Writing and critical thinking are essential to academic success and participation in our cultural experience. Life is richer with a clearer understanding of how and why cultural production and the arts work. My goal is to demystify the writing process and nurture critical analysis to not only increase academic success but create more meaningful life experiences. I firmly believe that the humanities and a liberal education serve to create a rich and more enjoyable life, regardless of what field of work one ends up working in.
I earned my Bachelors degree in Comparative Literature from Long Beach State University and a Masters in English from Portland State University while working full time. This blue collar outlook benefitted me by seeing how a liberal arts education dovetailed into situations that were not strictly academic in nature. The critical thinking skills that were fostered in the classroom would translate out into the living world allow me to converse and engage with various members of the community in meaningful ways.
My passion is allow students to see this fluidity between the classroom and real world and help them realize the meaningful nature of the humanities. Once this understanding is achieved problems with the writing process and critical analysis become less daunting, since we must simply learn a new way to communicate the ideas we are already engaged with.
I enjoy attending all sorts of cultural events, especially those that offer unique and differing opinions from my own. From the country flea market to the civic opera, watching blockbuster films to the independent arthouse offerings, I like to engage with all of the cultural productions that are available to me. It is in that spirit of 'Carpe Diem' that I enjoy being a part of the creative, living world around us.
Undergraduate Degree: California State University-Long Beach - Bachelors, comparative literature
Graduate Degree: Portland State University - Masters, English
Reading all kinds of things
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy is that critical thinking is at the core of all academic success. If you can generate good ideas and talk about them, then you can write successful papers. Writing is simply communicating through another medium. Creating dialogue and discourse with students regarding their writing assignment allows students to see how much they actually know about their topic and allows me to see the themes that they may not notice themselves. Once students become aware that they have something to say, then we can work on prewriting and editing techniques and tips to craft a paper that clearly expresses their thoughts in an appropriate academic format.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
By understanding that writing is a process, rather than a product, students can break down papers into manageable pieces that can be developed on their own. I can provide methods for idea generation and self-editing that would apply to any number of writing assignments and demystify the path to writing effectively.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Compassion and empathy are very important in keeping students motivated. Everyone has struggled in effectively communicating, and it is important that writers not feel isolated in their struggle. I want students to feel like they can stay in dialogue about their writing through the entire process. I want students to feel comfortable talking about any and all frustrations since they are bound to come up, and can be debilitating if they are not expressed.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student is having difficulty with a skill or concept, I would let them know that it is ok, first of all, and not to be discouraged. Second, I would try to reframe the skill or concept in a way that may work better for their understanding. Since the writing process is a web of skills and concepts, I would make sure they knew that some things take time to absorb, and that one or two hang-ups will not disrupt their overall ability to be successful.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I am a firm believer in close reading and note taking. I would recommend that a student slow down and take the time to engage with the text that they may be having trouble with. Sometimes students get caught up in worrying about time or other things that rob them of their focus. By taking notes about what they are reading, while they are reading, they will force themselves to be present with the text. If they still are struggling after taking notes, at least they have a place to start in untangling the issues with the text.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I find that letting a student express how they feel about the subject/topic is most helpful right off the bat. There is a certain amount of therapy in teaching, and listening to a student's concerns and opinions works to build context and trust moving forward. Many times, students will have the answers they need once they have the space to talk about their issues with a compassionate listener.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I think you need to find out what it is that turns a student off about a certain subject. Once you understand what it is that keeps them from being engaged with a subject, you can try to find other elements related to the subject that may stoke their interests. Sometimes a small perspective shift can stoke the creative fires.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Student confidence is built by staying engaged with the student and meaningfully acknowledging their progress. Quite often people are unaware just how much they are improving, or just how much they already know. Pointing out a student's growth gives them a tangible example of their own ability to learn and grow.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Evaluating student needs is a combination of student self-reporting and understanding the goals of an academic institution. While working with a student, I can work to diagnose certain areas where a student may be lacking and then speak with them about those issues. By speaking with students and looking over their work, I can get a sense of things that may be needed to help them in the academic setting
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
There are not a lot of materials needed to help a student with writing assignments. A pen and pad, along with any source material the students have, is normally enough. Of course, access to the Internet can be helpful in idea generation and research, and I do have copies of various editing techniques that can helpful for students as a reminder of how to edit on their own.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session, I like to get to know the student and contextualize what their academic needs are. It's important that they explain their general feelings about an assignment or topic and also what they expect to get out of the session. Since there is a vulnerability in sharing writing with strangers, I want the student to feel comfortable in sharing. If this mood is established, then I like to tackle the issues with the assignment and figure out what kind of strategy is needed to help the student achieve their goal.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
It is important to check in with students and see that they are using the skills that are being shared. In a hands-on approach, I would guide students along, making sure that they are using the skills, that I am not just providing advice without any follow through. Continued support and compassion should allow students to feel comfortable expressing concern or problems that may not be clear.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
In engaging with a student, I develop a sense of their hierarchy of needs. Some students have trouble with structure, others with generating ideas, still others with tone and so on. Since each student is unique, I am always adapting to the needs of each student.