Hey! My name is Ian Brodka. I am currently a Sophomore at the University of Rochester in the pursuit of my Chemistry B.S. degree and I hope to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. program for a Chemistry Ph.D. and to become a medical doctor. I have been a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a few classes here on the University and have had great success with my students here. I like to think that the reason for that is because I tend to teach in a slightly different manner from how most other people do. I like to be rather informal in my teaching style and I add in jokes because it lightens the mood and I believe students learn better when they are having some fun. With that in mind, I also like to be sure my students are engaged and are actually going through problems so they can understand and get hands on experience with things they may experience on an exam. If this sounds like a teaching style that might work for you, I would be happy to help you in any subject I can!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Rochester - Current Undergrad, Chemistry
Chemistry, LARPing, Paintball, Quidditch, Metalworking, Traveling, Reading
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is that a student isn't truly learning unless they can laugh every once in awhile, and if they are not, actively practicing different problems. The laughter keeps the edge off, and the problems show you what you don't actually know.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session with a student, I would typically introduce myself and get to know them a little. I would also want to hear from their perspective what they are struggling with and why. That way I can truly try and help their understanding in the best and most effective way possible.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
To help a student become an independent learner, you have to slowly become more hands off with them. They have to be slowly weaned off of you showing them through problems and answers. Once they can get the motivation and knowledge of how to go through a subject and find what they don't know, they will then be independent and learn on their own.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Again, this falls back to the laughter that I mentioned before. You have to be able to keep a student's mind off of a subject they may be struggling with. You have to show them that they can do the problems they are struggling with, and slowly work their way up in difficulty. It's a hard line to walk - making sure they are challenged enough and not challenging them too much - but it is a task you must be good at. And laughter is the best remedy for some hard problems.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student has difficulty with something, you have to get the student to take a step back first, and then ask them what their perspective and understanding currently is. Then, you try and explain the topic to them in a different manner in hopes that the different method of teaching manages to get the message across. And always include a joke or two.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is something that I sometimes have difficulty with. The best suggestion I can make is to read through a question slowly, write down any key parts of the question, and think critically about what the question is asking you to find. It's a skill that can take a long time to build, but it is extremely useful.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Ensuring a student has a solid grasp of a topic is the last and final job of a teacher, in my eyes. This is best done by giving them a complex problem that combines all of the different concepts you have given them and that they haven't seen before. This truly pushes them to connect all of the dots of the concepts they were taught, in a format that they could be tested on, and if they are successful, then you can be assured they are competent in the subject or topic at hand.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
This is done by giving the student a series of questions that are easy at first, and they steadily become harder and harder. This gives them a gradual gradient that continually pushes them to higher and higher levels, and it drags their confidence with them as they complete these individual questions.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The two methods for this are by directly asking the student where they believe themselves to be struggling, and by seeing where they struggle when they are faced with new concepts or practice questions.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I can be rather flexible when it comes to the needs of the student. Some students are auditory learners, others are visual, and some only learn through getting into the mud and dirt directly and charging through problems. I can adapt if the student likes to hear metaphors and auditory explanations of a subject. If the student needs a visual aid, I can either find one or make a sample picture for them to understand the concept. I feel it is important to change to the student's needs, because they learn through whatever method they learn through, and for you to be effective as a teacher, you have to come to the student's level and help them there.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Typical materials for me would range from my computer for pictures to a paper and pen for written work. I keep to fairly low complexity materials, except for organic chemistry, which can occasionally utilize a model kit as a visual aid.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
When I start to work with a student, it helps to be very open and meet them at their level. You have to put in some work to get to know them, as well as their flaws and strengths, and then cater to those strengths. I do this with short discussions, some jokes to break the ice, and some simple problems to gauge the student's grasp of a subject.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
This can be very difficult, because frustration is something that can build and tamper the feelings for something if it isn't fun. So, the seemingly easiest solution is to make it fun, but this still isn't easy. One way to make it more fun is to try and connect the concept to a large, real-life example in the real world. This can tie the concept to a tangible thing and make the student more interested. Another way is to connect the topic back to their own life in some way. This requires you to know the student a little better, but it helps a lot. Finally, make it humorous and light. That can alleviate a lot of tension surrounding a subject if you make it seem nonchalant.