Teaching has been my passion since my early undergraduate years, and I love working closely with individual students on their total development as a student. It's one of the greatest joys in my life. My favorite roles have always been academic advising that combines specific intellectual topics with the broader questions of college admissions, and collegiate development across a range of skill-sets. This was my most recent position at Harvard University, where I served both as a mentor to my advisees on individual papers and tests, and also on how to take their development into their own hands and rise to their full potential. So, students and parents, I hope you will look to me for my many years of experience teaching and advising, for help with my strongest specific topic areas - Writing, English, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences - but also as someone who strives to empower a student globally, and someone who always gives every one of my students the greatest specific attention to their needs as possible across the full range of high school and collegiate demands.
Undergraduate Degree: Dartmouth College - Bachelors, Government
Graduate Degree: The University of Chicago - PHD, Political Science and Government
Cooking, Visual Art, Theater, Music, Running, Writing
What is your teaching philosophy?
The core of my pedagogy is the belief that its importance and difficulty lies in establishing a balance between an intellectual rapport between faculty member and students; but perhaps more importantly, engaged, mutually responsive dynamics between the students themselves. Establishing a vibrant and successful seminar or lecture environment for me requires focusing early in the course on building mechanisms by which students minimize their reliance on myself as a mediating tool - for example, bringing to class small pieces of writing out of which we construct a conversation - and beginning from the outset to build and refine the role of their own voice in the classroom. I believe that my focus on the interplay between those two factors, particularly the empowerment and interconnection of student voices, is the deeper source of the balance in course evaluations between characterizing me as having "knowledgeable ...enthusiasm" and "love [for] the material," and highlighting the positive dimensions of the class discussion itself distinct from my role in it. Comments regularly note the importance to me of allowing students to develop their own textual interpretations and ideas about the theoretical and practical issues at the center of the class conversation: I make every effort to displace students' hub-and-spoke instinct to rely on me as they push through new texts, and encourage a more active dynamic of students addressing each other's readings and concerns directly. Although I do spend time focusing on cultivating the skill of critical reading in my course assignments, in class I try to regularly bring their hermeneutic process to bear on the ways in which the students think about and read (literally in media) contemporary political issues that they take the readings to address.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First, I spend a little time on introducing myself and listening to what the student wants to say about themselves. Second, we would establish together what their goals are, how far they've come in reaching those goals, and their basic skill/knowledge level. Lastly, we would move directly in concrete exercises (dependent on whether the tutoring is primarily subject or skill-set based) to start building the student's confidence both in themselves and in the tutoring process.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Although the degree varies, every area of knowledge and skill requires a strong research ability. Simultaneously, in knowledge areas, the student has to not only read key texts - which is knowledge they would not yet have - but also how to discover for themselves what those key texts are, and how to select maximally product secondary material. So in cases where it is possible, I would like to spend some of the tutoring time purely on how to research. One exercise I have frequently done with my students is to assign them a core text and ask them to both read it and come back to the next session with three pieces of secondary material they think augments their understanding of the piece. Repeated over several sessions, the exercise allows us to have a dialogue on what makes something a core text, and how to discern the most important pieces with which to augment.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I help students get motivated by first empowering them to look at their own skills and needs, and their own powers to bear; and second, by helping them hold themselves accountable to their production and study schedule, rather than looking to me or their teachers to hold them accountable.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
For me, it's all about building up from the fundamentals. If a student has difficulty with a particular concept or skill, it is almost by definition because a deeper level concept or action isn't connecting to the new specific problem. So I always move from delving into what they do understand and know they can do, into building onto those understandings until the skill or concept makes more sense.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In the way I was trained and practice, problems of reading comprehension are all about making the pieces of a reading puzzle fit together. That means not just how they connect, but what each piece looks like. So a paragraph, or a page, or an article need to be broken down into their components parts. Understanding each component part then becomes itself the process building the connection between one part and the next, into a full narrative of the reading's contents.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I tend to focus first and foremost on determining a student's needs; both the ones on which they having specifically asked for help, and also the deeper areas of development that are feeding the specific need. My approach to pedagogy is very holistic: if a student is struggling with one particular subject, that is often connected to deeper struggles - reading comprehension, study habits, analytic reasoning skills - that can be addressed in the process of working on a particular subject or problem.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
My teaching has almost always been interdisciplinary, because it is one of the ways of ensuring that you can get a student interested in something they're not particularly engaged by. If a student has checked out from a particular subject, the best way to bring them in is to help them bring out the connections between what they're studying and what they are already interested in within the sphere of their everyday lives. At least in my experience, there is no academic subject or problem that is completely disconnected from the lifeworld of the student that they care about. The question is just figuring out those connections.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
For me, the form of an informal conversation that is functionally an oral exam is the best way to ferret out what material has sunk in and where the cracks still lie. Because it is informal and one-on-one, it allows the tutor to direct the questions flexibly based on how the student is responding, and gets maximum efficacy out of a given period of time.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I think contemporary pedagogy often misses the crucial importance of self-empowerment. That is why I structure my teaching from the very outset on building from the places that the student already feels competent, and growing that feeling of competency until they feel stronger and stronger - on their own terms, critically - in the overall subject. Moving from "here's what I do know" to the process of adding onto that baseline is infinitely more motivating and empowering than beginning from "here's what I don't know/can't do".
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
As I've written before, I treat teaching any given subject holistically. An initial one-on-one conversation that is completely focused on delving into the student's stage of development is a critical first, combined with asking the student to send me a sample of something they've written. Between the two, I can relatively quickly get an assessment of a student's stage, and individually tailor further sessions to simultaneously address not just their specific immediate need, but broadening their skill-sets in the places they may be vulnerable.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
One of the most important things for a tutor to be able to do is quickly ascertain a student's learning style, and how they work best. It's a difficult thing to do in a short first session, but I have lots of experience in that. I myself am a very visual learner, but you have to be able to engage the student on the plane they work most effectively, and bring out those strengths in them.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I use a combination of snippets of relevant texts and writing exercises, but for me the most important part is to focus on the student's own materials, the syllabus or course plan that their working in, and tailoring the sessions to the student's specific needs.