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I started teaching a few years ago when I realized I got a lot more satisfaction from informal, one-on-one relationships than from climbing the professional ladder -- and with degrees from Yale, Yale Law, and UC Berkeley, I was climbing pretty well. I had been a legal reporter, journalist, and book writer -- still am, sometimes -- but after writing a book on Habitat for Humanity, I was hooked on doing meaningful work...and that meant project-based work like teaching and tutoring. I've taught scores of classes with the University of Phoenix -- courses like Communications, Critical Thinking, Decision Making -- and when not teaching or tutoring or writing, you'll find me traveling...usually, leading build trips with Habitat or my own non-profit in the Dominican Republic.
My teaching style is low-key -- I'm from California! -- but back-door rigorous, because I'm convinced that students learn better, and retain more, when they're *engaged* with the material. It's a two-way street between the student and tutor: the teacher has to try (no, it's not always possible) to make the material *interesting*, *relevant*, *accessible*, and even sometimes *entertaining*, so he or she gets students 'where they live.' Whether students are learning about the Declaration of Independence or writing a paper on Mexico, distinguishing between 'whose' and 'who's' or memorizing the countries in Latin America, they have to feel that what they're learning is significant -- that it will have relevance later in their lives.
I was a British Studies major in college -- "English" with an historical twist -- and after getting my Master's in Journalism from Berkeley, I've been a professional writer. Reporter, critic, editor, commentator, essayist, book writer, and blogger. I've done writing in almost every form over the last 30 years.
I aim to help students find their own "voice," though only after they master the rules of writing. We start usually with "expressive" writing -- things students *want* to write about -- and then to "persuasive" writing, and eventually, "objective" or "school"-type writing. Along the way, most students come to understand they must write clearly or be misunderstood, and that's when they really start to learn. I try to get students to see that good writing *matters* -- that it's in their own interests to write effectively, it's not just "following the rules."
The Reading section of the SAT largely consists of Passage Analysis -- figuring out the key points in the passage, and selecting the "best fit" answer from the given list. So preparation largely involves *practice, practice, practice*...though with an eye on the clock, since speed is of the essence.
My overall approach is to convince students that analyzing these passages is really "just a game," so they stay focused, don't "freeze up," and can move back and forth quickly -- often through underlining and circling they do on the test material -- between the passage answers (we start there!) and the passage itself. If students do such analyses, say 25 times, they should have a "way in" to almost any passage provided.
I've coached SAT and AP tests (ongoing) for two years. I've taught online (ongoing) for 12 years.
My teaching philosophy is derived from my 30 years as a journalist, and experience in law school / legal reporting -- that studying requires *self-discipline*. You set a goal, build a study plan, accept a time frame, and then *execute* the plan.
The key to studying -- as in most things in life -- is *organization*, being able to break down an ambition / goal into "bite-size" component parts. My WzyAnt reviews indicate that my approach usually works for students, whether writing an essay or studying for a test.
Writing is more art than science...but *most* good writing has 1) an interesting theme, 2) a developed "argument," 3) lots of *specific* facts and ideas and images, 4) good and predictable organization, and 5) an "arc" -- a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Yes, everyone can, and *should* write differently, individually, because each person has his / her own "voice"...but there are "good writing rules," too, and they should be followed. Until, of course, you're a good enough writer that you can *justify* breaking the rules!
You will want to call Chris G. asap — Chris is true to his description. His teaching style is low-key and laid back but he knows how to engage and inspire students to want to use the power of words in their own writing. Chris has been working wonders with my son, who is 13 and the ultimate reluctant, minimalist writer. With his thoughtful and creative assignments, Chris has been able to extract some incredible and expansive writing ...
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