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David

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I am a current undergraduate English major at Harvard University. I firmly believe that teaching is an integral part to mastery of any subject, and also that it has intrinsic value in making the world a better place. I have taught argumentation and debate at the Harvard Debate Council summer workshops, and have developed and taught a political philosophy curriculum at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece. I love working with kids, and I read and write children's books and young adult fiction in my spare time (as well as poetry and adult fiction). I love exploring ideas in fields from Literature to Neuroscience, and have a lot of experience working and volunteering in libraries. I have a side interest in permaculture and systems design.

David’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Harvard University - Current Undergrad, English

Test Scores

SAT Composite: 2310

SAT Math: 790

SAT Verbal: 780

SAT Writing: 740

Hobbies

Reading, creative writing, debate and argumentation, law, agriculture and farming, systems and design


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe strongly that each and every student possesses an innate attraction to learning. I think that the best avenue to fostering learning is to activate a child's latent creativity and personal engagement to the topic, often by allowing them to choose the pathways and subjects that they wish to learn, with myself as a knowledgeable guide. This philosophy can be applied to any kind of learning, from test prep to school subjects. I think that lecture has its place, but in most instances only serves to turn off students to learning, and has to be kept to a minimum.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

I think what is most important early on is establishing rapport and a healthy relationship between tutor and student. I have seen countless instances of where students and tutors were not comfortable with each other as people, and that leads to undesirable outcomes. Fostering an environment where learning is fun and a student can be honest about what they are learning successfully, and what they need additional help with is invaluable in later lessons, and a poorly developed relationship can often lead to student's not feeling comfortable sharing difficulties with an instructor, or treating tutoring sessions as extensions of their most disliked portions of traditional schooling.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

All people, especially children, are already independent learners. Learning is built into the human DNA. I make it my job as a teacher to activate a student's creative insights and passion, and channel that towards traditional subjects. Allowing the student to learn with methods that work best for them and fostering a fun learning environment are key, and demonstrating one's own passion for the same ideas that the student has to learn goes a long way.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I always make sure students understand the benefits of any kind of tutoring as it applies to their own lives, either in the here and now or in the near future. Sometimes there are subjects that a student must learn, but seem simply outside of a student's interests. However, I reject this formula. I think with all subjects there are connections that can be made to other subjects or other components of a student's life that can demonstrate the subject's relevance and intrinsic substance. When learning is worthwhile, it's worthwhile objectively, and when students lack motivation, it's usually only necessary to show them the intrinsic value in the subject they are learning.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

First, I would make sure that the student understands that difficulties with some subjects are natural and expected, and that it doesn't reflect negatively on them as an individual. Too often, students can allow difficulties in certain subjects (especially when they are strong in other subjects) to affect their sense of self-worth. This establishes a self-reinforcing negative cycle, and can sometimes turn a student off of a subject permanently. Teaching a student material that they are less strong at is easy, and usually only requires patience - that's my job, and it's necessary for everybody, because everybody has certain subjects they are stronger with than others. What is most important is making sure that a student's initial difficultly doesn't affect their general passion for learning, and doesn't affect their confidence in themselves as learners.

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

As an English major and a creative writer, reading comprehension is a specialty of mine. I think when students struggle with reading, even when they have the basic skills, it's often that they lack explanation about how the seemingly superficial components of a book that they may enjoy are in fact made up of numerous literary choices and devices employed intentionally by the author. Having a student analyze a passage that they know they enjoy, and showing them the reasons why they enjoy that passage as embedded in the text, is an excellent first step to applying that comprehension to other pieces of writing.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

I like to think that students and tutors aren't at odds in teaching the student what they need to know. Asking the student outright what they like in school, what methods work for them and what don't, and other questions of that kind can give honest answers that provide valuable information for the tutor. Often, students have never been asked to shape their own learning experience, and can be eager to offer what works for them and what doesn't.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

As different as subjects from math and science to literature and politics can seem, ultimately, I believe ideas and subjects are interconnected. This was true of the great philosophers of history, and my own engagement and study has led me to the same conclusion. Showing the students the connections between what seems to be a discrete subject they are struggling with and other ones they enjoy more can allow them to reallocate their excitement. That, and showing the students the manifestation of their ideas in the world or their real-world application to what the student hopes to achieve almost always works to get a student excited to learn, even when they are struggling.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

Once a positive and low-pressure relationship has been established between the student and teacher and honest communication can take place, students are usually forthwith about difficulties they may be having. It can also be easier to tell for the tutor when a student understands and when they don't. One method I like to use to ensure comprehension is to have the student develop a lesson plan and teach me about the topic that was just being taught. Teaching fosters and requires true mastery, and you can quickly see where a student has superficial understanding versus deep understanding.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

A student will always be doing something right, even if only effort (or seeking out tutoring!), and prefacing criticisms with positive feedback help a student feel confident that they are improving, even if they have not yet succeeded. Showing the student that activities that they succeed at in their everyday lives, even the most mundane, can help build confidence (such as, video games as logic and problem solving, young adult fiction as analysis of great literature, acting and jokes as effective communication, drawing as geometry, etc.).

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

Most often, a student’s needs are included in what they want to achieve, whether it is a certain result in school or a certain score on a test. I think firmly that all students can, in their own way, learn all subjects, and so I feel that a student's needs are usually the subjects that they are least strong in. Once a student has fundamentals and a vocabulary for understanding basic principles, learning can proceed independently or with a tutor at a much more rapid pace.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

My tutoring exists only in adaptation. I do not enter an engagement with a new student with any preconceptions of what best methods are or what a student needs. Rather, I pair an intense study of teaching methods and psychology with an openness and faith that the student will be able to communicate to me, either explicitly or not, the best methods to teach them with.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

When test prep or specific subjects are concerned, tutoring materials are straightforward. Whenever possible, I try to get the student to bring in resources or examples from their own lives that they enjoy working with, and then pair those with similar resources I know are most effective to teach the particular subject.