I am currently a fourth-year student at Columbia University planning to graduate this May with a double-major in Philosophy and Neuroscience. Teaching is an activity that I have always enjoyed and find extremely rewarding. When I was in high school, I was an after school tutor for many different classes (math, chemistry, biology, history, government) and helped to teach an ACT/SAT test prep session. While in college, I had worked with Columbia University and the New York City Urban Debate League to teach debate/public speaking and writing courses at the Double Discovery Center and in various high schools throughout the city. I was also involved in helping students study for standardized tests at the same time.
From these experiences, I have worked with many different kinds of students with a diversity of backgrounds and learning abilities. I consider education to be the great equalizer, something that rewards hard work and gives everyone the opportunity to succeed and achieve their dreams. Many of my students were either aspiring first-generation college students or had parents who were recent immigrants to this country, and I consider my work helping them prepare for tests and gain acceptance into colleges to be my greatest achievement at this point in my life. In the teaching process, I consider patience to be my strongest quality, as I've found that students are able to perform better in a subject once they are shown problems or the study material in a different way that is more relatable or easier to understand. My teaching philosophy is to try to be as engaging of an instructor as possible--from my own education, I've noticed that teachers who are indifferent, "boring," or too removed from their students often have difficulty motivating their students to try harder and continue learning the material. While I am able to tutor a variety of subjects, my strongest areas are in math, writing, science, and general test preparation. From my own studies and competing in a variety of academic competitions, I have developed problem solving strategies and time management skills that I believe would be valuable for any students who I would have the opportunity to teach in the future.
I plan to take a year off from my studies after graduation, and my flexible schedule would allow me to accommodate many students throughout the week. I am currently deciding between medical school and graduate school, within the fields of neuroscience and psychology. I have worked in labs at the Columbia University Medical Center, both at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Neurological Institute. Outside of academia, I enjoy reading philosophy, attending musical performances and art galleries throughout the city, taking long walks, and wandering through random parts of New York and finding interesting cafes. My literary and musical interests lately have been heavily influenced by late-Russian romanticism and Russian modernism. I have been a pianist for 14 years and at the moment in love with the works of Scriabin and Arthur Lourie.
Undergraduate Degree: Columbia University in the City of New York - Current Undergrad, Neuroscience/Philosophy
SAT Composite (1600 scale): 1600
SAT Math: 800
SAT Verbal: 800
SAT Writing: 800
philosophy, psychoanalysis, art, music, literature, creative writing, politics, high fashion
What is your teaching philosophy?
Teaching shouldn't be so formal that it keeps students at a distance and makes the entire learning process seem boring, tedious, or meaningless. I would like to be a teacher who is willing to be more engaged, so even if I'm "only here to teach algebra," a student wouldn't feel uncomfortable asking for help editing his/her college essays or asking for advice about testing or the college admission process.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would begin by asking the student to tell me a little about him/herself academically: - In which subjects/areas do you feel most confident? Where would you like some more help? - What kinds of study habits do you have? Do you ever have trouble focusing? - How comfortable are you when you take a test? Have you taken any standardized entrance tests yet (ACT, PSAT/SAT, etc.)? How did you feel during the test taking process and with your results? I would then try to make an assessment of the student's problem solving methods and the scope of their learning so far by having them solve a few practice problems. This would help me to figure out how best I could help the student and in which areas.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I think the ideal tutor is one who is able to make the student an independent learner. Tutors are not like normal teachers who are able to be with the student every day, but rather can only meet with the student at most two or three times a week. With these limitations, the student ultimately is who has to contribute the most work towards his/her learning. The job of a tutor is therefore to provide the student with all the tools that he/she needs: how to study efficiently, how to manage time, how to approach different kinds of questions, etc.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Studying is always a difficult, and often tedious, process. It usually helps if the material can be related in a way that is personal to the student or to something that is interesting to him/her. At the same time, learning can be mutual and enjoyable like an everyday conversation. It would be productive to both the student and the tutor to, every so often, take a break and give the student an opportunity to talk about something that he/she cares deeply. This would be informative (from observing the student trying to teach the tutor something) to get a sense of how the student thinks, and to adapt future lesson plans accordingly to best help the student learn.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would try to return to where the student felt most comfortable. Usually if some topic is difficult for a student, it is because he/she inadequately learned something before, or didn't fully understand the conceptual basis behind the previous material (and had simply memorized whatever he/she was trying to learn). From there, I would try reframing the new concept as something relatable to what the student was most comfortable with.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I would encourage the student to read more and to read many different kinds of materials. Otherwise, what has helped my students in the past was to start keeping a diary or personal journal. If a student takes more time to write, he/she will begin to get a sense of how ideas are able to be expressed in words, and this would help him/her with understanding what other authors are trying to say in their writings.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
For subjects in the humanities, it's always been easiest for a student to learn if the material is related to something that is personal to them or to current events and politics. For more quantitative subjects (math and sciences), I try to incorporate practice questions that are like games or problems to be figured out. Word problems are very helpful in these situations, as they encourage creative thinking rather than rote memorization, which can become boring and unhelpful for solving problems in the future.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
The major problem of education is that it too often encourages rote memorization without allowing a student to truly understand or fully conceptualize whatever he/she is trying to learn. This problem then becomes compounded as the student is exposed to new material or presented with more difficult problems in the future. Two methods that I have found helpful to see if the student has understood the material are to ask the student to re-teach the material back to me and to give the student word problems that encourage creative, original answers.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I consider my strength as an instructor to be my patience. Students (especially those who actively seek a tutor) generally want to learn new subjects, but can feel frustrated or intimidated by the steep learning curve that may be involved. I have always found it successful to proceed slowly, constantly checking to see if the student understands or has problems and not trying to teach too much new material in one day. Breaks and encouragement are also an invaluable part of the teaching process.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Whenever I teach a new student, it has always been helpful for me to first learn about the student's background, educational history, interests, and aspirations/goals. This will help me to get a picture of which areas the student is most comfortable in or might need some help. The input of the student about what kinds of problems he/she feels that he/she needs help with is also incredibly valuable. I would then have the student answer a few practice problems related to the subject matter, in order to determine how strong his/her understanding of the subject is currently.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I have taught many different kinds of students in a variety of subjects. My teaching philosophy has never been one that requires a strict curriculum of concepts that a student must understand, but instead has been something that remains fluid and prioritizes the unique abilities and needs of each student. For this reason, I have always preferred one-on-one tutoring to teaching large test prep classes, which seem too informal and make it difficult to determine if students in the class actually understand the material.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I tend to use a lot of practice problems from general test prep books. Sometimes I search for particular word problems from math/science competitions if they have a useful or interesting concept and encourage original, creative thinking in order to solve them.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would try to make the subject relatable or interesting to the student, or to help keep his/her goals in mind. From personal experience, I understand how it is often the case that a student finds it difficult to rationalize why he/she is learning a particular subject--and even harder if he/she is struggling to learn the subject. It is helpful to think of the "big picture" in these cases, to remember why the student is trying to learn the material in the first place (e.g. to be accepted into college, to pursue a profession in the medical field) and to view every little accomplishment as a step along a longer, and ultimately more rewarding, path.