As an applicant, I hope to offer my distinguished record of service as an after school tutor, in addition to the benefit of my 7 years of professional teaching service, to your organization. I have had additional professional development as an instructor with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, attended conferences for additional training with the National Science Teacher Association, and am myself a published researcher. I have a great deal of experiential depth and understanding of my subject matter to offer struggling and promising science students alike, and my strong math background makes me well suited to tutor students outside of my normal comfort zone. I have a history teaching students from 6th grade all the way up to underclassmen at the college level, and 7 years of teaching experience with high schoolers. I have a friendly and outgoing personality, and a sense of professionalism well suited to teaching any age group of students needing additional help in science or math.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Arizona - Bachelors, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
SAT Composite: 1440
Classical violin, board and card games, martial arts, swimming, etc
High School Biology
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Students are highly variable individuals, with learning styles and interests that vary wildly. They must be taught as such, with the understanding that their different needs must be addressed through variations in my teaching approach. I believe that education is best achieved through student inquiry, but I am no stranger to direct instruction. For the best level of success, students must feel engaged and curious about what they are learning, and it is my job to figure out how to bring their interests, history, and background knowledge into play to succeed in my instructional outcome goals. Tutoring, I believe, provides the one-on-one time needed by struggling students, who don't always get the instruction they need in the classroom. This is my favorite part of teaching, and one of the most missed parts of classroom education; hence, why I have volunteered so much of my time in the past for after-school tutoring. Tutoring provides one additional layer of varied instruction to bring students of differing skill levels up to par, and to allow them to become a motivated learner.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I will probably spend the first 5 minutes or so for a dedicated tutoring session just chatting and getting to know a student - interests, hobbies, background, etc. Tutoring is partially about offering my technical expertise and guidance, but it's also greatly about rapport. Students need to know they can come to me for help, and that I know who they are and where they're coming from. I will let my student do a lot of the talking, telling me what subjects they are struggling with and asking questions to help them give me a framework for what to work on. The first session isn't about helping them finish an assignment - I'm not there to do their homework for them; I'm there to figure out what they need to get to the next level of understanding and potential in their problem subjects. The student should not come out of the first session thinking I'm an answer bank! They should leave knowing that I can help them think differently and more efficiently about the problems they're trying to solve.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
My approach as a science teacher has always been one of teaching through inquiry, and student-driven assignments. Students should be developing their own questions, and I should be helping to steer them in the right direction. This is a natural fit for science. With math, using proofs, derivations, having students come up with sets of rules and testing them, and so on can be just as effective, rather than just "plug and chug" and repetition. Students shouldn't be taught answers or formulas. They should be taught how to ask better questions, and how to go about problem solving with the tools they already possess.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Knowing my students' backgrounds, culture, history, prior knowledge base, and so on is SO important for engagement. You have to be able to make the subject matter something a student can feel passionate about, or invested in, to hold their interest. However, it isn't always about keeping them "entertained," but also making sure that they are engaged in the process - in which case, they're the ones asking questions and guiding the lesson to the next step.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Scaffolding is a very necessary precondition to learning a new skill or concept. How will you get to point C without understanding how to traverse A and B? I need to know from the first session, but also to have the ability to find out along the way, how to identify the student's prior knowledge set. Their educational and cultural background may not be complete, and they may not have the prerequisite knowledge. I may need to back up the truck, and teach an earlier concept. Being able to recognize these missing pieces and fill them in is part of the strategy, but also being able to make good analogies to unrelated concepts within the student's sphere of experience.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Basically this involves monitoring them as they read - I check for understanding when they reach certain milestones in the reading section. I will also have students engage in metacognition - they are asked to generate questions as they read... "How did the researcher know X was true?", "What did people think about this previously, and what changed their minds?", etc... and if a student doesn't understand a passage - to write a question down and come back to it; to use later passages to identify contextual answers to their questions. Students will share these questions with me, and I'll help validate or redirect as necessary. Additionally, I can use guiding questions to give students reading goals, though I find this tends to make students into scanners rather than intuitive readers. Students may also use graphic organizers to put together visuals of the relationships between concepts in the reading section. Students should be able, finally, to summarize the big picture of what they read - what were the main ideas? And how do we know what we know?
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
As mentioned previously, a great deal of my initial success with students has been based on my exceptional ability to build rapport with them (finding out their interests, their culture, their educational background, etc.). A first lesson is less structured than a second or subsequent one. I would venture to say that I wouldn't even have a lesson plan for session #1. It simply isn't necessary. They're there on that first session to tell me their cognitive and conceptual issues with the subject matter, and I'm there to absorb that and come up with effective strategies. If all students were the same and had the same common issues, day one would be much more structured - but that doesn't represent reality. I need to be flexible in my approach, I need to listen, and I need to avoid just answering homework problems for them.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
As mentioned above, it's partly about relating the subject matter to their personal interests, and partly getting them engaged in problem solving by formulating their own questions and strategy.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Once a student knows the rules, has shown basic understanding, and has even done drill-like repetition of basic problems, I should be able to throw an unfamiliar problem at them and ask how they would use what they know to approach it. If a student, for instance, just learned how to calculate the surface area of a rectangular solid, I should be able to ask them how much glass is needed to make a fish tank with no lid. They would naturally want to do the same procedure for the surface area of a rectangular solid, but they should also understand that without the lid, they need to leave out a side. They have to understand what part of the formula they've been using represents that side of the tank, and how to account for its absence. This requires a more careful application of their knowledge than just giving them different meaningless rectangular solids and asking them to compute the surface area.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
1. Metacognition. As they're making their way through it, reading or otherwise, they need to ask questions that they can answer for themselves as they progress. 2. Basic problem solving and repetition. 3. Applications outside their comfort area - seeing that they can apply the rules they learned to tougher problems and get results. I am there as a coach to tell them what they do well, to remind them of what they know, and to structure the process they use to get to a higher level of understanding. The structured approach should give them an inherent sense of that they are progressing and doing well. Encouraging language and emotional support will also be of great importance here!
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
1. Questioning in the first session 2. Pre-tests 3. Previous testing results 4. Observing reading comprehension, and other performance-based observations 5. Evaluating students' levels of question complexity etc.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
My style of tutoring works for students of all ability levels, but allows me to drop back and work on foundational skills if I find they are missing along the way. That way, I am always scaffolding off of their base knowledge set as I go.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Scratch paper, computer, calculator, pencil, highlighter, graph paper, straight edge, Internet, projector/screen (when available), video (when needed), etc.