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I may bring empathy to this! A few years ago, I spoke to the headmaster of a very good private school about how impossible I was finding French. I was trying so hard to learn the language and felt I was getting nowhere. He said, "There are no hopeless students, only bad teachers." The idea was that no one was "reaching" me. We, as individuals, are unique. We see the world through different eyes. I think the teacher must find the key to reaching each person. Remember Helen Keller and the water!!?
I hope to find the way each student interprets information. The one-on-one experience makes this possible. I also want to make the sessions fun...everyone is more receptive when they are happy.

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Clarissa’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Briarcliffe College - Bachelors, English


I love animals, the ocean, swimming and my bike. I've lived in several different countries including France, Italy, England, Portugal,Canada, and Switzerland. I like to read, to go to the theatre and to movies. Egyptology fascinates me. I especially adore turtles and elephants and worked with a marine biologist and endangered baby sea turtles in Florida. I am a licensed private detective and think Sherlock Holmes is fabulous. Love mysteries, novels and history books. I am also a published novelist and true crime writer. It is obvious that I love words!

Tutoring Subjects

6th Grade AP Language Composition

Adult Literacy

Elementary School Reading

Elementary School Writing


English Grammar and Syntax

Essay Editing

High School English

High School Writing


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I was talking to the headmaster of a very good private school about how difficult it was for me to learn French and how stupid I felt. I was trying so hard and getting nowhere. He said, "there are no hopeless students--only bad teachers." That has stuck with me. There are so many ways of understanding and of explaining a concept or an idea. I think the challenge, as a teacher, is to find the key with each student. We are each unique, and we see the world so differently. It's up to the teacher to discover a way to reach each person. Remember Helen Keller and her teacher?!

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

I think the time would be best used in talking. Of course, how this conversation is conducted depends on the age of the student. I'd like to find out what they feel they are good at, what they worry about in a certain subject, and what they would like to improve. I would even ask them how they remember things, how they do their homework, how they prepare for a test. It would be valuable for me to understand their approach to school work. Then, together, we could map out a plan of tackling what they need.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I think this could be achieved by giving them assignments to do in between our sessions. I don't want to load anyone down with homework, as I think they have plenty to do in school, but just small assignments to do alone, and then talk about together.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

This could be achieved by using what interests them as a part of the lesson plan. If a boy is fascinated by planes, then let's read and discuss aviation --from the drawings of da Vinci right up to the fame of John Glenn. If a young girl loves clothes, then maybe we could read about costume designers for the movies or the Paris couture shows. I don't want any student to ever be disengaged!

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

I would try different approaches until one made sense to the student. Sometimes it can be just one word or phrase and the veil is lifted!

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

This is delicate. I can understand the frustration, as I have recently struggled with learning French and comprehension of it was so difficult for me. I think we could divide paragraphs into small "bites," and then take sentences into even smaller bites until the fog began to clear.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

Find out WHAT excites a student, and then incorporate it into the reading. Maybe a boy loves dinosaurs--if so, let's learn all about them by reading everything I can find about dinosaurs!

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

Talking! Reading aloud and later having a conversation about the material. It would be apparent if the student were not understanding the material.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

A bit of praise when there is some success. I also think that a student should be reminded that they are actually making progress and that, for example, two weeks ago they could not have accomplished what they accomplished in today's session.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I assume I will be able to talk to the parent at some point about this, but the student will let me know--either by telling me or showing me once we do begin our sessions.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

This depends upon the age of the student. Materials could range from picture books to photographs to the New York Times and screenplays.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Listening! Listening carefully to what they say, to what they feel they need or want to improve. If they cannot verbalize it, that 'tells' me a lot, too!

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

I try to see the student's individuality. Personality, whether introverted or extroverted, and confidence or lack of confidence---it must all be taken into consideration.

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