Having grown up in a Protestant household, I learned early on the value of hard work and determination. I have always been very connected to the "American ideal" - a place of opportunity for all, despite the many setbacks and errors in our history.
Education has always been important to me. There are still many students who, for one reason or another, have been excluded from the educational process and condemned to a life of failure.
Nowhere is this more true than in education today. For every family the chance to give your children a better start than you had is one of the greatest joys.
Yet, we have been so obsessed with only helping the most motivated students to the detriment of the majority who are just as capable of learning properly.
But even the best tutoring and the best education will avail us nothing if we lack the determination to see that each and every one of our individual students is motivated enough to succeed with our help.
I have lived in many countries and have developed strategies to deal with many concerns and different types of students. That, and an interest in Science constantly motivates me to be relevant to my students. I would like to help you in your subjects because that is what I was made to do - it is my calling in life to teach and do so with interest and motivation in all that I do.
If there were some words to describe my "style" these would include - clear, decisive, purposeful. I believe in setting a clear path to achieve specific goals a student may have.
In order to be a good tutor, you have to have not just a touch of iron/determination, you also have to know your subject matter well and make it relevant to a student who has difficulty. Tough love and hard work, however "unfriendly" they may sound, don't exclude other things - including a desire to see you succeed in your subjects.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Columbia University in the City of New York - Bachelors, Math/Political Science
Graduate Degree: Imperial College London - Masters, Pure Maths
reading, traveling, history, cooking
CLEP College Algebra
College Political Science
College World History
GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment
High School Political Science
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Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
At one point, nearly every student has been told that something is "impossible" for him/her to learn. Then the student finds something inspiring or motivating and goes the extra mile to learn the material and prove the naysayers wrong. All throughout our lives we encounter obstacles - "no this!", "no that!", "you can't do it!" and so on. I am determined to make sure any student knows that when there is a will (and a dedicated teacher), there is a way. I don't see teaching as something you do within a specific hour. For me, it is a way of life, a commitment one makes both inside and outside the classroom. I'm often asked what's the secret behind the motivation and passing rate of my students. It's really quite simple. It's based on a handful of simple truths: First, no student can thrive if he/she is not motivated by the teacher and adequately prepared for the difficulties. Lack of motivation breeds a sense of discouragement and an attitude of giving up which frustrates the student. Giving up and thinking you are not capable of learning threatens your entire future. Second, students need the incentive that comes with mastery of each task. No one can say that students aren't interested in achievement. Third, as students get better grades in a subject, they aim for even higher ones! Fourth, it is my passionate belief that dedication (from both student and teacher) breeds success. Keep doing something over and over again until you master it! To compete successfully in today's world, the United States needs well-educated, well-trained, creative young people. Because if education is backward today, national performance will be a failure tomorrow.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First sessions are always diagnostic in nature. We identify the problem areas, introduce ourselves and talk about our backgrounds as well as a particular map or "plan of action" to get students to improve and master the problem areas. In addition to that, we start to work straight away since timing is very important. First sessions always give me a good idea of the student's particular interests, strengths and weaknesses, which allow me to build a plan for the coming sessions as well as set targets we must meet or specific goals and objectives.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
There's the old adage that says "give a man a fish for a day and feed him, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." I believe that it is my responsibility to ensure that a student feels confident enough in a subject so that independent learning will not be just a consideration but rather a way of life. Independent learning, more often than not, comes from motivation, and I always try to catch the student's interest by attempting to make the subject matter relevant in their daily lives.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Persistence is important, just as maintaining my interest in the student's progress. I would encourage doing extra problems and increasing the level of difficulty. More often than not, when a student sees that he/she is capable of passing and mastering ever more difficult concepts, they stay motivated and wish to go on to the next level.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would give them as many examples as possible to get them to master the concept or develop the skill. It really depends on the subject matter - languages are about practice, whereas math is a combination of practice and conceptual knowledge.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Several ways: 1. Connections -- connecting the reading content with things they already know or experiences they may have had. This often leads to better comprehension, or at least sets up a context for the passage. 2. Asking questions about clues in the text or synonyms they may already know. Have them brainstorm their thoughts. 3. Context clues -- teach them to identify context clues and underline the main ideas in the passage. 4. Vocabulary -- many reading comprehension problems stem from inadequate vocabulary that needs to be reinforced.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Getting them involved with personal experiences, following up on their exercises, and working with the student rather than just "teaching at" them. If you are able to share a personal connection or anecdote to the subject matter, it tends to greatly increase confidence and interest.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Nearly every subject will relate to our lives in one way or another, whether the student realizes it or not. Human beings are constantly learning new things - either willfully or inadvertently. As I have said many times before, relevance is key. Cultural relevance as well as daily life relevance. I've always said that teaching for me is not simply the transmission of information - rather, it is almost like a dialogue or a conversation.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Quizzes, questions to test their skills, more exercises, or having the student create their own examples to see if they truly understand the material.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
1. Always expressing a positive attitude, even if a student gets the exercise or concept wrong. Tutors have been students before, and we understand this is important. 2. I always give them an opportunity to succeed by building on their own strengths -- in other words, have students explain areas that I may not be familiar with, and then relate it back to the similarity it may have with the subject matter. 3. Give them opportunities to show they can do something well - start with easy exercises to diminish phobias they may have against a subject.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Not only is the initial class important to get a sense of the problem areas, but also it is important to regularly quiz the students and see if their needs are being met or what areas still need improvement.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Context is almost everything: age, background, location, native language spoken, etc. It is important for me to adapt the lessons based on an individual student's particular profile. For example, if a student has a problem pronouncing a word, I would look for the closest sound in their native language in order to more properly get an understanding of the sounds.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
All kinds! Textbooks are important, but they do not always explain the material in a way the student can understand. I use visual aids, individual exercises, audio (if relevant) and extra problems not typically found in some textbooks.