Hello my name is Graham and I am a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. My undergraduate degree was in chemical engineering and as a result I have a lot of experience in math and science of all levels. I have also worked on for Dresser-Rand on the design and installation of a small scale liquefaction plant in British Columbia. I am currently completing a single course in order to fully complete my degree and I am training to hopefully become a Coast Guard rescue swimmer in the next year. I really enjoy outdoor activities from longboarding and running to swimming and water skiing.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Washington University in St Louis - Current Undergrad, Chemical Engineering
Longboarding, Swimming, lifting, wakeboarding, video games,
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is centered around problem solving strategies. I focus on teaching students how to think about, approach problems, how to identify the important aspects of problems and ultimately how to solve them efficiently, even if they are not familiar with the subject. I strongly believe that an active learning approach is best, and I like to walk students through problems and discuss the thought process involved in any given problem.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a typical first session with a student, I would likely talk to them about their goals and aspirations so that I can wrap my head around what the student hopes to get out of our sessions, and so that I can prepare to help them the best I can. I will also talk to them about the subjects at hand and get a feel for their level of comfort with the subject so that I know where to begin and at what level.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
My whole philosophy is about teaching students how to think on their own. I want to teach them how to approach problems and think about the challenges that they face so that they can gain the ability to learn quickly and efficiently on their own. I focus on walking through the thought process involved in solving a problem so that students understand the best ways to approach problems even in areas where they have no familiarity with the subject matter.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
When a student is having trouble with a skill or concept, I try to approach the topic from a variety of angles to give the student a more complete picture of the task at hand. Practice is always important but I find that trying to change the direction that you're approaching a topic can help give a student new perspective that will allow them to gain a more full understanding of the topic at hand. I will often start out by explaining how I think about the subject and then try and reframe the topic in different ways until the student can convey a sense of understanding to me.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I help students struggling with reading comprehension by taking a step back and walking through the material with them. I strive to understand how they are thinking about the material and talk with them to convey how I am thinking about it. Often with reading comprehension, students are caught up in the minutia of the reading, and taking a step back, slowing down, identifying what is important and asking questions about it is all a student needs to work through their struggles.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I find that walking through a problem together, and working step by step without skipping even the smallest parts, such as carrying a sign, is very helpful, because it allows the students to break down the thought process into manageable parts and makes it far easier to understand. The way I look at it is similar to how most of us look at a piece of machinery. A simple example being a phone; you may know how to use a phone, plug in the numbers and call someone. But only by really taking the phone apart and understanding the pieces and what they each do can you really have a solid grasp on the mechanics behind the phone. The same goes with mathematics. If you know how to calculate a derivative but don't know what it represents or means, then you don't understand the concept and will have a hard time applying it to a new subject.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I had an interesting discussion about this with my girlfriend the other day, we were talking about German society and how there is a lot of emphasis on placing students into a path that they show an aptitude for. For me personally, I have never sought out things I was good at. I have always taken immense pride in accomplishments that were difficult. That's why I am pursuing a career in the Coast Guard; school was always easy for me and as a result I didn't value my academic accomplishments as much as my athletic ones, because I was never athletically talented and so everything I achieved there I knew I earned. I would encourage students to pursue and engage in activities that are difficult and that they aren't good at, because there is tremendous room for improvement, and the progress you make there is a result of your tenacity and hard work.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I think that as we go through life we will all meet people who are always confident, as though confidence is a part of their DNA. But not everyone is like that; I know I'm not. For me, confidence was always about experience, it's tough to be confident about something you've never done. You can't know if you can do it, now I believe that given enough time we can all accomplish all of our goals. And so in my mind, confidence is about practice; it's about feeling secure in the knowledge that you can do a task. And so students who need confidence will find it through practice, and when presented with a new application of a concept, I will remind students that it is nothing they haven't done before.