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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 teacher... 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 and discuss... 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. If... 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 am thankful for mainly my father who first introduced me to the guitar. One day, he was playing his electric on the couch and something changed inside me and I had the urge to learn it. He had books on chord shapes and scales. After getting me started on the basic chord shapes of C and A major, he sent me on my own and I took off from there. I am also thankful for everyone I played music with over the years. Mainly my friends in high school. It is extremely important to play music with others any time you can because you will always learn something, every time and no matter how big or how small, it will make you a better musician.

I will never forget my favorite math teacher. Mr. Lazur taught ninth grade CAS Geometry (my school's version of AP) and also twelfth grade IB Calculus, so I was fortunate enough to have him as a high school freshman and then again as a senior. I'm incredibly thankful for Mr. Lazur because his fun and informal teaching style got even the most anxious students to actually enjoy math. In his classes I learned to think about math on a more “macro” scale, thinking about the concepts and how they related to each other rather than getting bogged down in numbers. He also knew exactly when and how to give a practical demonstration of a confusing concept so that none of us would ever forget it again. One of these demonstrations has stuck with me ever since, and I don't think I'll ever lose the knowledge it provided. We were in Geometry, working on volumes of solids. The previous day we'd learned the formulas for volume for cubes and cylinders, and today we were supposed to be learning... read more

When I think back to my education and the teachers who impacted my life, I am reminded of three teachers.   First was my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Gerheart.  She was amazing.  She was patient and loving.  No matter how silly or difficult I could be she still loved me.    Second, was Mrs. Wren my humanities teacher.  She was strict, had high expectations and challenged me to be the best I could be.  It was because of her passion for literature and writing that I obtained my Master's Degree in Creative Writing.  I wasn't the best writer, but because of her dedication, I became a very good writer.    Third, was Mr. Edwards my government teacher.  He knew I was smart, but had difficulty taking tests.  He would meet with me afterschool and ask me questions relating to the material he was teaching.  What I didn't know was he was giving me a test.  I would answer the questions and he would take... read more

This is a simple question for me, but it might not be for everyone. I am a poet, a journalist, and a creative nonfiction writer. The teacher who springs to mind, is my 6th grade teacher in Pleasant Hill, California. Every afternoon, when we had just finished lunch and recess time, Mr. Simon would have us file into the classroom quietly and lay our heads down on our desks and close our eyes. He didn't want us to be distracted by anything! Then, he would read us long stories. He read with a clear, strong voice that comforted us and made us feel safe even as he read about wildfires and floods. This was a special time in my life because I was being taught how to listen to the sound of words. I could not see, smell, or touch them, but I could listen. Learning to appreciate reading is all about developing good listening skills. I do think that listening to the sounds of words makes you a good writer and one who has a mind stuffed full of great vocabulary. Listening. Reading. Reading Aloud... read more

As a psychology undergraduate student I took a multivariate statistics course.  The course was very tough given that it was pre-SPSS and we had to calculate all of the equations manually.  The way I handled the course was by taking advantage of my professor's office hours and working in teams with fellow classmates.  By the end of the course, I felt very comfortable with this topic and was able to take more courses during my masters and doctoral studies.  Now I teach research and statistics at the bachelors, masters and doctoral levels.  The other important point is that the more one uses the information in an applied way, it is easier to grasp the material.

Everyone has different learning styles.   Some are visual learners; these people learn by "seeing", or visualizing a concept.   Others are auditory learners; they learn by hearing a concept explained to them.   Some learn best by simply reading, while others prefer to write things down.   Last but not least are the kinesthetic learners; they learn by doing, i.e. performing or acting out the concept or knowledge.   We often discover our learning style through trial and error. As a teacher in group settings, I will often incorporate all five learning styles into my routine until I figure out what "sticks" for each individual.    Let's take physics, for example. Say we want to describe the motion of objects in space.    For the auditory learners, I start by introducing the concept out loud.   "Today we are going to discuss two theories of physics... read more

When I was studying abroad in Italy, I was primarily studying art history. I went so that I could see the art that I had been enamored with and inspired by in person. I had no experience speaking Italian, though. Part of my requirement was to take Italian. No biggie, right? I figured I'd learn the basics and enjoy my semester going to to museums. And, everyone told me that a lot of English would be spoken. WRONG!  I ended up in an intensive, rigorous Italian class in a city where almost no one spoke English- imagine 5 years of high school language classes crammed into 3 months. The only way I survived was to actually go outside, and practice speaking the things I was learning in class. By the end of the semester I was partially fluent, writing 5-page essays and speaking with the locals at the market I shopped at weekly. On the last day I was there, an Italian tourist approached me and asked me directions to a city landmark. Without thinking, I answered in Italian, and she... read more

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