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Brennan

The terms ‘teacher’ and ‘mentor’ are often used interchangeably. It is taken for granted that there is a key component that sets them apart. That component is simply: perspective. Teachers provide knowledge and skills, whilst mentors provide a lens through which a mentee can understand how to apply the knowledge they have gained. There are various accreditations and certifications necessary to become a teacher; yet mentors call upon life experiences to help mentees on a more intrinsic level. This key difference necessitates mentors to make strong personal connections with their mentees, calling upon knowledge learned from different aspects of life. Unlike specialized teaching, this can include but is not limited to various areas of subject knowledge. In other words, teachers teach exclusively while mentors teach inclusively.
If we see the two—teacher and mentor—as opposite ends of a spectrum, I posit a tutor must fall somewhere in the middle. Tutors must possess not only the skills and qualifications, but also the personality and experience(s) necessary to connect with their clients—to mentor them to be better achievers while simultaneously teaching them to be masters of their subject(s)— which is why I am the best candidate for a tutor. I have worked as a mentor and tutor with children and youth varying from ages 5 to 18 in settings ranging from inner city after school programs to orphanages and refugee camps in developing countries. As disclosed in my resume, my extensive undergraduate career has given me a wealth of experience and knowledge. These, along with my qualifications, make me the most effective tutor in reading and writing.
Because academic writing requires research and citation, critical reading, reading comprehension and writing skills are symbiotic. My exceptional writing and reading skills have contributed to my high graduating grade point average and Magna Cum Laude status. Besides rarely receiving lower than a B+ on all of my community college writing assignments, receiving tutoring for my University of California personal statements strengthened my writing skills. Once at UCI, I studied abroad for a year at the University of Ghana (British style of Education) and a semester at Kings College in London, where reading and writing skills are more integral to success in the than in America. Therefore passing my courses with such high marks required said skills to be solidified.
Throughout the yearlong application process for the Fulbright Fellowship, I worked with a writing specialist(s) and various mentors to produce a grant proposal and personal statement strong enough to assist me in achieving finalist status for the most competitive Fulbright award. Over the course of my final year at UCI, I conducted undergraduate research for a yearlong Advanced Field Study course, and my final paper and project received an award of distinction for the School of Social Ecology, among many other significant writing achievements.
On a personal note, I would say I am a lot of fun. During the course of my undergraduate career I travelled to 16 countries where I immersed myself in different cultures. Besides many amazing stories, this has helped me to become a more adaptable personality. I have taught Sahaja Yoga Meditation to thousands of people around the world. In my free time I sing, do yoga and calisthenics, and work on my uncle's farm outside of Madison. I am also a photographer, poet, and writer. I have a thirst for new experiences and embrace change. I look forward to sharing my skills, knowledge, and experience with someone in need!

Undergraduate Degree:

University of California-Irvine - Bachelors, Social Ecology

Spoken word, yoga, meditation, travel, photography, music, cooking, and fitness

What is your teaching philosophy?

My teaching philosophy is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to tutoring. Every student is different: they are from different backgrounds, have different experiences, and use different learning styles. Therefore, it is important to asses the strengths you possess as a teacher and they possess as a student. This requires you to listen first, teach second; to tune in to your student and think of creative ways to create a conversation between your strengths and knowledge and theirs. It is all about the process, not the end goal.

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

In a typical first session I would like to get to know my student. This includes getting to know their background in the subject, what their goals are, what kind of learning style they are most comfortable with, etc. From there, I would like to set goals that we can work towards as a team. It is important that students feel we are in this together; that I am here to learn from them as much as I am here to teach. I would look at whatever assignments they need help with to assess and strategize how best to structure the future tutoring sessions.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

To assist a student to become an independent learner is to simply help them identify the strengths they already have. Sometimes, it is difficult to know that there is an achiever inside all of us just covered up by something we missed along the way. It is easy for us to identify our weaknesses, but we often fail to see our strengths and how we can focus more on those to become higher achievers. For this, I would help students learn how to utilize their strengths as well as their resources. There is a wealth of information and resources online, on campus, and in libraries, that I would use and encourage them to use during lessons. I would also use creative approaches to help students identify what learning style fits their strengths best. For example, if someone is a visual learner, trying to create mind maps, color codes, or visual ways of learning that they can then use in all future subjects would be something I would strive for.

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

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, it usually means there are some building blocks along the way that might have been missed. I know this because I really, really struggled with math. I had to go back to elementary algebra and relearn the basics to work my way up to college level. Therefore, I would break down the concept first, and then try to ask questions to identify what parts of it they do understand. Then, I would try to expand on the components they do understand and use them to help navigate what is unclear. What is most important is asking, listening, and understanding where the student is and how to get them where they want to be.

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

For students struggling with reading comprehension, it is about slowing down. A lot of times we either read too fast without comprehending, or we are distracted by thoughts or things around us. Sometimes it can be because we lack confidence, or a variety of things. I would open a dialogue with the student and ask them questions. I would have them read aloud and really break down what is being read, asking clarifying questions to help them identify the main ideas, themes, and subjects presented. Helping them to see that all the information is already there, and they just have to obtain the tool-set to identify what's most important.

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

First, I like to check in with a student and see how they are doing. Personal connections are important and getting a sense of what's going on in their life is helpful. If a student is stressed, it might warrant a different demeanor than if a student needs more motivation or sternness. Again, then it would be about asking questions and tuning into the student. In a sense, it is kind of allowing them to lead the way, while all I do is facilitate.

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

I would try and think of creative ways to build on their learning styles. Whether it means coming up with a song, a mnemonic, a colorful graph or chart, or even a game, I would try and teach them that though some subjects are boring, the learning process can be fun!

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

It depends on their preferred learning style. I personally am a very visual learner, so if I had a visual learner I would share strategies I have tried over the years to help me understand the material. To be sure a student understands requires being very attentive to them, asking a lot of questions for clarification, and checking in on them rather than just blowing through material.

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

I would help build a student's confidence by using constructive criticism. It is important that they feel every small triumph is still a triumph! Struggling in a subject can be really hard on our self-esteem and confidence, so being reminded of the little successes is important. Also, laughing, smiling, and telling them what they are doing right is just as, if not more, important than telling them what they are doing wrong. It is important for them to know the answers, the skills, and the knowledge are all within reach.