Tutoring is an interesting concept to me because it declares that one person has knowledge of a subject and is dispersing that knowledge to other people. In my experience with tutoring, however, both individuals are constantly learning and challenging themselves. The tutor is learning how to effectively convey information and constantly checking their own knowledge, while the other is learning to receive and process information. It is a conversation, not a lecture, that makes tutoring work.
As you can tell from my own thoughts on tutoring, I am a talker. I like to interact with people and see the real progress that comes with effective conversation. There is always a way to phrase or present a topic or an argument in a way that anyone can understand and in turn apply that knowledge. That moment when a student is able to apply their learned knowledge effectively is one of the most rewarding aspects of working as a tutor.
On a more personal note, I am an avid sports fan, but have somehow managed to split allegiances between Wisconsin and Illinois (I'm a Badger and a Packer, but also a Blackhawk and a Cub). I love traveling and getting out into the great outdoors, hence why I am living in Madison, Wisconsin at the moment. I am looking forward to working with Varsity Tutors this year!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Wisconsin-Madison - Bachelors, Political Science, Spanish
ACT Composite: 32
ACT English: 31
ACT Math: 33
ACT Reading: 31
ACT Science: 33
Politics, Sports, Traveling
High School Political Science
SAT Subject Test in Spanish with Listening
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Teaching is never about a one sided relationship; it is about being able to forge an intellectual relationship where the student feels comfortable, confident, and supported so that they can not only take in and learn the information that is being presented, but then go out and apply it. My teaching philosophy, then, is all about effective communication and understanding combined with a demand for effort and support with struggles.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would breach the basics of the topic, but also really try to get a sense of how the student learns effectively, whether that be by doing the problem themselves, seeing it done by me, etc. The biggest part would be figuring out what kind of a person they are.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Presenting the methods to reaching an answer and not just supplying answers when the student is struggling. If a student has the right process and is still struggling, that is far better than a student who gets the right answer but has no idea how to replicate the approach indefinitely.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Giving support and also providing personal anecdotes about struggles that I have had, as no person is immune to losing motivation or feeling frustrated by their schoolwork.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would try to break down the problem in parts and simplify the concepts as much as possible. That way the student will be afforded the time to understand the smaller parts of the skill or concept and gradually build towards learning it all as a whole.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
The best way to get better with reading is to continue to practice, so I would assign and follow along with the student on certain articles and topics. I would be sure to choose a topic that interests them or motivates them to continue to read.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Having a good balance between instruction and taking a little bit of time to learn about the person. One of the crucial parts of tutoring is figuring out what methods are going to benefit that person the most, as people are very different in terms of how they learn. If you are able to know what ways in which people learn, then you will be far more successful in getting them engaged and helping them to learn the concepts.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
A big way I would generate interest is by combining topics that the student likes. Take a student who is struggling with grammar in Spanish, a sometimes boring concept. If that student enjoyed music, I would encourage them to listen to certain songs, and then I would print off the lyrics and omit some words, forcing the student to not only listen hard but also to try to problem solve to figure out what is the proper verb tense. For me, it is all about finding out what the student enjoys and trying to incorporate that into the lessons.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
A student's confidence is built by slowly drawing back your instruction, allowing the student more and more autonomy when answering questions or solving problems. That moment of progress where the student is able to take a part of a problem and solve it completely without instruction is the ultimate confidence booster. It shows improvement.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I try to be open and let the student inform me of what they need at a particular time or if something isn't working. I also take cues from body language and general demeanor, which is to say if the student does not seem engaged, I will give encouragement. I'd say the student knows best what their needs are, and I am cognizant of that, but I also know that I need to push them sometimes to accept what they need to work on.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I think my tone is the biggest way in adapting to the student's needs, as well as adapting what materials I will be working on. The student is here for a reason--they want to get better. Sometimes, however, they are begrudgingly told to do the tutoring session by their parents, which can hinder the progress of the session. I think being aware of what the student is feeling and experiencing goes a long way towards promoting a positive working environment.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I use a lot of internet sources, as well as students' own textbooks, if they have them. I have old documents from my days in high school and college that help me as well.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
For the majority of the time, I will be giving the student constant instruction, trying to forge a technique or method that will help them to succeed. Gradually, I will reduce that instruction as needed to allow the student space to attempt to solve the problems on their own. When they are able to apply the methods themselves after seeing them, that is when they really start to understand the material.