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Occidental College (Liberal Arts)
Cal State, LA (Master's)
I attended Occidental College with "Barry" (now "President") Obama as the Class of '81. He may have been a little smarter than me, but I was a much better basketball player. In my 27 years as a teacher and tutor, I have taught everything from kindergarten, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th (my favorite), 7th and 8th grade -the latter two in math and science. I spent six years as a mentor teacher and have been twice named a Johns Hopkins Teaching Fellow. My classroom was once part of a major feature on Good Morning America. I was a special education coordinator for two years and even served as an assistant principal. I specialize in K-8 math (particularly algebra and prealgebra) and language arts (with an emphasis on reading and writing).
I oppose virtually everything going on in public education today with all this standardized-testing, profit-making nonsense. I feel it is hurting children. Teachers are spending so much time trying to teach children the correct test answers, they are not developing the deeper academic skills students really need to be successful. Your child may be struggling academically just because so much time is spent "teaching to the test" to say nothing of all the time "test-taking" itself. Your child may also hate school (or particular subjects) as a result of this testing obsession.
I believe in developing creative, divergent and critical thinking. I believe in developing expression, both orally and in writing, especially in writing. I believe you can't have the latter without the former, a revelation few teachers today realize. My goal is to give children a unique and powerful voice, especially on paper, with a powerful mind behind it. When I teach math, I try to teach it not just as a series of skills and/or steps, but as a way of thinking. As a teacher, I try to build upon children's strengths while calling attention to and developing their weaknesses. I respect children enough to be honest with them. Weaknesses are to be embraced and not feared.
I embrace failure as an integral part of the learning process. True and lasting self esteem comes not from constant praising of success. True self esteem is developed by providing children with truly challenging tasks, teaching them not to fear failure, allowing them to fail every now and again, then picking them up, dusting them off, and letting them take another swing until they hit a home run. Rather than tell children smart they are, I create an environment where they struggle to accomplish something truly difficult and wonderful, then sit back, look at them, and say, "Well take a look at that. Take a good look at what you just did. How great is that? I thought you said you couldn't do it."
You get big smiles.
And confidence. I attended Occidental College with "Barry" (now "President") Obama as the Class of '81. He may have been a little smarter than me, but I was a much better basketball player. In my 27 years as a teacher and tutor, I have taught everything from … Read more
I also teach small groups. Depending upon the group and what needs to be taught, my rate is adjustable to make it more affordable. If you are interested in small group instruction, let me know.
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My math education went through calculus and I have taught full-time K-8 (including algebra) for 27 years. Algebra was one of my favorite subjects as a student and is one of my favorite subjects to teach. You'd be surprised at how much algebra can be taught to even primary school children.
My experience has been that most children who struggle with algebra lack many of the basic "math thinking skills" necessary for what is basically the beginning of higher level math. Teachers too often teach "the steps" but not the thinking behind it. Children get bogged down because there are too many "steps" to begin with and their teacher is always adding new "steps" on top of the "steps" they are already shaky about.
So critical to mastering algebra is the logic behind it. Also, there are a few relatively easy things to memorize (as kids are taught to memorize their times tables), that are rarely taught these days, but can make algebra much more manageable.
Of course I have some prejudice here, but I truly believe American History is the greatest history there is. No other country has accomplished so much, been through so much in so little time as The United States of America. Over the years, I have specialized in California History (variously 3rd or 4th grade) and American History (8th grade). I do tutor high school students from time to time and enjoy the depth we can get into at that age. I have also taught adults needing American History in order to gain citizenship. Even after 27 years, I find it all fascinating. What a country!
Not only have I taught PE for more than a decade. I was a two-year varsity letterman at a (then) three-year high school in Arcadia. My senior year I was named to the "All Conference" team. In college, I was a big fish in a small pond. I was a four-year varsity letterman at Occidental College, a Division III school in Los Angeles. My junior year, we qualified for the NCAA Western Regional Tournament and my senior year I was named all conference (SCIAC).
I have played chess since teaching myself (imperfectly) how to play (or at least move the pieces) at the age of about eight. I am a very good chess player as it has been one of my passions. I have studied the game somewhat and would describe myself as very proficient. But if you have a stable of grand masters out there, use them. I do not play speed chess.
I was a liberal arts major at Occidental College at a time (1977-1981) when learning "The Classics" was emphasized. I took a number of literature classes in a year of graduate studies at Cal State LA as well. In addition, I am a life-long learner and avid reader. I am particularly fond of Mark Twain, Russian literature, Melville, JD Salinger, Joseph Conrad, and even Homer. Don Quixote is one of my favorite books of all time and my blog uses Joseph K as my nom de guerre (The Trial, by Franz Kafka). I'm quite fond of The Metamorphosis as well.
I am a 27-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District, a former mentor teacher, and was twice named Johns Hopkins teaching fellow. I have taught children with learning disabilities and even coordinated special education programs. I spent six years teaching gifted and high achieving students at Palms Gifted/High-Achieving Magnet School. I've taught every population in between too. I have quite a bit of experience teaching English as a second language. I graduated from Occidental College while President Obama was in attendance, spent a year of graduate school studying liberal arts and then completed a Master's degree program to obtain my administrative credential. But the teaching credential I rely most on is my K-12 Multiple Subject Credential.
I've been teaching/tutoring math for most of my 27 years. It was my favorite subject in school and is one of my favorite subjects to teach. As I said in my profile, elementary math is often taught by elementary school teachers who have relatively poor math skills themselves. They may know how to teach "the process" (the series of steps involved, for example), but have a shallow, or sometimes no grasp of the concepts behind the process. Math is a way of thinking. It has its own logic.
Also, while teachers make their students memorize their multiplication facts, there are a number of other "facts" that students should have at their fingertips. One of these is the relationship between fractions, decimals, and percents. There are some key fractions all children should memorize. And they are easy to do! Knowing the key fractions/decimals/percents alone can save students hours and hours of work, of needless computation, and greatly reduce the risk of making careless mistakes.
I could go on, but to mention one more, there are three extra times tables (beyond 12X12=144) all children should know and very few teachers teach. It's simply amazing how often these come up, especially as your child gets older. I tried giving them to you here for free, but WyzANT blocked them. So for these and the rest, you will have to pay me.
Good luck with your search.
Just as in teaching math, it is a shame how many elementary school teachers simply are not well schooled in science. Children suffer as a result. If your child is not doing well in science, or does not like science, I can almost guarantee you it is because he/she is not being taught well.
Effective science instruction has two basic components, in my opinion. One is content and the other is inquiry or process. The latter involves the scientific method and hands-on discovery. Most elementary school teachers, if they teach any science at all these days, teach one or the other. Either they give their students all kinds of content (lots of reading and facts), or they do lots of experiments. Children who do mostly the former end up hating science. All that memorization! Students who only do the latter often love science. "Science is fun!" they squeal in delight. But then you ask them what scientific concepts they learned from their experiments or activities and usually they can't tell you. All they know is they had a great time doing whatever the heck it was that they were doing.
So great science teaching is about balance. You want your child to learn to explore, measure, test, record, discover, etc. But you also want your child to know the concepts behind what he or she is doing and the relevance (and importance) of these concepts.
Most of my 27 years of teaching/tutoring English have been at the elementary level through 6th grade. However I do tutor older students and it is extraordinary to me how many older children struggle for the exact same reasons that the younger students struggle. I am going to let you in on a little secret. The root of many English problems can be found not in the way they read or write, but the way they speak. Even children who are very verbal often have not been taught basic oral language skills. You'd be surprised. But after about 1st grade, teachers stop teaching oral language.
So even very "talkative" children often speak imperfectly. They may talk a lot to you and/or their friends, but they are not speaking the same language, or in the same way as their reading material. They are not speaking the language of the questions being asked and they certainly aren't speaking the kind of language they need to respond intelligently to those questions in writing.
It sounds crazy, but the root of problems in reading and writing often come from speaking inadequacies. So I teach that. I teach children how to speak with a clear, powerful, distinct voice. When they begin to master that, you will be amazed at how quickly their writing improves, how much their comprehension improves. It is truly extraordinary to watch and I spent more than a decade teaching before I figured this out.
In addition to writing, other specific skills, whether it be phonics, grammar, reading comprehension, etc., grow naturally from there. Learning (and teaching) English becomes much easier! Who knew?
I have other little secrets as well, and we can zoom in on specific deficits your child may face. But for those we will have to email and/or talk. When it comes to English, each student brings his or her own set of unique challenges.
As a teacher in Los Angeles for 26 years, I have a tremendous amount of experience with English Language Learners. I began teaching kindergarten where most of my students spoke little or no English. We used what is called TPR or "Total Physical Response." It is a great way to teach English. Basically, you involve the student's entire body in the lesson and do not work from books.
From there, it is important to include as many visual objects as possible to build vocabulary skills. For many tutors, grammar comes first. For me, comprehension comes first, initially by listening, then speaking, and (finally) writing.
In addition to tutoring in this country, I have also crossed Spain by bicycle twice and during that time would frequently tutor children (and sometimes adults) in English.
I specialize in teaching the Constitution, a subject which challenges even the brightest of students (to say nothing of most politicians!) As we continue to become more globalized, politics (both national and international) are of increasing importance. I spent six months working in Washington, D.C., so have seen our government work up close and personal. I have never taught abroad, but I am a fanatical world traveler, so also bring a very good feel for the attitudes and perspectives of other countries. For this reason, I also frequently look to current events to teach government and politics.
This is such a broad topic, we really need to talk about your son or daughter's particular needs. But in general, whatever your child is studying, I like to begin with a solid base, a solid understanding our own government and political institutions. As much as possible, I try to do this without a personal political agenda. When it comes to government and politics, I want students to be able to look both to their left and to their right as they seek their own path. Be careful! After a few weeks with me, you may find your ideas being challenged no matter what political party you claim as your own.
How many children hate grammar! And how many teachers really don't have a strong background in grammar! As I wrote in my "English" section, the basis of good grammar comes not from their grammar books. It comes from a very close look at the way your child speaks. Most people (including most teachers) look at grammar instruction as an isolated skill, a series of exercises.
But I look at grammar instruction in the context of the way children speak. When taught this way, the skills they develop transfer automatically to the way they write. I have been at this a very long time, close to three decades. This process is easier said than done.
My primary experience teaching/tutoring literature has been in grades K-6. But I was a liberal arts major who spent a lot of time studying literature. I also spent a year in graduate school, not chasing a particular subject, but liberal arts in general. So for me, tutoring literature is a great way for students to gain a better understanding not just of themselves, but the world in which we live. It is an opportunity to explore the great ideas of mankind, to read, discuss, and write about those themes and ideas.
Literature is one of my favorite subjects to teach, because it has no bottom. The only thing that limits the depths one can explore in a particular piece of literature is time.
I spent three years teaching kindergarten (both in English and Spanish). I spent one year teaching third grade. Most, but not all of my 27 years of teaching have been at the elementary level. In general, I believe in teaching whole language and not teaching phonics as an isolated skill. That said, no one learns to read without a solid grounding in phonics.
Most elementary teachers really don't teach math very well to be perfectly honest. When taught properly, prealgebra and even algebraic concepts should be integrated seamlessly into primary instruction. Sadly, this often does not happen. But it always happens with me and my students. And children who lost out on this benefit can generally be pretty quickly caught up with proper instruction.
I say it over and over because it bears repeating: "Math is not just memorizing facts or problem solving steps." Math is a way of thinking. Once this window is cracked open, it is quite amazing to see how quickly your child will advance. I've been teaching math, prealgebra, and algebra in an inter-connected manner for decades. If this interests you at all, I encourage you to sit down with "us" (your child and me) and watch. Who knows? YOU might even learn something!
Proofreading is perhaps the toughest subject to master, particularly when it comes to proofreading one's own work. I have spent years trying to hone my skills as a teacher/tutor in this area because it is so difficult and because proofreading is necessary for practically everything a student produces. After many years, I have found it useful to practice proofreading using skill books and doing various proofreading exercises. But the most productive use of time comes from having students proofread their own work. In the classroom, we do a lot of peer editing. If your child has brothers and/or sisters, we may get them involved no matter what their age.
I have taught for 27 years and have led teams to speech competitions. Perhaps my most successful came early in my career. While teaching kindergarten, I volunteered to coach the winner who wrote the best speech in each grade. At that time of bilingual education, we wrote speeches in either English or Spanish, depending upon the child's home language. So I had 12 competitors, six per language. Ten of the twelve brought home blue ribbons. As I was teaching in Watts at the time (the heart of the South Central LA ghetto), my colleagues (very few of whom spoke Spanish) were amazed. In addition, I discovered a number of years ago that the key to teaching effective writing was to truly teach effective speaking. Give children a clear, coherent voice first and THEN they will be able to put their ideas more clearly on paper. So oral language and public speaking have been a primary focus in my instruction for years.
I have been teaching and tutoring reading off and on for more than twenty years. Children today spend so much time on video games, they often lack the requisite skills and experiences necessary to develop a love of reading. And with today's emphasis on test scores, teachers are increasingly subjecting their students to reading "exercises" rather than reading "experiences". The result is children hate to read. So I work differently than most tutors. I do not jump right in with phonics or comprehension tests.
I jump in with "attitudes". Does your child hate to read? Why? How can we turn that around? Stated another way, I don't want your child to simply learn how to read. I want your child to learn how to love reading. I want to set your child on the road to becoming a life-long learner, rather than someone who reads only when he/she has to.
Why on earth did teachers stop teaching spelling? Somehow we got the idea that if children simply read and wrote enough, spelling would naturally develop. In some cases it does. But in many cases it does not. So unique to all the subjects I teach and have written about in these "Qualifications" sections, I teach spelling the old-fashioned way. We work from a book and we learn the rules. We put words into family groups. We identify patterns. We then look at the exceptions to the rules.
And we write.
Spelling can be particularly challenging for many students. I know it was (and is!) for me too. And I am a writer! I tell myself, and I tell my students, that Hemingway was a notoriously bad speller as well. We both feel better.
I've taught inner city children for more than twenty years, for goodness sakes! Effective study skills are one of their major shortcomings! Also, I have been a social studies and math teacher for many years. Study skills are important in all academic areas, but particularly in math and social studies. I consider myself to be a very effective teacher. That means my students need to be effective learners. And they can't be effective learners if I have failed to teach effective study skills.
I have tutored vocabulary skill building through high school for more than twenty years. Teaching English as a Second Language has been particularly useful to me in honing my skills in teaching vocabulary skills. For younger children, I rely heavily on pictures and images. We go on walking tours of the neighborhood exploring the familiar, then the unfamiliar. This is also true for anyone still learning English, no matter what age.
For older students, and particularly for those relatively sophisticated older students, there are a number of useful (and even fun!) vocabulary-building books. Depending upon your goals as a parent and the age and needs of your child as a student, we can discuss which books I think might be most appropriate. If your child is old enough and you would like a free tip (as well as save some tutoring money), I highly recommend "30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary".
What am I doing? I just talked myself out of a tutoring job, perhaps! Fortunately for me, students have a hard time on their own with that book and there are many others as well at all levels. I'm keeping those to myself for the moment. Building vocabulary is a life-long journey. I teach that as well.
After twenty-some years as a teacher, I was given the opportunity to focus on teaching creative writing. It has been my most gratifying subject to teach these last several years and in many ways reawakened within myself my own love of writing. As we speak, I am collaborating with a woman on the East Coast developing what we hope will someday become a book. In this testing-obsessed world we currently live in, children are not given the opportunity to explore creative writing, so I have found tremendous reward focusing on that oversight. I teach what isn't being taught.
Creative writing is an art; it is painting with words. For reluctant writers, for children who hate to write, creative writing can open up a world of enjoyment (and yes, even love) they (and perhaps even you) never thought possible. If your son or daughter does not like to write, or is challenged by writing, I encourage you to let me see what I can do in developing not just their writing skills, but their creativity as well. You may find yourself shaking your head in amazement. A child you formally couldn't get to write more than a sentence or two is not only churning out page after page all of a sudden, but discussing in the car their next story idea - one that occurred to them at ten o'clock last night!
Of course I also teach other forms of writing as well, what we teachers call expository writing (explanation), persuasive writing (convincing someone of your point of view), descriptive writing (including poetry), and, as I say, narrative writing (both fiction and non-fiction).
For older students and/or mature writers, I am very fond of using Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style". It has been a classic used to develop a clear, concise writing style for nearly a century now for very good reason. No book is better.
Most of my personal writing recently has focused on education. Some of it has found its way to various places online. If you like, I can show you some and you can read for yourself. A personal interest of mine is to write serious, informative pieces laced with a sense of humor. I seek to inform through laughter.
But that is just me.
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