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Hello, prospective students!
My name is Alex B. I'm a recent graduate (2010) of the University of Iowa with a B.A. in English (19th Century American Lit, specifically) and a special certification in Creative Writing. I've had a passion for storytelling and language ever since I started assembling Legos into characters as a toddler, forcing my parents to listen as I regaled them with the exploits of the heroes the medium facilitated. I relish the chance to try and pass some of that affection for language onto someone else.
But, more tangibly, as 1 of 12 undergraduates chosen to work directly with the prestigious Iowa Writing Workshop in the nonfiction genre, I have a strong technical pedigree. I'm well practiced in writing for both the creative and professional setting (given my time spent as a freelance writer/editor). As a result, I'm quite familiar with MLA and Chicago Manual of Style formats, knowledge I'm more than happy to pass along to the aspiring college student (who will definitely be needing all that fiddly stuff, someday) and the casual writing student alike. I've trained in nearly every form of writing, and with more than 2,000 pages written over a lifetime of daily practice, you could say I'm a bit of a nerd.
I've had a great deal of experience working with writers and readers of all skill levels - from fellow literary classmates to struggling middle and high school students - to help them improve their work. I've been described as a patient, respectful teacher who can explain complicated material in the simplest way possible. A constructive, encouraging, comfortable environment is of the utmost importance, in my opinion. These are the central tenets of my teaching style. Language classes nowadays tend to make reading and writing frustrating and tedious, focusing too much on formatting without practical relevance and not enough on perspective, creativity, and real world applicability. It's easy to understand how students, even with the best teachers, sometimes get left behind in a world of core standards and crowded classrooms. My goal is to bring the student up to speed with grammatical rules (and reading comprehension strategies) while keeping the material accessible, fun, and personalized as much as possible to their interests with a high emphasis on creativity. To that end, I'm comfortable teaching anything from public speaking to trochaic tetrameter.
If you're looking for a dedicated, diligent writing and reading tutor with loads of expertise, I think I just might be your guy.
But, though writing is my central focus, I'd be absolutely thrilled to do a general music lesson or songwriting workshop. As a guitarist of 13 years (and a practiced teacher in that area, as well), I happily offer music lessons in basic theory, guitar, songwriting, and music history for any budding Jimi's out there.
Hope to hear from you,
I was admitted to college on high ACT scores, particularly in English and Reading. At the time, I took a prep course that was very informative, and put a lot of effort into preparing myself for the test through books and study guides. This hands-on experience with the test itself coupled with my academic background in writing and reading make me a strong tutor in this subject for both the ACT and other standardized tests.
I was admitted to college on high ACT scores, particularly in English and Reading. Though some of the sections of the Reading section seem long, dense, and daunting, it gets a great deal easier with practice and the right techniques. I teach a method of quick note-taking derived from my time as an English major in school responsible for massive loads of reading each week. With a little practice, students can learn to pick out and mark significant elements from any given text while retaining all the essential information.
I majored in English at the University of Iowa, graduating with a high cumulative GPA. As a student at one of the best English and writing schools in the country, I trained in writing of every form and read nearly 400 pages of literary work each day. Reading comprehension and good writing habits have been deeply ingrained in me after hours of practice. Beyond that, I'm an experienced tutor in writing techniques, with success helping students of all skill levels improve their writing and reading abilities.
I've studied many different forms of music, starting with my singing as part of a choir when I was around 9. I've played a number of different instruments ranging from clarinet to percussion, and have experience reading sheet music (though I'm admittedly a touch rusty) as well as tablature. I have a solid base of knowledge in theory stemming from my ongoing passion for the guitar. In teaching music, it's important to acknowledge that the central concepts and techniques don't come naturally to everyone. It certainly didn't make much sense to me, at first. But with practice, patience, and encouragement, anyone can learn how to play music competently. I'm very comfortable helping out with that particular pursuit.
Learning the more technical elements of language was essential as a student of creative writing. My professional experience as a copywriter/editor also required a great deal of attention to detail when it came to syntax and grammar. I've been well-trained, both as a result of schooling and professional necessity, in how to make writing as clear as possible by adhering to standards of structure and format. I've tutored middle school and high school students in the proper use of grammar, and had success bringing them up to speed on the sometimes irrationally complex rules of English.
I've played guitar for at least 30 minutes every day since I received one as a gift on my 12th birthday. That makes it nearly 13 years, now. I studied under a classically trained guitarist who'd been playing for 40 years and learned a great deal about chord theory and musicianship. I've taught several people (with skill levels ranging from "I've never held an instrument" to intermediate experience) how to play, trying my best to be a patient, thorough teacher. I like to focus not only on sheet music, but on helping the student learn the music they love so they can interact with it directly. I'm proud to say not one of the people I've taught has given up the instrument, yet.
As an English major at Iowa, I focused on American literature of the 19th century, but my education was broad and all-encompassing. I took so many literature courses that the College of Liberal Arts told me that any further coursework I did in the area wouldn't count towards my degree. I took 3 more after getting that warning. Suffice it to say that I adore storytelling in all of its varying forms.
My performance in these courses earned me several semesters on the Deans List. I'm particularly fond of American literature, but I'm well-versed in 20th century Indian and Latin American authors, as well as British authors going back to the invention of the novelist. I'll work with the student to find something in the vast literary world that they love and help them develop reading comprehension strategies that will make even the most complex work a breeze.
Though I do a great deal of personal, creative and academic writing, I also have some experience writing professionally. I've done contract work as a freelance copywriter and editor. I've also been responsible for producing marketing copy and content for various websites and publications. In those pursuits, perfect proofreading is essential. As a result, I have a solid base of experience dealing with various style manuals (MLA, Chicago, AP) to proofread and revise work to fit current standards. This is useful knowledge to have whether the student intends to pursue writing or not. I'd help whoever I'm working with navigate the complex web of advanced standards with patience and hands-on proofreading exercises.
I've participated in a number of different forms of public speaking - everything from persuasive classroom speeches to presentations made to high end venture capital firms. When I tried to start my own business (a website called XRIVO), I acted as the spokesman for the site. I gave presentations to educational conferences, potential investors, and prospective customers and partnerships, successfully garnering a great deal of excitement in our product. I also gave interviews on the topic to various media outlets. Before that, in school, I performed public poetry readings over the radio, completely at ease. With practice, I've discovered a few simple strategies for how to deal with this common anxiety and make people feel comfortable on stage.
As an English major, reading comprehension is absolutely essential. My coursework demanded a solid 2-3,000 pages of reading a week, and keeping all of that information straight was an exercise in organization and taking diligent notes. I picked up a few tricks along the way to help me perform at consistently high academic levels, simple techniques that any student can learn to boost how well they retain information. I start by working off material the student enjoys, whatever the genre or form, and moving into more dense material. I also emphasize note-taking techniques that don't distract from reading while still recording the important elements of the text.
I've been a guitarist and musician for nearly 13 years, now, but I've had an interest in music since well before then. Though guitar is my main songwriting tool, I'm also very comfortable with the drums, banjo, bass, and ukulele. I started writing songs in college, mostly trying to put the poems I wrote to music, and I've loved doing it ever since. My influences are largely folk, soul and (old school) country, a weird amalgamation of (acoustic) Bob Dylan, Al Green, and Willie Nelson. They're all similar in one respect, as I see it - simple but effective. I'd work with the student to find their voice using artists they respect and admire. Coupled with my writing training, I believe I can help any student find their own lyrical and musical voice.
Finding the perfect word to suit a given situation is impossible without first knowing a million different ways to play around with language. As a trained writer and avid reader, my vocabulary has naturally inflated over the course of my education. Something about language intrigued me from an early age, and knowing how to employ words with deftness and sophistication has always been a pursuit of mine. I've tutored students in vocabulary in the past using online tools, flashcards, and picking out new words from their favorite books. They're simple methods, but the best way to get the words firmly ingrained in a student's memory. Simply put, read as many words as you can and, eventually, you'll pick up some new ones.
During my time at Iowa, I was one of 12 undergraduates chosen to work with the nonfiction branch of the Iowa Writers Workshop, which is widely regarded as the best writing program in the country. The undergraduate creative writing track was taught by Workshop professors and students, and sometimes guest authors (Abraham Verghese, for one, and the 2010 Pulitzer winner in fiction, Paul Harding). I was completely immersed in writing, responsible for a full-length (around 10 pages) piece of polished work every other week, and shorter pieces in between. I participated in readings, attended lectures by some of the greatest contemporary authors, and generally tried to soak in everything I could from my talent-rich surroundings.
My instructors gave me not only high marks, but high praise for my abilities. More than that, they recognized my ability to be respectful and constructive with criticism, and work with writers to find their vision instead of heaping negatives on them without suggestions for improvement. I apply the principles of respect and patience to the teaching of writing regardless of the student's skill level, and relish the chance to help students find their way through the sometimes frustrating process of getting thoughts on paper.
University of Iowa (English)
Standard Hourly Fee: $40.00
Cancellation: 12 hours notice required
Alex will travel within 30 miles of Chicago, IL 60605.
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