I'm a freelance writer, recent Yale grad, former concert pianist and word lover. For the past three years I've worked as a writing specialist at the Yale College Writing Center, where I edited papers on topics from Turkish prison reform to Faulkner to hemoglobin studies. This past summer, I traveled to 14 countries as part of the singing group Whim 'n Rhythm. On that trip, I taught a cappella, singing and choral workshops with students of all ages. It was incredible and hugely affirming -- music is truly a global language!
My goal is to help my students become more comfortable writers, readers and critical thinkers while also providing a supportive -- and fun! -- learning environment. For me, tutoring isn't just about the assignment at hand, but about building a relationship and a strategy for tackling every essay, paragraph and sentence a student will write in the future.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Yale College - Bachelors, English
SAT Composite: 2340
SAT Math: 800
SAT Verbal: 790
SAT Writing: 750
theater, horses, musical theater & creative writing!
AP Music Theory
AP US History
College Application Essays
College Level American Literature
COMPASS Writing Skills Prep
High School English
High School Level American Literature
High School Writing
Mac Basic Computer Skills
Middle School Writing
Technology and Computer Science
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
The number one teaching principle I stick to is adaptability. Every student is different, and every student-tutor combination is different as well, and the same strategy doesn't always work. This is why I ask my students to set their own goals so that we both know exactly where we're headed. A student-tutor partnership isn't a hierarchy -- it's about how we can work together as a team to help the student move forward.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
When I first meet a student, I always take a few minutes to get to know her. What are her goals? What's she hoping to accomplish in our sessions? How will she know that she's accomplished those goals? After that, we make a plan together about how to tackle the next few sessions. We talk about learning strategies that have worked for her in the past, and others that are less effective. The key is that this is a dialogue. We'll then start our work, and check back in at the end of the session about what was helpful, what we can both keep in mind, and what we plan to do next time.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
In my sessions, I always focus on building a "toolbox." There's no point in helping someone nail together a house if you're going to take the hammer away at the end! Whether in writing, standardized tests, or critical reading, my students and I discuss not only the practice questions or assignments we're working on, but also what general principles we can glean. I have each of my students also keep a "toolbox notebook" -- a list of the strategies we've looked at. That way, even when I'm not with them, they have a helpful resource for how to tackle problems.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It's hard to be motivated if you're not sure what you're working towards, or why. Clear goal-setting at the beginning of each partnership and each session can help students remember where we're headed. Often, being reminded of the destination helps keep people on track. Sometimes, if that "destination" is far away (ex. "getting a good SAT score" when the test isn't for several months), it can help to break down the goal into concrete steps. Instead of a goal like "get a __ grade," we'd define the goal as "Address this specific comment Ms. X made on my last paper." I also encourage my students to ask their teachers and coaches for feedback -- there's nothing like hearing someone exclaim how much you've grown. Hearing positive feedback from many sources -- not just me -- can be a huge motivating factor for many students.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Often when a student has trouble with a skill or concept, teachers and tutors will try to simplify or simply keep repeating it. Simplification doesn't hurt, but most of the time it's more effective to take a totally different route: a different central analogy, a different medium (writing vs. drawing a diagram vs. using physical objects), or a different tone. The first step, however, is to ask the student what exactly he doesn't understand. If you can ask the student to explain the concept back to you, you can often find exactly where the misunderstanding is.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
It's my experience that difficulties with reading comprehension stem disproportionately from difficulties reading the *question*, rather than comprehension of the passage itself. Breaking down each question format and asking the student to create his own questions can be a huge help with this. I also believe visual reading is a massively helpful tool. Underlining, drawing arrows, and summarizing each paragraph as you finish it are other techniques that I use with my students on a regular basis. The best part is that all of these are tools, rather than answers.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Every one of my students is different, so it's hard to name one strategy that's "most successful." However, I place a big emphasis on personal connection. Being able to relate to the student and discuss things outside of our work together is a big step towards a healthy working relationship, and has the added benefit of becoming useful in review. For example, if a student doesn't understand a particular concept, we can try to relate it to something in the student's own life that might be similar or relevant, like baseball statistics, the structure of a concerto, or calculating gas mileage in a car.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
It's easy to become discouraged and unmotivated when you're told you're bad at something (even implicitly, such as by getting a grade that disappoints you). I make it a priority to remind my students of two things: first, that not understanding something may have a lot to do with how it's being taught, not with them. Perhaps they're a different kind of learner! And second, I'd remind them of their strengths and try to capitalize on those to move forward with the subject, by pointing out the ways in which English and science overlap, for example, or the interdisciplinary nature of something like archaeoastronomy, which combines astrophysics with history.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Self-assessments are useful, as are practice quizzes, but I find the most helpful technique for assessing a student's understanding is to ask him or her to teach the material back to me. Talking through a problem, explaining reasoning, and answering "devil's advocate" questions are surefire ways to know if a student has mastered the material.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Confidence comes when a student feels comfortable, supported and -- crucially -- unembarrassed at mistakes. I strive to provide my students with tools that make them comfortable addressing new assignments as much as old ones, and I create a very supportive environment by providing positive feedback and context. However, the third component is very much an issue of self-esteem. Working on the first two and proving to the student that she *can* do this will allow her to freely admit when she's confused or has made an error. Making a mistake isn't a problem when you know what went wrong and can quickly fix it!
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
My first source for evaluating a student's needs is the student himself. I ask each of my students to set goals for themselves, and to outline to me how I can be most helpful. After I've started working with a student, I can get a better sense of where the student's strengths and weaknesses are, and how I can make both stronger. The student's parents might also be a resource for assessing the student's needs, but my focus is very much on how the student wants our sessions to go, and how I can help him work towards his own goals.