As a high school student and later on as an undergraduate student, I faced difficulties with some of my math courses and higher level chemistry courses. The main obstacle to my success in these courses was having teachers who did a poor job of explaining challenging topics. Frustrated and disappointed in my shortcomings, I retook Algebra I in high school and Organic Chemistry I, in college. Repeating these courses with new instructors allowed me a fresh opportunity to learn and master many of the challenging topics I had faced. With hard work and commitment to excellence, I earned 100 in Algebra I, and A+ in Organic Chemistry I.
Among other life lessons, facing these two challenges showed me the power of good instructors, and more importantly, how to approach difficult topics. The best technique to understanding new concepts is to start with an easy related topic. For example, what is the atomic radius trend of periods in the periodic table? To understand the answer, you would need to know the electron affinities of metals and nonmetals. Knowing how metals and nonmetals behave, will allow you to understand electron affinities. In addition, understanding the octet rule and the desired electron state of each atom is essential to answering the question. Lastly, answering the question without understanding why nonmetals radius is smaller than metals is meaningless.
My goal for each tutoring session is to get my students to change the way they approach answering science based questions. While the alternative approach of memorization might be helpful in humanities, it would be fruitless in science or math courses. Once you understand the why behind the answer, the next task is to practice working on a variety of questions. To efficiently maximize our time together, I come prepared with worksheets on many challenging topics. At the end of each session, I ask my students what topics they would like me to cover the next session. If applicable, I incorporate relevant regents questions.
Although I am available for home tutoring, my strong preference is for library tutoring. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. Thank you.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
The best approach to mastering challenging science and math topics is to always ask "Why?" and "How?"
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
My first session always involve me observing how my students answer questions. I ask them to explain their incorrect answers, and in the process get them to realize where they went wrong in their approach. Getting the right answer without understanding "why" is pointless. In the short term, this approach might seem long and tedious, but it is very effective at establishing a solid foundation.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Effective learning begins with sound and proven techniques. If you master all sides of a challenging topic and are capable of teaching others, then you are well on your way to becoming an independent learner.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
The best approach to getting my students to be motivated about a challenging topic is to begin with an easy related topic. Once I get them to be confident in their abilities, they become motivated to excel on their own.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would begin by teaching them the basics, and gradually introduce aspects of the challenging topic. To make sure I am getting through, I would ask them questions along the way. Once I am done, we switch roles; and they must teach me everything I would need to understand the topic in question.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
The only way to improve is to continuously practice.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
There is no "one size fits all" approach. Some students need to be pushed, while some know what needs to get done. Regardless, my expectations are the same.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Start with the basics, and work towards the difficult topic. In the process, their confidence increases. Greater confidence leads to better outcomes.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I always ask the student to switch roles and teach me. In addition, I have plenty of worksheets that would get the point across.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Start with an easy related topic, and slowly work toward challenging topics.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Listening goes a long way to having effective tutoring sessions.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I always ask my students for feedback. If the suggested changes are warranted, then I implement them right away.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Worksheets and any relevant standardized exam questions.