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“What advice would you give students to prepare for their first session with a new tutor?” This is a great question! Overall, I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to put some thought into exactly what you want to get out of your tutoring sessions. Many people come to tutoring simply because their grades (or test scores) are low, and they're hoping that private tutoring can “fix” the problem. Which it probably can, but if that's all you bring to the table then your tutor has to work that much harder to figure out exactly how to go about helping you. Before you arrive at your first meeting, spend some time thinking about your classes. Which subjects in school do you feel most comfortable with, and which ones least comfortable? Think over your answers like a detective – what common themes do you see that could be the real root of the problem? Were you easily able to ace an open-ended, discussion-driven English class, but this year your... read more

We recently passed the 30th anniversary of "the 2 Sigma Problem," which is the problem of achieving the effectiveness of personalized, one-on-one instruction at a large scale. As a tutor, how do you help multiple students at the same time while retaining the benefits of personalized tutoring? To me, one of the major benefits of personalized tutoring is that the tutor has the space, time, and flexibility to respond to the student's needs. If I am tutoring a student in math, we can spend as many sessions as we need on a given topic to make sure the student understands it thoroughly. I can also try a lot of different methods to explain a topic, since not everyone learns the same way. If a spatial or visual learner is having trouble with division, I might bring in a bag of M&Ms and show them physically the process of dividing up a pile into smaller piles. If a student is having trouble understanding probability, I might bring in a set of polyhedral dice... read more

WWTK: What advice would you give students going back to school so they start the year strong? This is a great question, and one that I've answered before on this blog. In general, I'd say the most important thing for starting the new year strong is starting the new year ORGANIZED. Go back and look through your notebooks from the previous year, but not for content – look at them like a detective. What does your note-taking style say about you? Do you have spiral notebooks stuffed full of handouts with rumpled edges? Are your note pages just solid blocks of hurried scribbles that are all but impossible to read? Did you have to add extra notebooks halfway through the year?  And most importantly, how easy is it to find a specific piece of information in one of your notebooks? Take the opportunity while summer's still going strong to head to an office supplies store and wander around. Really look at all the organization solutions, and try to imagine yourself... read more

“Students often want to know how they'll use a subject "in the real world." Pick one of your subjects and tell us why it's important outside of the classroom.” As it happens I wrote an article on this very topic as it relates to Algebra a few months back. You can check out that article here. So since I've already answered this in relation to math, I'll discuss another of my topics today: writing. It's true that once you finish college you'll probably never need to write another term paper. Unless your career path tends towards academics (or blog posting), regular paper-writing is probably not going to show up very much. But what will show up quite frequently is the need to clearly and concisely articulate your thoughts and opinions in writing. In today's text-based world, first impressions are often written rather than spoken – whether that be a cover letter for a resume, a request for information about a position, or a proposal for a new project... read more

Nobody likes doing homework in the summer. It's just a fact of life. My advice to students who want to stay sharp during the summer is to inject fun into your work and work into your fun. Find a way to connect your personal fun time back to the subjects you're learning in school. The best way to accomplish this, in my opinion, is to look for school skills in unusual contexts. If you're interested in maintaining your English or writing, you can join a book club or arrange one with your friends. Take this summer as an opportunity to read that book you've been dying to get to, and while you're reading think about it critically and talk about it with others. I'm part of a “Bring Your Own Book” club right now, where each month we are given a topic and have to find and read a book that fits the topic. BYOBook clubs are a great chance to see a broad range of interpretations of a given theme and think about your reading in a larger context (what does the topic “animals as main characters”... read more

I've recently discovered several online resources that I find very helpful for the various subjects I tutor. Since my tutoring subjects break down into three broad categories (Math, English, and SAT Prep), I'll choose one from each category to discuss today.     SAT Prep For SAT preparation, you can't beat the College Board website (sat.collegeboard.org). There's no better way to prepare than to hear it directly from the test makers. In addition, twitter users can follow @SATQuestion to receive the official SAT Question of the Day on their feed each morning. Particularly now given the announcement of the impending redesign, staying connected to the College Board will keep you up to date on all the changes. There's a place on their website to sign up for email updates, so you'll never miss a thing!   Math Having recently started working with middle-school students, I found a sudden need for worksheets to practice with... read more

Lately I've realized just how stressful economics can be, particularly for students with English as a second or third language. Trying to explain utility and utils to someone a few days ago, all I could think about was my own AP Econ professor, with his southern drawl, and a look he reserved for confused students.  Someone would ask a question. There'd be a pause. Wearing his varsity football coach jacket, he'd sigh, and make eye contact with whoever had asked the question. Then, it was more like he was looking at you for something in particular - did you really not understand the concept, or were you confused by how the word was being used? Different questions would require very different answers.    As a student who was frequently confused with the use of terms in a different context than I was used to, I hated that look. For the first month of classes, I was convinced he hated me, and that I was going to fail miserably. Every time we got a test or... read more

WyzAnt wants to know: Which teacher from your past (or present) are you most "thankful" for and what lesson did they teach you? I am most "thankful" for my 5th, 6th and 7th grade Math teacher. She opened my mind and truly showed me what it means do think through and write up a rigorous mathematical proof. The key concepts I learned then, I still used up to the time I finished college.

In my last semester in high school, I found out that I would not graduate on time with my classmates. In order for me to complete my diploma in the same year, I would have to attend summer school. Two weeks after classes ended in public school, I started my summer school class; Algebra 2. My teacher was a lady by the name of Mrs. Pringle. She was a short  in stature and was originally from North Carolina with a "islander" accent.    Every day that I had that class, I was a little reluctant to attending that course. I would miss a day here and there but not enough to put me in jeopardy of failing the course. About two weeks out from the end of the class, Mrs. Pringle addresses me in front of the entire class. "Terry, you are not going to pass my class, and you are not going to graduate!" According to her grade book,  if I missed one more day, I would fail her class. I took that statement as a challenge. From that day, I made... read more

Mr. Utz was my Algebra instructor at UAFS.  He taught me valuable lessons in Algebra that I am able to share with my TANF Literacy Initiative students who are striving for their GEDs and Career Readiness Certicates.   The other teacher from my past that I am thankful for is Mrs. Rhonda Grey.  She taught me lifelong lessons in English IV honors which are part of my everyday life in and out of the classroom .  -- (WWTK)

I am thankful to my Drexel Biomedical Engineering Professor of BMES122 and 123.  He taught me about having honor and being honest with your scientific work.  He instilled in us that what we do ca change the world and be a blessing or a hardship on another human life.  He had such a respect for Biomedical Engineers but also made us realize that there is a lot of responsibility in this job.  Even though it was a science class he taught me about ethics and that stands out a lot in my education. 

Greetings, scholars! Usually I reserve my blog for sharing tech tips and practical advice, but the upcoming holiday has me reflecting on how thankful I am for the wonderful teachers I have had over the years. There's Dr. Galvin, who taught me how to think about discrete mathematics, helped me appreciate "vintage" math literature, and showed me the online encyclopedia of integer sequences. Of course there's Mr. Capello, my high school English teacher, who taught me to write with certainty and confidence, and more recently, Dr. Dubson, who generously shares his physics class via Coursera. The most important lesson in my education, though, came much earlier, back when I was a typical kid with a wandering mind and no love for math homework. In my elementary school years, my dad would often sit beside me, ensuring that I completed problems successfully and gently correcting me when I made inevitable mistakes. When I made a mistake, I would say, "Sorry... read more

My physics teacher really got me interested in engineering and dynamics. He made the course very fun with many experiments and demonstrations. The class itself was very open and free. It was more of a discussion-type setting between students, and the teacher assisted when no one else knew what to do. It prepared me for my career by introducing me to physics and free-thinking. It was also very helpful because in my career, problems are solved in a similar manner as they were in that class. If I didn't know the answer the first step is to involve my peers. If they don't know, then I have to take it to my manager or tech. advisor.   That class really gave me insight to what college and engineering would be like.

There are several teachers that were the "most influential". From Fr. Joe Murphy, OSB who taught History at St. Gregory's College ("Holy Cats!"), Mr. Homer Jones ("The Constitution says what the Supreme Court says it says") and many more who taught me to love learning. They were the key, and foundation, to what education should be. It is a love affair with learning and they shared this intimacy with their students.

Linda Sherwood was my 9th and 11th grade Spanish teacher.  We were her first class to ever teach.  She was so kind and amazing.  Following in her footsteps I went on to be an exchange student, major in Spanish, become a high school teacher, and later an ESL instructor. 

When my son Bryon was in elementary school, he had lots of trouble learning how to read. This baffled and upset me because his older brother had been reading since Kindergarten. I knew that I should never compare my children and I knew that just because Bryon was not a good reader did not mean he was in any way less intelligent than his brother. Still, it began to break my heart when I would peer through the half-closed door of a classroom after school and see him struggle with each word. He was stuck in a classroom when the rest of his friends were outside playing. The final straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, was when I saw the teacher who was tasked with tutoring Bryon lose he r temper with him and smacked his head with her hand!     I immediately withdrew him from that tutoring scenario, reported the teacher and searched for a more humane reading program. It came in the form of a family friend who was a university professor and did... read more

I remember the moment clearly even now: Mrs S., brandishing the loose-leaf pages in front of my fourth-grade classroom, her wild-eyed look at odds with her precise hair and immaculate apple-printed skirt. I remember how I had quietly slipped the papers into tray of finished homework, how I had felt somehow embarrassed by the inked words. I remember her words: "Julie is going to be a famous writer someday!" And I remember the feeling: elation, pride, and a stark wonder that someone believed in me this much.   Now, years later--after a college degree in Creative Writing and a few published pieces in literary journals--I think back on the powerful impact that Mrs. S. had on my writing. I was an extraordinarily shy student. English had been my second language, and I had been shuffled through ESL classes all throughout my early elementary school years. But for me, English was not a hardship—it was a refuge. I lost myself in books, and found myself in paper and... read more

Often for music students the practice room can be a place of transcendent accomplishment as well as massive frustration. I have practice until my fingers bled, until I got exactly what I wanted, only to come back the next day and feel as if none of that work had showed up. I have also had breakthrough moments where everything seemed to fall into place, music and the world suddenly made sense as if my eyes had been opened and I was seeing in color for the first time. The truth about the practice room is this: Practice takes practice. The practice room (especially for those looking to go into music education) is like a scientist's lab. You have to be critical of not just what you're doing (did I play that note too loud? How is the clarity of my articulation?) but also WHY you you are doing it. You have to analyze why you are in the practice room, what are your goals and how are you going to reach them? It's exactly what a school teacher does to plan their lessons and that's... read more

I strongly believe that difficulty with a certain subject does NOT mean that you or your child are not cut out for a particular field. If you're interested in something, understanding will eventually come to you. The trick is to help it out.   The visit to Q's lab was always my favorite part of a James Bond movie. In elementary school, I wanted to be an inventor (which I believed had a much more concrete job description than it really does, definitely involving power tools and Tesla coils). As I grew up, I set my heart on engineering. But I was not one of those kids who loved school. Science and math did not come easily to me. I struggled for a long time to maintain a B average in STEM courses. Theorems and lemmas went in one ear and out the other, no matter how hard I tried to memorize them. Unfortunately, I wanted to be an engineer anyway.   It took me a while--until my 20s--to realize that my problem wasn't a neurological deficiency... read more

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