After practicing environmental law for 27 years, I decided to change careers. I chose teaching because that is something that has always interested me, and chose social studies because my BA is in history and history has been a lifelong passion. I have a background in law, government and public policy as well, having been a practicing environmental lawyer and having earned a Master of Public Administration degree. As a Scout leader for 25 years, I was very much involved in teaching at all education levels, all the way up to graduate school.
Raising my own four children also involved a great deal of teaching. As a lawyer, I enjoyed most working with younger lawyers and helping them become better researchers and writers, and with high school and undergraduate students considering a law-related career. The common thread in these experiences is working with young people one-on-one or in small groups. For these reasons, I believe tutoring plays to my strengths as a teacher. When I was in the classroom, my assessments always used actual AP questions. My students performed very well on their final exams, which were full-length AP tests using questions from past exams, averaging. In world history, I wrote my own test questions, since test banks accompanying the text involved little more than memorization. I try to inject more rigor into my lessons and assessments.
I never go into a professional activity with a client without a great deal of preparation. In my economics and government classes, I prepared detailed study guides both to prepare myself and to assist students. I believe my students' performance in AP classes was directly related to these guides. As a tutor, in my first meeting with a student, I will assess the nature of their concerns with the subject. I will review with them the syllabus and their recent exams and assignments to identify the key problems. Problems might include study habits, difficulty with key concepts, and absorbing the sheer volume of material, among other things. Having identified the problems, I will tailor tutoring sessions to the individual student's needs. For example, lessons may concentrate on practice with difficult concepts Many students are visual or kinetic learners, so the use of graphs in economics is especially useful to get to the solution, and to build on basic concepts, even when answering multiple choice questions. In this regard, my study guides will provide appropriate material for helping students. I view these guides as living documents and constantly evaluate and revise them to meet student needs..
As a tutor of college students, I will draw on my own experience working with summer interns as well as my education and professional experience. Law, public administration, government, and economics, in addition to US and world history are some of the subjects in my professional repertoire.
Most important, because I have taught or practiced in a number of subjects before, I have a wealth of material and information that I can use in my tutoring sessions. For subjects I have not yet taught, I look for useful material on line. In general, I do not view tutoring as something that happens only during the hour I spend with a student. I maintain records on each student's needs and progress, and plan ahead for each meeting so as to tailor lessons to individual needs. I prepare session notes following each meeting with a student to help prepare future lessons and to assess my own performance.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Hofstra University - Bachelors, History
Graduate Degree: Indiana University - Bloomington - Masters, Public Administration
Graduate Degree: Indiana University-Bloomington - PHD, Law
State Certified Teacher
Woodworking, 5 string banjo, reading (mostly history), puzzles, home improvement, nature and ecology
Ancient and Medieval Heritage
AP US History
CLEP American Government
CLEP History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present
CLEP Principles of Macroeconomics
CLEP Principles of Microeconomics
College Level American History
College Political Science
College World History
High School Business
High School Economics
High School Level American History
High School World History
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Motivation will vary from student to student, and techniques for improving motivation will likewise vary. In general, in the first session with a student, I would try to assess the problems the student is experiencing and tailor lessons accordingly. For example, to the extent students feel discouraged because of poor performance, I would attempt to use assessments during sessions to build up student confidence by meeting students where they are and building on existing knowledge and understanding. For the common problem of boredom, I would try to make the material as relevant as possible to the student by relating to actual experience or future goals. For example, in economics every student is already a consumer whether they realize it or not, and if they hope to be employed someday, they will become suppliers of labor services. It would be easy to state that I will make learning fun, but each student will have a different concept of fun. Learning is work and there is no sense sugar coating that. That said, I hope to be able to maintain student interest as stated above while frequently showing students the progress they are making so as to excite their interest and pride. I would also speak to parents about appropriate rewards for progress and effort.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
First, with each student I would try to assess where they are at the start of tutoring sessions. The idea is to build on existing knowledge insofar as possible. This will help determine where the difficulties start. Once having identified the problems, I would break the concept down into manageable parts, and try to impart analytical approaches that allow students to build on what they know and get as far as possible to understanding. When the inevitable bumps in the road are encountered, we will apply the problem solving methods we have practice. For example, in economics many problems can be solved by drawing simple supply and demand graphs. I will try to get students into the habit of using information provided in the problem to construct a graph, and then to manipulate the graph in order to find a solution. In government, I have also found visual aids such as flow charts to be very helpful.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Again, the first step is assessment. Is the problem vocabulary, sentence structure, or something else? I have found generally that the best ways to improve reading are to read as much as possible and to practice writing. If I succeed in making tutoring sessions a safe space for the student, I hope they will be comfortable reading aloud so I can assess the stumbling blocks. If there are simply words that cause problems we can practice using the computer to look up meanings. If comprehension problems go deeper we will have to break sentences down to try to improve understanding. In some cases, It may help to write sentences down especially for kinetic learners. Another technique I have found to be effective is to have students restate the meaning of passages in their own words. I can use exercises that I have used in the classroom that help with reading comprehension by having students identify and look up key words, answer questions about the reading, and paraphrase.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
My previous answers and personal statement discuss a number of strategies that I have found to be successful, such as having students read aloud and to restate meaning in their own words to improve reading comprehension. I have mentioned how I would try to break problems down into manageable pieces building on existing knowledge, and the use of graphs in economics and flow charts in government. In general, I have found it best to "chunk" lessons into manageable pieces, assess each piece, and then to do an overall assessment at the end of the lesson.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Frequent assessment is essential in any teaching setting. When working with a student, I would ask frequent questions about the material to see how well the student is "getting it." I would use practice problems and questions throughout a lesson to get student used to answering questions and to assess progress. I would try to create a focus and objective for each lesson so that, at the end, I would give the student practice questions they would try to answer on their own that encompass the whole lesson, while observing and then asking about their problem solving techniques/ of course, a student may only be comfortable with a portion of my intended lesson during a session, so I will need to be flexible in my objectives for each lesson. In general, I will try to ask as many questions as possible so as to keep the student cognitively engaged at all times while I am assessing their progress.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Confidence comes from being able to perform on one's own. After all, for a student to improve in-school performance such independence is essential. I will assess throughout each lesson in a variety of ways, and give appreciation for each correct response, especially when a student demonstrates understanding of a concept for the first time. I will save all assessments so that I can show the student how they have improved over time, and how they can handle problems that had previously stumped them. In appropriate cases, I will administer a simple diagnostic test at the beginning of tutoring, and give the same test at intervals which should objectively demonstrate progress.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Initially, I will ask parents what they see as the key concerns. I will try to focus on cognitive issues and to be specific, as opposed to generalities such as "boredom" or "lack of interest" or "she just does not like history." This will be useful information for my initial meetings with the student, although I will not assume that the parents have always correctly identified the problem. (However, I will also ask parents about behavioral or learning disabilities to see if these exist.) When I meet one-on-one with the student, I will ask them what their concerns are and what they see as "the problem." I will ask to see their syllabi and textbooks, as well as recent tests and papers to see what materials they may be struggling with and what their current knowledge base is. It will also be necessary to identify the teacher's expectations in each class so that we know what the goals need to be. I will talk over my own evaluation of students needs with parents and student from time to time, making adjustments as necessary.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
This depends on what the needs are. I will need to figure out what each student's learning preferences are and, insofar as possible, tailor exercises to those preferences. For example, if a student is a visual learner, I will use diagrams more. If reading comprehension is the issue, I will do more reading in tutoring sessions, so as to parse the material in a way the student can understand it. I will need to be flexible in setting the pace of lessons, so that the student can enjoy concrete achievements and not feel the frustrations of not being able to keep up. A key issue is where to begin the work with each student; how much to they already know and understand and how much catching up is necessary. Thus, my initial assessment will be critical to adapting to each student's individual needs.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I will be sure to use materials that the student is expected to use in the classroom. I will supplement these materials with exercises and study aids I have already prepared or that I can find on line. In many areas there are interactive exercises and videos on line that are very valuable. Therefore, we'll have a computer connected to the internet at all times. I want students to get into the habit of on line research.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In the very first session, I will need to assess where the student is in their class and their understanding. I will ask what they see as their problems, whether they think they are behind, and if so, how far. I will then objectively evaluate these responses by looking at the class syllabus and recent assignments to further identify problems. This will also help me begin to determine the student's individual learning preferences. Further, it will help to establish the student's existing knowledge base in the subject, which will establish a launching pad for future sessions.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Throughout each session, I will continually assess in a variety of ways, much as I did in the classroom. I will frequently ask questions to gauge understanding. Whenever possible, I will teach analytical techniques that break a problem down into manageable portions. I will provide practice on each concept as we progress. Finally, I will ask the student to handle questions that involve the complete problem or skill, while I observe how the student is applying the analytical method. I'll work toward independent problem solving as the student progresses to build confidence. Overall, teaching problem solving techniques will be the critical step toward the student becoming an independent learner. The idea is to get the student to the point where they can use techniques learned in sessions to achieve understanding on their own.