On the first midterm I took at UC Berkeley, I got a C-, so I've been there. I know how difficult it can be to move to a higher level of academic achievement, to learn proper study habits, to allocate enough time for homework, to ask for help when necessary. All of these things are much easier with help though, and I've spent a lot of time learning how to help students with these sorts of problems, as well as offer supplemental teaching in math and physics. I've spent three years tutoring and mentoring high school robotics teams from different backgrounds, teaching them all the extra physics, math, mechanical design, and programming they needed to win. One of the teams I mentored had placed dead last in the competition the year before and moved all the way up to second with my help. In the last two years of doing this I also taught a course to help other college students mentor high school students on the topics, so my foundation is rock solid.
I've also helped design a year long supplemental STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) course for local schools, and supervised the teaching at one of them. This course was designed for small groups and one on one tutoring. In addition to leading this course I also taught several other volunteers to teach in these small settings.
I've taught an astronomy course at the college level and held office hours to help individual students so I've got experience helping students with their homework and customizing explanations for individual students who are having trouble in class.
I've got a degree in physics and astrophysics, so I'm very familiar with physics at high school and introductory college levels, not to mention that I love it and I've learned all the fun anecdotes and examples that can make physics more fun for those who don't share my love. Physics and astronomy both require a strong background in math, so I can tutor in that as well, though I'll admit, I don't love it quite as much.
I've done well on quite a few standardized tests. In high school I got 6 5s and 3 4s on my APs, as well as a combined score of 2210 on my SAT and a 168 and 164 on my GREs. I know the strategies you need to prepare for standardized tests and a lot of the study habits and mindsets carry over from other areas of academics, so I know how to teach them well. Additionally, I'm currently studying for the LSAT, so I know what students are going through.
Tutoring is a passion of mine, I've done it for years as a volunteer and professional and I frequently annoy my younger sisters with my offers to help them on their homework (they don't like physics and just want to put in the minimum effort to get a passing grade, alas), so I really look forward to looking with any students who want my help.
University of California-Berkeley - Bachelors, Physics and Astrophysics
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe in helping students find their way to answers rather than just giving them. It takes longer, and it's harder, to answer a single question that way, but it helps students learn how to find those answers on their own. I also firmly believe that there's no such thing as a boring subject: just one that you've learned isn't interesting yet.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session, I'd want to establish where a student is and what their goals are, so we'd spend a little while talking about that and study habits. Then, we'd go over some recent homework assignments to see what they've been having trouble with and what I can do to help.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
It's important not to answer questions but to help students answer them for themselves so that they learn the ways to break down problems and look for answers that don't come easily. It's also important to talk about study habits and what's working and what isn't when students sit down and try to learn. The traditional studying stereotype of sitting down and exhaustively reading the textbook the night before a test isn't usually the best way to prepare, and learning the strategies around learning can be as helpful as learning the actual material when it comes to independent studying.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It's much easier to stay motivated if you connect the work you're doing to a larger purpose. Whether it's passing the class or being able to learn the fascinating hard parts of a subject, students usually have important goals that they can't achieve without working hard on the smaller tasks. So, as a tutor, I can help by reminding students what they're working for when they get overwhelmed. It's also important to make a subject fun. Having a regular enjoyable tutoring session can be a part of that. I'm also a huge advocate of competitive academic clubs. They make students apply tricky subjects in other contexts and can add a social element to keep things interesting.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Usually when students have trouble with a big concept, there's a simpler piece of it that they're not getting. However, identifying that piece on your own can be very difficult. It's a skill you can learn, but you definitely need help to start out. I like to narrow in on the smaller element by breaking down the big concept into pieces and seeing which the student is comfortable with, and then working backwards until we can find the element they're missing.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I encourage students to draw diagrams for any problems they're having trouble with. It encourages closer reading and can help you keep all the details straight in your head. Once you've got it all down, it's a good idea to read through the full question one last time to make certain you've got it all. Sometimes, though, you will run into a subject that doesn't really lend itself to visualizations. In that case, it can be really helpful to familiarize yourself with the syntax of questions like that so they don't seem so alien. When students repeatedly struggle with reading comprehension, I like help them do a close reading of a few similar questions until they're more comfortable with questions like that. If the student is struggling particularly on tests, comprehension problems are usually caused by rushing through the questions too quickly. In that case, it's time to talk about time management in test situations and what you can do to make it easier on yourself.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
There really is no one-size-fits-all strategy for tutoring. Every student has different goals, different problems, and different techniques that work best for them. I'll often have to try a few different ways of teaching before zeroing in on one that's really effective, so a lot of what I'm doing in the first few sessions is just getting to know the student and trying different techniques until we find something that works well for them as an individual. Often, I will start by going over any questions they have in their homework because, even if that's not necessary for that student, it can help point me in the right direction.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
There are a couple different ways to foster enthusiasm in a student. One is to display enthusiasm of your own, like telling the student about all your favorite parts and all the fun edge cases and anecdotes. Another is to encourage social relationships with other students who are interested in the subject. With struggling students, I sometimes suggest they try to form study groups with friends in the class or join a club devoted to it. Another is to connect the subject to ones that they are more interested in. You can write practice problems that involve their other interests, bring articles for them to read that combine the two, then and talk about the applications of one to the other. I've spent a lot of time trying to foster enthusiasm in various students, and it's something I really enjoy doing.