedback when evaluating a student's progress, and phrase criticism constructively ("You did X really well. Y needs some work here and here, so we're going to work on that next time by doing Z.") By setting small, achievable goals and giving regular feedback, it shows students that they ARE making progress toward their eventual goal, however distant it may seem.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
By taking the time to get to know them, their curriculum and their strengths and challenges. And being open with them about my observations, and what is achievable in the short and long-term.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
It depends on the student's level and subject material. I frequently use a mixture of video clips, writing, written exercises (brainstorming, underlining key passages) or for foreign languages, discussion and games.
What is your teaching philosophy?
To adapt each lesson to the student's circumstances and interests, to make feedback encouraging and constructive at all times, and to build long-term skills that will serve them throughout their academic careers.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Slow down our approach, talk to them to find out where they're getting stuck, and break down the task into smaller chunks. Or, take a break and come at it refreshed through a different type of exercise or media.