I'm a retired Systems Engineer. I teach because I like it, and I'm good at it. I have lived 21 years outside the US - 2 years in Japan and 19 years in Great Britain, and I have traveled in more than a dozen other countries, including Russia, China, Korea, Scandinavia, and other countries in western Europe. All of that experience has given me a perspective on US, European and World History and Government that is different from most history teachers in the United States, and I believe this makes me a better teacher. Teaching and tutoring are very personal activities and I try to get those who I teach to actively participate in the process, rather than just listening to me talk.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo - Bachelors, Social Science
Graduate Degree: George Mason University - Masters, US History
Reading, walking, learning/playing the piano, learning Spanish
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I strive to create in my students a positive attitude to learning, to the subject that I am teaching them, and THEN to the facts and concepts associated with the subject. I ask a lot of questions as I teach to engage the student and to clarify facts and concepts. For the same reasons, I strongly encourage that the students form their own questions and communicate them to me. Finally, I am watching as I am teaching. I believe that one of the important skills for a master teacher is to constantly read a student's body language and adjust the pace and context of the instruction based on that information.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In no particular order, I ask the student what their goals are for their tutoring with me, what subjects they are taking in school, what their favorite/least favorite subjects are, what their study habits are, and what experience/knowledge they have in the subject I am tutoring. I tell them about my academic and personal background that is applicable to the subject I am tutoring, and I emphasize my desire for them to ask lots of questions.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I discuss study skills with them. Each student is different so that discussion is rather free-form. I emphasize the importance of reading material before going to a class on that material as well as the importance of adequate sleep and adequate time spent studying. I stress the importance of setting goals for grades and then plan how to meet those goals.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
As I stated earlier, setting realistic goals is important. Being realistic about the amount of study that is necessary is also important. Time management is important to include taking breaks from studying. Getting adequate rest is another key factor - a person will not be motivated if they are tired.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I will ask questions to try to determine the particular difficulty, and I will try to approach the skill or concept in a different way. If a diagram or picture might help, I will try that; the student might be a visual learner. I might just move on, add new information to the overall lesson, then come back to the difficult part. Sometimes it takes time, and sometimes building information around the difficult concept/skill helps to make it clearer.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Practice, practice, practice. I might make a copy of the difficult material and then encourage the student to read with a pencil or pen - underlining difficult words, concepts, or constructions, and making notes that might help clarify the reading.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I try to be friendly and informal to encourage questions and to show the students that I respect them. Tutoring for me is something like having a conversation with the student. It's a two-way thing. Respect and informality work for me.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
It certainly depends on the student or subject, but in general with history, I try to show how the concepts in the curriculum apply to things that are happening NOW. Most students think history is a pretty dead thing, so I try to show them how it applies to things they know or should know about.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I ask questions and listen carefully to the answers they give.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
As the course progresses, I ask them stuff that I know they know. Students get excited when they find they do know something. I then ask them to predict what might have happened in situations and, as they develop knowledge, they get better and better at that, gaining confidence.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
In a tutoring situation, I am NOT a fan of written tests and quizzes. It takes too much time, and it isn't as interactive as I like to be, so I ask questions.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Based on the verbal and nonverbal feedback I get, I vary the pace of material and change my language - more jargon when they can take it, less when they can't. I always start a session by asking how their course in school is going and if there is anything we can do in the tutoring session to help.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I am a map and chart guy. I don't usually have the students use pre-printed notes because I am concerned that they will focus on the notes and not on my teaching thread.