Ashleigh is a Harvard graduate with a degree in Visual Arts but an early background in Molecular Biology. In addition to her love of teaching science and even mathematics (algebra to calculus) alongside general SAT prep, Ashleigh can also provide ESL and Russian tutoring to students of all ages and experience. She loves to share stories of her adventures teaching English in Ukraine, building animations and 3D computer Models in Estonia, and working in film festivals in Croatia. If you have a love of the arts, sciences, philosophy, anything! Reach out and see what more you can learn.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Harvard University - Bachelors, Visual and Environmental Studies
speaking Russian, animating, building puppets and sets, Halloween, crafts, running, rock-climbing, exercise/sports, traveling, challenges, learning
AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
Elementary School Math
High School Biology
SAT Subject Tests Prep
Technology and Computer Science
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
The most important fundamental to teaching or learning any subject is to understand the phrases "show, not tell" and "don't give a student a fish, but teach him/her how to fish." Every student must reach the correct answer by his or her own thinking, courage, and confidence, and this must be supported through demonstration and guidance, not pure lecture. Not only will this equip you to be more adaptable in all sorts of situations, but it builds up that much more important skill: confidence. My role as a teacher is simply to guide you on the correct path and make sure that it is clear and straightforward. I leave the learning to you.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Instead of offering clear answers to students, I encourage them with prompts to help engage their thinking and ultimately allow them to arrive at the answer on their own. I scaffold the student so that in the early process I am guiding them more, and the more we work together, the more they are doing the thinking while I just lay the path. Ultimately, they are able to walk the path alone. If student reaches a place where they feel they no longer need me, then I have done my job.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
A student will become independent by learning to think on their own without fear of failure or discouragement at the sight of pitfalls. I can support a student in developing this confidence by always looking towards the student to tell me the right answer, as opposed to the other way around, and supporting them when they need a little help in doing so. My method is to let the student lead, and when they need support, I step in to offer guidance. However, even my guidance is structured so that the final decision of what path to take towards a possible answer is always in the student's hands. Furthermore, this support will never be condescending or negative, but rather supportive so that this intimidating process of making decisions becomes less threatening and more natural to the growing student.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
The greatest motivation is a mixture of trust, expectations, and positivity. All are important to ensure that a student stays committed to the goals you create together. I would help a student stay motivated by first building trust with them so that it is clear that I support them and they support me. Without trust, there can't be respect. Next, I would use this trust to introduce expectations. Not heavy expectations that would be treated as threatening, but just signs that I truly believe in the student and expect them to believe in themselves and do their best to commit to their goals as well. Finally, I would ensure consistent motivation by remaining positive with the student. Even in the most difficult of situations, just a few words of support can make all the difference between failure and success.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Each student is unique and has his or her own special set of needs. It would be erroneous to assume that what works for one student should automatically work for another. So, when a student faces difficulties, this is simply a hint that a different approach should be tested. If I noticed that my student was struggling to comprehend some of the material we were tackling for the lesson, I would first make sure to alert the student to step back, relax, and take a deep breath. I like to ease into new methods with jokes because it allows the tensed-up student to clear his or her mind and reopen their brain to fresh thinking. Next, I would introduce the question in a new way, often through the introduction of props or physical demonstrations. Whatever the new approach would be, I would ensure that it was different from the approach we had been trying before. This not only helps to diminish any anxiety that was starting to build in the student seconds before, but also helps the student to realize that there is more than one way to solve a problem. Furthermore, this opens to the doors for strange but fun learning methods that can teach a student to think creatively and view each problem as an open-ended question, not the trigger for some tedious, difficult to comprehend, one-directional path that they had learned to use to solve the problem before.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
When students are struggling with reading, I work with them to break down the paragraph. We approach this in easy steps so that the student doesn't feel overwhelmed with information (which is often one of the fundamental problems with reading comprehension), and we ask simple questions of the text in order to get easy successes on the way. If we were trying to understand a whole passage, we would look at the introductory paragraph and final paragraph and discuss what we think comes in the middle and why. What clues led us to that hypothesis? From there, we would take a look at every topic sentence until we could map a general idea of the passage. If the problem stemmed more with specific passages, we would still start off with the first and last sentence to establish the main focus of the paragraph, and use that information to help us tackle the problem area. I would guide the student in the beginning by asking these questions, but it would ultimately be the student who would be answering and eventually leading by the end.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I have found that giving students some time to think can really affect the flow of the lesson and their comfort with you. Students naturally feel nervous with a tutor who they don't know so well, and they may fear that you are there to judge and critique like a teacher, not support. A good way to combat that is to not rush the student, and to also make sure that you are setting the student up for success by giving them the appropriate material. You need to demonstrate through time after time after time that you are there to support, not critique.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
First, jokes never hurt. My strategy is to connect with a student, ease them into the lesson with some light jokes first. This allows them to drop their initial negative opinions of the subject to more fully open up to what you have to say. This is when I would show my own excitement for the material, but not in a way that the student couldn't connect to -it doesn't help for them to see me excited about something they still don't understand. I would do this through the problems we were dissecting. Once the student realized how simple the steps were to solving the problems and how interesting it could be at times to work your way to it, and they felt my model of ease and enjoyment, then they would start to model this too.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I would use any technique available for the material. The most reliable technique I have found to test the student's comprehension is to ask them questions. After we talk through a problem where I offer heavy support, I will go through and ask a question about every step, even though we had already discussed it, and wait to see if they demonstration understanding. After this initial stage of heavy support, I would step by step remove my support and promote the student to lead us through the problem through different kinds of questions. What should we do now? Why did you do that? If the student faces a problem, the solution is to return back the support, limit the answers available for each question so that you force the student into the right answer and start building their confidence and understanding from ground one again. And if this method still doesn't work, I would simply try to ask these questions through different styles - often props, metaphors, etc. You repeat this problem, moving back and forth until you find the perfect level of support that ensures comprehension but promotes independence.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I build a student's confidence by working with them in steps. The trick is to start off with the simplest of questions, so that the students answers everything comfortably without stress. Then, you gradually build up to a little less hand-holding questions, questions that require a few more seconds of thought, and you keep growing and growing. Throughout the process, as a teacher, it is my responsibility to make sure these steps are clear. The answer to the last question I pose to a student should help lead them to the answer to the next, or generally build upon each other. This method helps to build a student's confidence by showing them that they can indeed tackle these problems on their own, and that the process isn't so daunting as it appears. It just must be taken piece by piece.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I evaluate a student's needs by studying their reactions to my style of support and questions. This process is fairly successful in gauging what a student needs because it sets up the student in different situations, and like a process of elimination, I can determine what areas they are struggling in and what areas they are fine with. For example, if I see that a student is slow to be motivated with the material he is presenting me, and he obviously isn't being challenged by our session when you should, then I will notice this and make sure to bring harder material of my own to 'wake the student up' in a way. Opposite to this situation, maybe a student refuses to think deeply or shuts down when I ask questions. This obviously means that I am cornering the student in an unproductive way. The next step is to try a different teaching style and study the results. What kind of support does this student really need? Do they need more hands-on or off support? Regarding the actual material, again, understanding of the student's needs comes through working with the material. Patterns will arise, and it is my responsibility to catch them and use them to help our sessions improve.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I try to adapt first by communicating. Many young adults already know what kind of teaching methods work for them. I have had students explain to me that this teacher talks to fast, this teacher doesn't explain anything, etc. I have had students that say "I struggle with these problems because they are just word problems, not graphs or anything." So, first, it is good to learn directly from the student what helps them best, and then work with that approach. However, some students are shy or need some pressure from the tutor, and so directly asking them will not solve anything. In these cases, it is important to just try many styles until you get to the one that is producing the results you need. The student's needs are the rule, so all my decisions are based on this. If I think that one teaching method will work, but obviously the student isn't being receptive to it, then I naturally switch to another method. I adapt by being perceptive and knowing when to try something new.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I typically use the whiteboard in the VT platform or paper, which I show students through the camera. I am very gestural, so, my hands will often be moving to illustrate what my words are saying. Visuals also are powerful learning tools, so, if I need to illustrate a point, I will often find an image online that shows what I mean. If the situation permits it, I also use props around me, like pencils, folders, etc.