When I went back to school to earn my Bachelors, I had been out of High School for 5 years. Adjusting to school-life after working for so long was not easy.
When I began tutoring, most of my students came from under privileged backgrounds and had a wide variety of educational backgrounds.
These two experiences have reaffirmed the same conclusion for me: everyone learns in a different way, and that way. This sounds obvious, but it is surprising to me how often students' natural talents are fought against in education because they do not fit in an (often narrow) box.
Now, during my graduate education in Bioengineering, I have been assured that it is well worth the effort to find, cultivate, and even celebrate everyone's innate talents and learning style.
I want all my students to feel like they are heard and that information is being presented in a way that is right for them. Communication is key.
School and standardized tests can be stressful. Trying to make your brain work in a way it doesn't want to only makes the stressful part more prominent. Learning is fun and when you can find the way that works for you, it will also become a life long passion.
Undergraduate Degree: Metropolitan State University - Bachelors, Biology/Pre-med
Graduate Degree: University of Colorado Denver - Current Grad Student, Biotechnology
MCAT Verbal Reasoning: 13
Biology(!), Science fiction, archery, boxing. I never lost my childhood fascination with dinosaurs. This has made me a bit of an armchair paleontologist while my love of all things science fiction has made me a theoretical physics fan.
ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension
GED Reasoning Through Language Arts
GED Social Studies
High School Biology
High School Chemistry
What is your teaching philosophy?
It's amazing that we all have such individual ways of thinking. Find the method of learning that works for you!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
It is important to triage a student's needs. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately, that should be the focus. Next is goal setting. A solid goal and a solid plan are the best tools to success. Then, we need to find which study materials a student wants to try and begin the process of exploring study techniques to find the combination a student can use.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The best skill for an independent learner is the ability to use online resources effectively. We are lucky to live in a time where so much information is available so quickly. However, the internet can be fraught with less than useful resources too. So learning how to evaluate a source, where to find sources, and how to customize use of them is the best way to prepare a student for independent learning.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It can be hard to stay motivated, especially when things get their hardest. Overcoming these slumps doesn't just require students to barrel on regardless. It is important to listen to yourself. If it is 9PM and you are trying to get that last hour in of studying but it seems nothing is sticking, maybe 9PM is your cut-off time that night. Motivation comes when you are not burnt out. So, learning to evaluate what you need to keep going, without judgement, can aid in subverting burn out and allowing you the most out of your studying time.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If there is a particularly difficult concept, sometimes your usual study techniques may not work. First, don't pass a judgement on yourself or the topic. It's just time to explore all the resources you have. It may be you need the information presented in a new way, or maybe a combination of ways for it to find its place in your memory.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
There are lots of ways to take notes and improve reading comprehension while a student is reading for their studies. The best way to help with reading comprehension, however, is practice. Reading for pleasure is a lost hobby, but luckily it doesn't have to stay that way. By putting aside the textbooks and spending sometime finding books a student will enjoy reading, (Sci-Fi, horror, mystery, biographies, pop-science, there's so many options!) you can practice reading and improve reading skills in an effective and fun way.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
One key strategy that can really help when starting with a new student is to try to find a few, short-term, goals that a student can accomplish. Confidence can transform a student's performance.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Luckily, most, if not all, subjects are not two-dimensional. Sometimes, the basics aren't the most interesting part of the subject. We can get hung-up on what will "be on the test," but it can be helpful to spend a little time finding that part of a subject that you can connect with even when you are short on time.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I am a big fan of Teach One-Learn One. By allowing a student to teach the topic back to me or even a third party, they can see how much they have retained and can recall and how that information is best organized. Also, never underestimate practice questions. Education is like the Olympics. Athletes will try to recreate the environment that they will be competing in so that the day of the actual competition they are fully prepared.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I always like to have a plan and goal set for each student. Both of these can be broken down into manageable steps. It is important a student can see their progress, especially when starting out. The illusion that there is no progress can be the by product of a lack of confidence. By countering this with evidence that there is forward momentum, confidence can be gained .
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The best way to start evaluating a student's needs is to build communication and a relationship of collaboration. Asking for help, or stating areas we might need more work on, can be hard for people. A safe learning environment allows students to share what they need as well as learn how to better self-evaluate in the future.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
As a biologist, I am well aware how vital adapting can be. Goals help both me and the student know what we are working toward, but I know that the roads we take there may not be the ones we plan. Honest communication and a willingness for both parties to adjust allows us to adapt as challenges present themselves.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I usually try to find materials that allow students to see, hear, and interact with material. I personally need to "do" something to learn it. I thrived in lab, but had to spend my study time on material from lectures, because if I just hear something it won't stick. Using all our senses helps the brain make connections to material. Videos, drawing, models, and discussion are just a few ways to explore a subject.