Life is a balancing act. We all pretend we know what we are doing but in reality all we're doing is balancing our daily responsibilities. My balancing act includes being active, pursuing enriching outlets, being adventurous, and trying to have new experiences in my life. Where does tutoring come in to play? For me, tutoring is an enriching activity. I enjoy tutoring. It helped me pay off college, it helped me pursue hobbies. I have been tutoring for almost ten years now. And throughout the near decade I have been tutoring, what I've learned is no two students are the same. Everyone learns slightly differently and my job as a tutor is to figure what works best for the student. My personal favorite subjects are anatomy, physiology, and biology. I majored in physiology and anatomy at UC Davis and have tutored both for many years. I like to think of one as a puzzle (anatomy) and the other as a domino set (physiology). And who doesn't like a puzzling domino setup? (A&P joke.....sorry!).
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Patience and understanding are my two mottos for teaching. Patience with the student while they try to figure out complex concepts, and understanding where the gaps are in their education. As a tutor, it is my goal to fill those gaps and help them see the big picture.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would introduce myself and have them do so as well. Then I would ask them what they think is their biggest obstacle in understanding or grasping the material. Once we create that baseline or foundation, I try to build on it. The trick is to just listen. Wait for them to figure out how they want to explain their problem. It helps to understand where they need help and where they might need help in the future.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Teaching the student to think for themselves is the biggest tool we can give them. My first goal would be to teach them how to approach a problem. And then build on a solution.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Positive encouragement and taking them to safe ground. This means we keep referring back to concepts they understand and building on them. You want to create momentum and get them excited to learn.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If one teaching technique does not work, switch to another. Have them explain what they understand so far, then use diagrams to further the concept. Then, have them explain it thoroughly.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Paraphrasing is a big tool in increasing reading comprehension. Reading a paragraph, and then having them explain what they just read also helps.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I've found that listening is key to helping them. Also, anticipating future problems with related concepts helps me direct my teaching/instructional focus.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
This can be done in several ways. Make the concept relatable. Find out what they are passionate about and make the topic somehow relatable with their hobbies. Draw analogies between the two.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Every chapter section has key concepts that must be mastered. I usually have them explain the concepts to me. I usually tell them to pretend that they are tutoring me! That helps build confidence as well.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Have them explain concepts to me as though they are tutoring me. Trying to understand material from an instructor's perspective adds a new layer of understanding. Positive reinforcement also helps.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
As they are explaining concepts, paying attention to the gaps in their understanding allows me to refocus the goals of the session so we can iron out the details and focus on their individual needs.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
One tutoring method does not work with all students. A good tutor must adapt. For me, that means finding where the misunderstandings are and focusing on them specifically. I also give them goals for the week and reevaluate where we are at the end of the week.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The books used in school (since that's what the school teach will use), a drawing board/notebook, and lots of scratch paper! I am a big proponent of active learning, so I like to use whiteboards and scratch paper. Also, multiple colors. That is a must.