After attending a very good private school, I came to the Maryland Institute, College of Art (MICA) to pursue a five-year program, earning a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts and Master’s in Education. I then spent eight years teaching middle school, (6th–8th grade, Visual Art,) both in the city of Baltimore and in a neighboring county. My experience includes work with gifted and talented students between grades 6 and 12.
I love words. Like painting and drawing, words describe life, whether internal and emotional or as a more objective science—a genuine study of what one hears, thinks, and sees.
From an online platform, I would be best at editing, as well as helping students develop their writing. My philosophy as a teacher is that one must love three things: learning itself, the subject being taught, and the students one is teaching. Those driving academic forces are combined with interests of identity and empathy. I care very much who a person is and how one can discover who he or she is better. This can be done through writing, drawing, painting, and many other ways.
To that end, a major component of my art curriculum became the visual journal, in which the traditional sketchbook, (typically focused on observational drawing,) evolving sketchbook, (incorporating mixed media,) and writing come together. As an artistic tool, the visual journal has been critical to my finding my own voice, and I believe that every student can find themselves in one of the three methods (mixed media, text, or observational drawing) and—often more powerfully—in the combination.
When possible, I try to engage students’ interests and personalities to create work that is personally meaningful to them. I also utilize humor, particularly dry humor and irony. (I have a playful side also.)
Education is a way of life in my home and always has been. In addition to painting professionally, I enjoy reading. Young adult literature is my favorite genre, although I also have an interest in biography, (particularly autobiography,) psychology, and—recently—the graphic novel. I have a personal goal toward German fluency and am taking beginner’s Spanish at a local nonprofit. However, don’t mistake me for a natural linguist! Like anybody learning something new, I feel the awkward discomfort of a beginner. That said, I can relate to the discomfort of others who are learning (or struggling through their learning). Developmentally, I work best with adolescents, as the bulk of my teaching experience has been in middle school; however, I would also be comfortable working with college students.
If mobility (my own) were not an issue, I would also be happy to teach art, which is best done in person. That, however, would require the student to come to me.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy as a teacher is that one must love three things: learning itself, the subject being taught, and the students one is teaching. Those driving academic forces are combined with interests of identity and empathy. I care very much who a person is and how one can discover who he or she is better.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Capitalize on their strengths--really affirm what they DO already know, regardless of how little or much that is. Ask the student what they find most difficult or troubling about the subject. (General disinterest? Verb tenses? Word choice? Grammar?) Find a way to incorporate the interests that drive them if possible. For example, I am teaching myself a third language. I know that I need to learn about verbs and nouns and adjectives--but I can do that without starting with the tedium of typical textbook beginner's content. (A restaurant scene, for example.) My first unit was labeled "Batman and Cherry Pie." I looked up those words and translated sentences I was interested in, rather than, "the boy walks across the room. The boy drinks water. Can I drink water?" (There was no set word for "candy" in this language; I find that problematic.).
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Primarily, by asking lots of questions. I can also look at samples of their work, but the best information comes from the students themselves. When evaluating a student's work, I ask myself, "what do they clearly know; what seems to be a struggle, and what is a consistent struggle or absence of knowledge?" When I know what a student needs, I take every opportunity to affirm those things as they grow and challenge what they need to know one step at a time.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Any way I can. The student's focus of study is the subject. My focus of study is the student.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Get to know them. Are they self-driven? Or is a parent having them be tutored? Do they like anything about the subject? Or do they hate it? To what degree? What are their natural interests? Maybe there is something they can teach me. I don't know everything, and I do know that the student is an expert in whatever they like best. Learning is a level playing field. I want students to know that I am not descending from on high, but rather, I am a learner just like they are. The goal is to build trust. An important question: what is their opinion of school? What is their experience of school? It may be that the subject is less the stumbling block than their school experience. There is a wide variation there. Why does this student need help in this area? That question could have a lot of different answers, which would then inform how I approach teaching them.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Always: paper and pens From there, whatever is needed (within reach and within reason). There is a huge variety of possibilities, because every student is different.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Look at what you got right!! You are a [thing you got right] master!! Alright, [thing you got right] master, what else can we/you conquer?
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
See if the subject could be broken down further and then teach it in pieces. Small pieces are easier to build up and less threatening than large skills or concepts.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
This is not my area of expertise. However, I would have the student read the passage (or part of the passage) out loud and then ask, "ok, what do you know?" The answer can be as simple as, "there is a person named Mary." I might then ask, "alright, what do we know about Mary? Look for clues." or "What is Mary doing in this sentence?" "How do you know that? What clues helped you to know that? Let's see if we can find more clues.".
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
This depends a great deal on why they are struggling. Every student is an individual with a lifetime of experience, good or bad. My answer to this would be entirely based on what that student tells me (verbally, in writing, or what I can perceive.).