I remember the first time I actually enjoyed learning something: I was seven and my Dad had just bought me a child's encyclopedia as gift. I didn't really like to read back then (after all, I was still learning to speak English) and I'm sure I would have liked science even less had I actually understood anything about it, but still without fail my father would spend every afternoon trying to coax me into reading this thick, monstrous-looking book with him. To make it easier for me he would often take turns reading it too, asking me questions about the passage afterwards and quizzing me with fun little trivia questions. Before I knew it this thing that had once been a chore had started to become something I routinely looked forward to doing. Soon enough, I started to read random pages from the encyclopedia by myself and for my own enjoyment, even graduating to chapter books not long after that.
I still have that old encyclopedia tucked away somewhere in my house, but nowadays I can’t use it to learn anything new anymore. I’m a biology senior at Florida International University who actually spent my first year of college studying journalism, having graduated top of my high school class in English. The two subjects which I detested the most growing up actually came to jointly shape the course of my studies simply because someone took the time out of their day to make them interesting to me. That’s how it should be with all learning, I think. We retain information best when we engage with others about it, trading ideas back and forth in order to challenge preconceptions and solve problems together. Tutoring someone means allocating 100% of your attention to their academic challenges for a set period of time. It’s a different experience than when you’re sitting in a classroom with 30 other students, vying for a teacher’s attention on a particular problem.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Florida International University - Current Undergrad, Biology, General
Travel Photography, Ashtanga Yoga, Aerial Gymnastics, and Surrealism
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is primarily focused around the learning needs of the student and how to help them feel engaged with the material they're being presented. Making the information that is being taught appear both meaningful and relevant helps them to retain knowledge more effectively and feel prepared for any future assessments.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The most important aspect of a first session is to evaluate a student's existing knowledge of the subject. Then, I determine what their subsequent needs are, and broadly set up both short-term and long-term plans on how to achieve these learning goals. Making a student feel comfortable enough to answer open-ended questions about where they feel confused or lost can be a bit of a challenge. That's where icebreaker games and other exercises can come in handy. My main goal during a first session is to establish a comfortable rapport with the student in a way that helps them not to be afraid.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The most effective method to help anyone to become an independent learner is to find a way for him or her to truly engage with the material being taught. My personal belief is that we tend to latch onto and remember information much better when it becomes relevant to our own interests and pursuits. Therefore, it's important for educators to always link the oftentimes "abstract" concepts being taught in a session with real-world applications and examples. Once a student finds a particular fact or anecdote interesting they're much more likely to go out of their way to seek additional information on their own.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
The best way to help students stay motivated is by helping them to establish goals. Then by reinforcing these objectives with positive reinforcement. Tracking their progress in this way can often help them visualize their improvement in real time and feel motivated to continue learning as their sessions progress.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Whenever a student has trouble a good tutor should find out the root of their misunderstanding and formulate a personalized strategy for dealing with the problem at hand. Everyone exhibits their own unique responses to a myriad of different learning styles. This is why it's important for tutors to always ask open-ended questions so that students can best explain where the difficulty they experience with a particular concept stems from. While one student may respond better to visual aids another may better benefit from practical, tangible examples that demonstrate an abstract concept in a real life way.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In my experience, reading comprehension is best maximized by a series of fairly predictable steps. Firstly, students should read the passage once through to get a general (yet vague) idea of what is being communicated to them. Next, students should look over the passage again to underline the first sentence of every paragraph as well any additional statements that seem to contribute to the main idea of the passage overall. Doing this makes it easier for them to refer to each of the important points that the passage presents as they go through every comprehension question, acting as a sort of roadmap to help them localize their thoughts and not get lost in the details of what is being asked. Afterwards, students benefit from visualizing the textual material and making inferences based on these mental associations, weeding out information that is helpful towards answering a question from information that is irrelevant to what's being asked. Lastly, students should try taking the underlined sentences and ranking them numerically (1,2,3...) in order of how important they are to answering the question itself, helping them to choose between similar answer choices.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Every student is unique, which means that a successful tutor should be ready to employ a variety of strategies at the beginning of any session. However, that being said the most useful strategy a tutor can employ when first starting to work with a new student is to ask them what their goals are for a particular subject and then to set reasonable deadlines for accomplishing these objectives. It's also very important to ask students open-ended questions about their concerns with the subject matter being tackled and formulate short-term plans for addressing those problems. Having a structured and clear-cut schedule from the beginning acts as a guide for both the tutor and the student, helping both to stay focused and make the most out of each session.