My name is Grace, and I'm currently a fourth-year student at UC Santa Cruz entering my last quarter. I am originally from a small town in Connecticut, so I moved a long way! I was very fortunate to receive a rigorous public school education with great teachers, and I've been inspired by them throughout my own academic career and in planning for my future. During high school, I acted on my initial interest in youth and education through various avenues. I took a class in which I learned about early childhood education and the development of children. We were able to run a preschool three out of the five weekdays, which gave me a great opportunity to learn about lesson planning and teaching styles. I also joined a mentoring program that partnered with the local middle school; once a week, I spent time with a fifth or sixth grader, acting as a friend, a teacher, and a space to be heard and learn.
At UCSC, I'm a Community Studies major, so my academics have been focused on many sociological concepts, issues of social justice, social movements, and methods of activism, and I've been focusing on the various ways to define and achieve community health. My major is very practice-based and requires all its students to work a full-time internship for six months. I chose to go to Oakland and work with a new elementary school, Roses in Concrete Community School. The school serves, specifically, children from East Oakland and the education that they receive takes into account and emphasizes their environment and various identities, prioritizing social-emotional health.
As an intern, I worked as an instructional aid in the third-grade classroom during the regular school day, and then changed my role to an afterschool program leader for kindergarten and first grade. I took on many roles for the children in their academic and social-emotional lives, and successfully built many close, beautiful relationships. I was able to see amazing progress with many students, in particular, the ones that were far behind reading level, struggling with reading, writing, and, often, math as well. I was fortunate enough to run small reading groups and one-on-one academic sessions with a number of students, again, mainly those who exhibited a great deal of struggle. I could go on and on about how much I learned from this incredible opportunity, but, most importantly, I was able to see and be reminded of how much power lies in youth and how important a caring, attentive mentor and educator can be to their knowledge production, self-expression, confidence, and success. My passion for education was reignited, and I've solidified my interest in moving forward in the realm of education; my hope is to help create educational spaces that are open, expressive, accepting, loving, and honest while maintaining a rigor that will allow children to challenge themselves, challenge others, and participate in society as life-long learners.
As I return to Santa Cruz for my last quarter, I want to continue my work with youth and in education, which is what has led me to Varsity Tutors. I have learned how crucial it is that students receive personalized, one-on-one attention when it comes to their academics and figuring out their learning styles, so I'm very excited to be in this role for the students that I'm lucky enough to work with. My promise as a tutor is to build a trusting relationship with my students and to always listen to and utilize their voices in their own learning. I will be patient and continue to try new approaches until we find one that sticks because everyone deserves the opportunity to learn and succeed in a way that works specifically for them. I believe strongly that, in order to reach goals and stay motivated, students must be reminded and remind themselves of their own strength, power, and accomplishments. Learning can be a stressful, daunting task in many settings, so I strive to keep my students positive, interested, engaged, and sure of the fact that whatever pace they're learning at is the right and acceptable pace for them. I will always strive to challenge my students and encourage their highest level of work in order to reveal to them all the power that they hold and the opportunities that they have.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of California-Santa Cruz - Current Undergrad, Community Studies
I love to write, read, exercise, listen to music, dance, and cook.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy starts with making sure that the student is comfortable and available to learn. I'm a strong believer in the fact that no one can learn if their basic needs aren't met or if their mind is too cluttered. It's important to me to start sessions by checking in to make sure that my student is open and able to learn. It's important to me that we have a trusting relationship; should there be something preventing a student from learning, I want my student to trust me as someone who will listen to, respect, and understand them before we begin the learning process. When it comes to academics, I believe that patience is key. Everyone learns differently and at different paces, so if something isn't sticking, then it's no fault or shame of the learner. I believe that, as a tutor, I am responsible for putting in just as much work as the student; if something isn't sticking, then it may very well be because of the way in which I'm explaining it, so it becomes my responsibility to try a new approach rather than repeat what isn't helping. Lastly, I believe that learning is gradual, and gradual can mean slow. I want to challenge my students to work their hardest, and I hope to help them absorb as much material as possible, but I also respect and understand that the process may be a series of small accomplishments that lead up to a bigger learning goal, and those small sparks of understanding are just as worthy of celebration!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I want to use my first session to get to know my student, both personally and academically. I want us to have a trusting relationship in order to maximize learning. I want to spend time having a clear understanding of how the student feels that they learn best, as well as methods that have proven not to work well. I want to have their perspective on what their strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to learning. It's my responsibility as a tutor to pay attention to both areas in order to boost confidence and be able to focus on areas of concern. I might ask that my student provides, if possible, some examples of work that they've struggled with and that they're proud of so that we can further assess where to go with our work together. Perhaps the most important part of what I hope to accomplish in my first session is setting goals; I want to set both personal and collaborative goals with my student. I want them to identify particular areas that they want to work on or things that they want to accomplish. I want to, also, give them some goals that I hope to accomplish, based on my first impression. In addition, I want to set expectations about how we will work with each other. I will encourage my student to be transparent with me about how they hope I can be of assistance to their learning through our time working together.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
My hope is to identify areas in which the student has trouble motivating his or herself with their learning. Once we can pinpoint that area, then I can work to give special attention and motivation, eventually training the student to give that motivation to him or herself. I would want to begin our sessions with a lot of collaboration and teamwork in solving problems, and, as time goes by, I would offer more time and space for independent tasks in which the student could problem solve alone before asking for/receiving feedback. I want to incorporate a balance of collaborative and independent work into my sessions in order to make sure that the student is gaining the ability to problem solve independently, rather than rely on prompting from a teacher.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I believe in the power of positive reinforcement and the ability to gain confidence by taking time to talk about personal strengths and accomplishments. I strive to be consistent in my feedback to students, meaning that I'm honest about mistakes and areas of concern, and, even more importantly, that I'm diligent about noting success, moments of helpful thinking, demonstration of good strategy, and areas of confidence. Should there be a moment when my student is clearly not understanding, I will pause to offer space for mindfulness and conversation, if they're comfortable; I do not ever want to just push past moments of frustration without allowing space to not only become grounded but, also, to acknowledge the hard work and strength that has been at work up to this point. I want to make sure that I'm consistently checking with my student to see if they're feeling more or less motivated in particular areas and to ask what they believe can be helpful in boosting motivation; the student's voice is most important in their own learning process, so my responsibility is simply to enhance and remind them of their own strength and abilities.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Again, everyone learns differently, so I want to be very upfront with my student about the fact that we may have to try various approaches to one concept before it begins to stick. I don't think there's any sense in repeating one approach more than a couple times if it's not providing forward movement. I'm a strong believer in using visuals to illustrate concepts, so I will most likely often try to, in some way, illustrate a skill in different ways. If my student and I are having trouble making progress in one particular area, then I want to pause and check in about what understanding they do have at this point; allowing the student to express, in their own words, what their understanding is of the concept will allow me to have an accurate idea of where they're at and how I can work to fill in the gaps.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Improving reading comprehension involves a lot of reading and stopping to check for understanding. I believe that, in order to check reading comprehension, I need to stop and ask students to summarize what they read and make inferences about what will happen next. In order to help, I would not only ask those questions often during reading but also check in about basic components of a story (setting, characters, conflict, etc.). I encourage my readers to prioritize understanding over speed; I want to make sure they're reading slowly and being honest about questions or misunderstandings that they encounter in their reading. Developing consistent and critical question sets is crucial for improving reading comprehension.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I find that success will always come when one-on-one work involves the creation of a personal, trusting relationship in which the student and teacher can be honest about concerns, progress, and goals. My ability to boost confidence by reminding students of their strengths and celebrating all their accomplishments has never failed to bring some success to a student because, I believe, personal confidence is the key to making any progress in academics. I find that taking small steps is an effective strategy; I like to set and work to accomplish small goals that work as a ladder to a larger goal. I really support and implement the use of graphic organizers for both reading and writing. I think that being prompted to fill out categories supports my strategy of developing small steps that lead to a final product. Graphic organizers are also a great way to map all the steps that go into a process, whether it be writing or reading comprehension; the student can see both what they've done so far and where they still have to go.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Writing and reading, in particular, can be frustrating subjects for many students, because they're a bit tedious and have many elements, but I truly believe in both subjects as the fundamentals to all learning, knowledge, and expression, and I also support using these ideas as constant reminders for students. I think that reading and writing can always be applied in some personal way because they're very subjective areas of learning - you can write to express your own unique voice, and you can read to learn more about what you're uniquely interested in. I like to use that basic idea about reading and writing to appeal to the personal interests of my students, which is, again, why it's important for me to build a relationship with them. Sometimes, the idea that we're only learning something for academic purposes can get very stressful and feel impersonal, but if I'm able to take the subject away from just the academic realm and grades, then I believe I can be successful in engaging the unique perspective of a student to spark excitement and engagement.