I am an educator with experience at the public school, community college and university level. A few years ago I decided to focus solely on elementary, middle, and high school students. I substitute teach about 90% of the school calendar year and I have been a tutor (in home and online). In fact, substitute teaching is a lot like being a tutor.
Beyond subject matter content, teaching is always about the self-esteem of the student. Learning is a lifelong process. Each teaching situation is an opportunity to influence positively how a student sees him or herself as a learner.
Learning takes place over the course of a school year, semester, quarter, week, or in a five minute time frame (such as with a substitute teacher). The math problem or the causes of the American Revolution may be what the student is learning but the context of the situation is always making learning a positive experience for the student.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Old Dominion University - Bachelors, History and French
Graduate Degree: George Washington University - Masters, Behavioral Science
writing crossword puzzle books for students (pre-K to 12), keeping fit biking, weights, yoga, swimming, tennis
5th Grade Science
6th Grade Science
7th Grade Science
8th Grade Science
College Level American History
Elementary School Math
Elementary School Science
High School Chemistry
High School Geography
High School Level American History
Middle School Science
US Constitutional History
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Learning is a lifelong process. Beyond learning facts, solving math problems, and expressing oneself creatively, teachers have another responsibility--supporting each student in increasing his or her self-esteem and level of confidence when it comes to learning. It is desirable to have each student be self-motivated when it comes to schoolwork, but that is not always the case. Making learning interesting and fun does help many students be more self-motivated.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The higher the confidence level of a student, the more likely s/he will want to try learning on his/her own. To build confidence first requires understanding what the student thinks s/he already knows. For example, when teaching math, I have a student develop a math problem (s/he knows the answer to) for me to solve. This allows the student to demonstrate his/her current level of knowledge and allows me to reinforce what the student correctly understands, and simultaneously identify gaps in the student's knowledge or thought processes. The next step is designing a strategy to break down into manageable parts—or what needs to be learned to eliminate the obstacles to the student's math (in this case) success. This is a problem-solving approach I share with the student--understand what is required, what is known, what is missing, and break down the problem/situation into manageable parts or steps in order to reach the goal. Having an approach to tackle learning challenges saves the student time, lessens the level of stress and helps a student become a more independent learner.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Students stay motivated when they see success on a regular basis. This doesn't mean they get the right answer every time. Breaking down a lesson or a problem into small enough steps or parts so the student experiences more successes (right answers) than failures (incorrect answers) keeps a student motivated.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
First, I would determine what the student knows. For example, creating a math problem (s/he knows the answer to) for me to do or having the student describe the process of photosynthesis. Second, find similar skills or concepts in other academic or non-academic areas (such as sports, games and/or subjects the student is interested in) to use as a means of comparison. Many times the student understands the concept of photosynthesis (for example) but lacks the vocabulary to explain it.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I like to first see what interests the student has e.g., favorite school subjects, movies, music, sports, games, books, etc. It gives me some insight into which areas I can use to introduce analogies in order to explain difficult to learn material. Second, I like to find out what the student wants and expects from working with a tutor. Does s/he have any of his/her own expectations? Are the expectations of the parents/guardians being communicated by the student? (Then I can assess how realistic the expectations may be. Also, I would want the student to voice his/her own set of expectations--if s/he has not done so. Having his/her own expectations is a sign the student has an investment in the tutoring sessions.) Third, are there any particular ways students find useful in their ability to learn-- e.g., reading material aloud, using a whiteboard, etc.? Also, what does not work?
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
For math, the student can teach me or test me using problems s/he understands or creates. Being able to teach someone else is the best way of displaying one's understanding of material. For non-math material, how well the student understands can be measured by how well-designed and relevant the test questions are that the student designs for me to answer. Switching roles is a fun way since the student has control in evaluating my understanding when, in fact, I am evaluating his/her level of understanding.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Building a student's confidence relies on starting where the student is in his/her level of knowledge, and building up the level at a pace where the student experiences more successes than failures.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
What does the student need? I like to ask the student what s/he knows or feels confident about and what weaknesses s/he thinks are evident e.g., reading skills, multiplication tables, division skills, taking notes, study skills, taking tests, etc. (I provide such specific areas to gauge what needs there may be if the student's responses are too general.) For non-math subjects, I next may ask the student to read an article or book passage, and evaluate the level of reading and comprehension. For math subjects, the student can explain how s/he will solve a few problems. Lastly, I would compare results of my preliminary assessment with what the expectations are of the student and parents/guardians with regards to tutoring.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Frequently I use the student's materials from school (textbook, tool kits, handouts, etc.), but I also like to have access to the internet, since how to do internet research is something I encourage my students to do on their own. (There are so many great math websites, for example, that can be used to explain and practice how to combine like terms or do long division or add, subtract, multiply and divide exponents. It is a strategy to help them become more independent learners.) Sometimes I need to develop materials to reinforce learning or vary the lesson with, for example, custom crossword puzzles, or bringing materials like a deck of cards to practice adding or multiplying two (non-picture) cards together while playing the card game "War". The materials and alternate teaching strategies are customized for the student.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Discuss what the student is interested in--in school and outside of school. Have the student show me/test me with a math problem or geography question that he or she knows the answer to. Lastly, have the student explain what goals, if any, she or he has with regard to the tutoring sessions.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
With elementary and middle school students, first identify a topic she or he is interested in--sports, Batman, LeBron James, Elsa and Anna from the Frozen movie--and together write up a short paragraph about that topic, or find a news article or use content from his/her homework or textbook. Then, the student develops test questions for me to answer based on the information. For content with lots of facts, I help the student organize and summarize the key information in his or her own words (and maybe using cartoon drawings).
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would start by having the student give me an example of what she or he does know--whether it is writing a correct sentence about a favorite movie or celebrity or doing a multiplication problem correctly. This helps benchmark where the student is (or thinks she or he is), and proceeding from there to show what else she or he may already know, almost know, or not know at all.