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Some parents equate hiring a tutor with purchasing an item at Wal-Mart vs. Saks Fifth Avenue: the cheaper the better. Fortunately, most parents realize that, just like the variable quality of those purchases, tutors are not interchangeable. These parents refuse to flush time and money down the toilet by using a novice provider. In the end, it's our children who get short-changed, and we only want the best for our loved ones.   So what qualifications should you look for when you are thinking of hiring a tutor? After seven years of running my own special education tutoring service, I've listed 17 important attributes  -- if your top interviewee out of the two to three tutors you interviewed has at least 10 of these qualities, you've hit a home-run!   The "best" tutor for your child:   has a Master's Degree in the subject area you are seeking, i.e. English, Special Education, Math, etc. has five or more years experience teaching... read more

If you are struggling to find ways to tap into students' prior knowledge, or you want them to organize information in a particular manner, there is nothing quite like the power of thinking maps to jumpstart the brain juices ! However, it's not quite enough to just give students a piece of paper and let them have at it--chances are, if you do this, they will probably just doodle all over the paper because they are still looking at a blank sheet and have no idea what information needs to go where.   Here are 5 ways to use sticky notes and chart paper so that your students really get the most out of using them.   1. Sticky notes are SMALL, so there's not a lot of room. Now, this may seem awkward or impractical, but it actually trains students to shorten their responses---similar to Facebook or Twitter statuses--which is extremely helpful if you have students (or teachers, like me) who tend to be a little wordy. Common Core and SBAC demand that students be able... read more

Having spent the last four months with two German teenagers, I have learned of some great resources to make learning more interesting. Especially for foreign learners, active and hands-on learning has been wonderful. I have incorporated modern pop songs for dissection of poetic devices, the YouTube series CrashCourse for many subjects (US History, World History, Science, and Literature), and we have also listened to recitations of poetry (Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman) and speeches (Julius Caesar by Shakespeare). I recommend connecting with your age group appropriately. I have also taken the time to discuss real-world interests with my students, as the practice with English speaking has been essential to their learning. A brief 5 minutes of talking about video games, recent family outings, or other interests connects you to your students and gets them motivated to want to learn and take in the information you are providing.   Good luck!

1) Getting to know the things you like and relating it to the tutoring session.   2) Bringing in real world problems to relate to the content/reading.   3) Substituting your name and situations in passages to make a greater connection.   4) Developing own problems and stories with silly content.   5) Snacks & Drinks!!!

Understanding your child's / student(s)' learning styles is one of the most important factors in helping them reach success.  At the end of the day, why else did we become parents or teachers but to watch the next generation learn?  The problem is that we often assume that everyone learns and processes information the same as we do.  If they don't, does that mean there is something wrong with THEM?!  Absolutely not!! Respecting and building on the natural learning style of the learner, in my opinion, is the most important role of the tutor.   In my day, everything was pretty much done by taking turns reading aloud.   The problem for me was that I was not good at processing information while reading aloud nor was I savvy at auditory processing.  For several years I was treated as though something was wrong with me and given that I had an older sister who processed information "normally," I internalized that message for a very... read more

Having first studied Chinese as a second language (both in a Stateside classroom setting and an immersion setting in China for 3 years) before teaching it to others, I believe I gained some important insight on what it takes to grasp this challenging yet highly rewarding language. I will try to keep my tips pithy.   Master the pinyin chart before progressing any further. Why? I have seen students both in and outside Mandarin speaking areas acquire some incorrect pronunciation habits that were very difficult to correct later on. If we heard of an English teacher that did not correctly teach the alphabet to English beginners, we would naturally red flag that teacher's method. However, neglecting to fully master the foundational pinyin chart happens quite often with Chinese learners, and the results are discouraging for the learner and confusing for the listener.  Focus on all 4 language skills: reading, writing, listening, speaking. It may be... read more

I call myself semi-retired, because I don't work in classrooms anymore. But maybe I should just retire: kids' attitudes today have me slightly baffled. I recently began working with a new high school student who had a summer reading requirement, a modern play, before his AP English class started. To aid him, so I thought, I researched and found (and printed out for him) a secondary reference article, giving some historical background on the play's topic. When I returned and asked him if he'd read it, he confessed that he hadn't. "Well," I said, "go get the article and we can discuss it together." He came back a moment later, somewhat sheepish: "I don't know where it is. You see, in school, we're never given anything on paper, so I don't really know how to keep track of papers. We are always given PDFs." I'm afraid my mouth dropped open a little-- no paper? You don't know what to do with a paper if I hand one to you? He explained, if you would just send... read more

Whether they know it or not, my LSAT students end up internalizing one of my big ideas about the exam... and rightly so, as it's consistently helpful in framing their approach. That big idea is best summed up by the phrase "limits of information."   It's a pretty simple concept. On the one hand, the LSAT demands that you become extremely sensitive to the limits of information that arguers use in Logical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension (particularly in the former). Fully half (and arguably even more) of the Logical Reasoning section features arguments made by folks who think the evidence they provide for their conclusions is complete, but your job is to point out where their evidence is too limited to support the conclusion.    On the other hand, questions that ask you to build inferences based on what you're told in a passage or argument, or Logic Games that require you to piece smaller bits of information into larger ones do the exact... read more

Parents of high school sophomores and juniors should consider NOW focusing on A.C.T. prep as an alternative to the "new S.A.T."  Why?   1.  Current sophomores and juniors are caught in the transition between the current/"old" SAT, which continues through the fall semester, and the "new" SAT which debuts in March 2016; the "old" version expires in January.  The A.C.T. will be the same test format after January as before.   2.  A much wider variety of well-established and proven study materials exist, right now, for the A.C.T. compared to the "new" S.A.T.      3.  The A.C.T. has a well-established reputation for being more closely tied to the high school curriculum than the S.A.T.  (S.A.T. reading passages and vocabulary have tended in the past -- and appear to continue, based on early-released samples -- to include more obscure content that most high school... read more

Success is not final Failure is not fatal It is the courage to continue that counts -Winston Churchill As a child I dreamed the American dream… to grow up, be married, wanted a dog, a house, and a fantastic corporate job. Disney movies aided in this optimistic view of the future. As a teenager, I searched for my “independence” and aimed for getting into a good college. As an adult the view of success is ever changing. Many opinions on what makes one successful is out there. Ways to gain it keep it, measure it, etc. It is not something that can be measured universally. They all vary on the person attempting to achieve them. It makes me think of the moments of speaking with children and teenagers in my recruiting days of what they valued and felt would make them successful. The two main events that come to mind were while giving a Texas Scholar speech and recruiting for undergraduate admissions at a Junior College. The Texas Scholar speech... read more

Ever had to figure out the total amounts received from all of your eBay sales in a year? Or when you should stock up your inventory for a list of product based on a 90-day cycle? Or simply converting an Excel date serial number to its appropriate date form? Here are a few useful formulas for the next time you encounter these and other similar challenges.   First of all, imagine that you have a list of dates that you want to copy from another document into an Excel spreadsheet. You do your usual right-click + copy (or Ctrl + C), shift over to Excel, and right-click + paste (or Ctrl + V); and behold...a list of serial numbers came into view.   But I copied a list of dates, not serial numbers. You thought to yourself. How do I fix this?   The answer to this is quite simple: Highlight the column where the data resides (i.e. Click on the column header "C" if the serial numbers are pasted into column C), go to the Home... read more

The primary way to help students of any level learn is to get back to the basics, the A, B, C's of learning.  That's right.   We ALL probably hum our A, B, C's when we thumb through listings or even do a little light filing.  Guess what?  It's imprinted on our brains. THAT's the way to teach, simple methods that have proven results.  It's like the greeting card reads, "I learned everything I needed to know in Kindergarten."  So, let's expand on that.   

In the course of tutoring, almost daily, I run across words that students do not know, and not understanding these words hampers them significantly.   Just today, a student did not know the word, "exhibits." The sentence was a question about the passage she had just read.   What personality trait(s) does our main character exhibit?   A good tutor,  and I try every day to be one!) doesn't just give her kiddos an exercise to do. First, he or she should read it, evaluate its appropriateness, and then, if it is something that will be effective and enlightening, administer it.  The tutor should also discreetly observe the student while he or she is completing the assignment. Finally, because work without feedback is of little value, the tutor should grade and evaluate that work, (if possible,) within that same session.   Well, today, I was observing my teen student while I was preparing yet another quick... read more

***Disclaimer: I write blog posts the way I think and speak, so pardon the grammar and the non-formal language, Enjoy!*** First things first, as a tutor you need to realize you aren't their teacher... so relax! You don't have to take a dictatorship role with them. Get to know the students you are working with. I say "students" because aren't we all just trying to learn something? Doesn't matter how old you are, you are always a student... only the setting and situation has changed a bit. With that in mind, everyone is different so therefore people also learn differently, people are motivated by different things. By getting to know your students, you will be able to understand their needs that extent farther than simply their academic needs.  Don't take yourself too seriously! This goes hand-in-hand with number one, but it's true! You want your students to feel comfortable working with you, and that won't happen if you're a stiff.  Treat your students... read more

I have been asked over and over again why I have decided to blog and work on a book. I have been asked what subjects the blog will address. Is there a certain flow or style to the blog? My reason for blogging is multileveled. My #1 reason for blogging is to educate and or bring awareness. I am not looking for everyone to be in agreement with me; however, I do have a voice to be heard. I used to be a shy young lady that only went after comfortable things. I rarely walked outside of my box and comfort zone. I by no means was an introvert, but have always been one to sit back and observe first. Freshman year in high school a teacher asked me about considering joining the debate team. She lured me in by advising I would meet nice looking guys. She neglected to share with me that this would help me even out my views on life, hone my communication skills, and would forever burn in my heart. After being out of high school, I went back and judged state qualifying tournaments for ten... read more

As an educator who specializes in children who walk to their own learning beat often labeled "special needs", out the gate I want you to understand that it is my philosophy that everyone has their own special learning beat. Some beats are just more intricate than others and  it is basically up to us as educators to become well versed on the various beats (learning styles/strategies) to help our students become successful in the classroom.   All educators and students have their own teaching and learning style. Being able to become adaptable/flexible to who your students are and what their needs are will help them find their inner scholar. Students will take chances for educators they believe are willing to dance to their beat. Dancing to their beat is all about learning the student past the IEP. An educator asks questions, learns likes and dislikes, understands family dynamics and embraces their culture. Its like becoming an unofficial member of a special... read more

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