I have an M.A. in Journalism from New York University and a B.A. in English and writing from University of Virginia, where I was an Echols Scholar. I am a writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience in university, church, technical, and commercial magazine settings. My teaching experience includes GED as well as English as both a second and a foreign language. My current specialties are ACT/SAT/GRE test preparation, writing, math, foreign languages (French, Spanish, Latin), reading ... [more]
It's not unusual for students who have had no previous problem getting good grades in math to stumble when they hit algebra. Often this is because there are a few of the foundational skills that they never really internalized, so they've found work-arounds that take a while but get them the answer. Working to strengthen those skills usually helps a lot. There are several other conceptual issues that sometimes trip students up until the right explanation makes sense to them--working with negative numbers, with the nature of equations, with variables, etc. I've found that many students who thought they hated math can start to enjoy the pattern-recognition aspect of algebra and can become quite proficient in it.
If you had problems in algebra 1, it's helpful to review those before moving on to algebra 2. The latter course doesn't bring in that many new concepts, but it explores the ones you've already seen in greater depth, and brings in some of the trig concepts you probably started on in either algebra 1 or geometry. If you didn't have problems in algebra1, algebra 2 shouldn't be too big a problem so long as you keep up with the work. If you get behind, it's easy to get confused, but if not, it's mostly just integrating the concepts you already have.
I was fortunate to have an excellent French teacher in high school and a sister taking the same level of French at another school, so we learned it together as a way of speaking that our parents couldn't understand. For many students, there are several obstacles to learning French. First, leaving the gravitational field of English for the first time is extremely hard, especially when they don't really understand how English works. Second, they are ashamed to "make a fool of themselves" in classes with friends; finally, they simply don't have enough exposure to actually living in the language to have it become real to them or to develop an ear. Working on all these fronts, I find that students can venture out into conversation sufficiently to begin thinking in French. Once they accomplish that, the fire is lit and it's a matter of adding enough fuel to keep it roaring but not so much as to smother it.
Some students find geometry makes perfect sense--you can just look at it. For others, it seems totally arbitrary. For the latter, I try to show them why it is that things are as they are. Once these start to add together to make sense, they build on each other. I work very little on proving theorems, focusing much more on helping students recognize patterns and why they make sense. Generally this pattern-based logic will help the students who aren't visually oriented, which is the majority of those who don't do well in geometry.
I've worked with a lot of students both in prealgebra and in algebra 1 and 2. It's clear that understanding the basic foundations of math is pretty crucial to algebra success, and so we often have to reinforce the places where students may have gotten through earlier classes without full confidence in, for example, their multiplication tables or subtraction techniques. I help them spot patterns and shortcuts that will help those who hate to learn things just by memory grab hold of those areas. Mostly I find it important to help them see that math is all about recognizing patterns, and so it can be more like a game than the punishment it often feels like to them.
I studied Spanish for a year or so after graduating from college, mostly because I wanted to read some Spanish writers in the original language. So I wasn't terribly surprised that, when I found myself living in Madrid, I had a hard time conversing with people. It took months to get to where I was comfortable, but by exchanging English lessons for Spanish with a couple of my friends there, I did get pretty fluent. Then over the next couple of decades, I had to travel to a number of Central American countries, so I was able to maintain it. I think the fact that I had to really struggle to get fluent helps me understand how students feel as they approach the task of learning it themselves.
I've been writing and editing for several decades, and have probably encountered most of the snags that can plague writers during that time, from finding ideas to zeroing in on what your main points are to organizing to writing clear, clean sentences to editing. I'm good at helping people identify the ones that are bothering them and find ways around them.
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I've worked with scores of students (actually, hundreds is probably more accurate) on their test prep. For math, there are usually a couple of areas they're less than completely confident about, but it's almost always a question of recognizing what type of problem it is, and therefore what tool to pull out of the massive math toolbox. I'm good at helping students recognize the problems and get comfortable with a more limited number of tools that will work for almost all the math questions they'll encounter, and especially find the shortcuts that will get them there with the least work (and thus the least chance of careless error.)
Although the GRE is different in several ways from either the ACT or the SAT that you probably took before entering college, it does share a couple of characteristics with those tests. The first is that it is, in my opinion, overvalued, but you and I aren't going to change that, so the question is how to do your best on it anyway. The second is that the skills that help you succeed on this test are fairly different from those that make you a good and successful student, although they do relate to those skills in ways you might not predict. I can help you sharpen the skills and strategies that will increase your score on all sections of this test. If you can work on practice tests at home, we can work that much more quickly.
First off, I need to say that I don't think either the SAT or the ACT does a very good job of assessing writing skills; they give dorky prompts that pose unrealistic either/or questions, and their grading is notoriously poor. I can, however, teach students to organize their thoughts quickly and write a good essay which is most likely to succeed with those evaluating the essays. I can help them overcome the most obvious problems that plague beginning writers and warn more skilled writers off a few reefs that can wreck their chances for a good score.
I spent two years teaching English at the American Language Center in Morocco, teaching all levels from beginners to those preparing to take the TOEFL test. More recently I have been volunteering as an ESL tutor at Kentuckiana Refugee Ministries. While my experience is that conducting the classes entirely in English is the fastest way to become proficient, I am comfortable adjusting the amount of native-language use to the preferences of the student. I am at ease in both French and Spanish and speak enough Moroccan Arabic to be helpful to students from North Africa.
I was a school spelling champion for several years in elementary and middle school, and went to the Hampton Roads, VA, metropolitan finals for two of those years, placing second and fifth. I believe that good spelling comes from paying attention to the shapes of words when you're reading them as well as from the possible etymologies of the words--words of Greek origin are much more likely to have certain letter combinations, while German or Spanish will each have their own likely combinations. Of course, this all starts from being able to use the rules of phonics to define what are some of the possible pronunciations of words. I enjoy working with students on any and all combinations of these elements.
Having been a tutor since 2010, and having worked with students of all ages and ability levels in that time, I'm pretty familiar with the various issues that students (and especially parents) are referring to when they speak about study skills. The first of these tends actually to be time management skills, which tends to be related to the second, which is focus and attention management issues. Of course, many are actually asking about the specific skills related to studying, such as how to read and take notes from textbooks, how to study for a test from notes, and how to organize one's thoughts for writing an essay or paper. Often neither the student nor the parents can accurately describe or diagnose which of these issues or combinations of these issues are at the heart of the student's inability to function successfully in school, and it may take a bit of discussion and observation to establish where it's most fruitful to start working with the student.
I spent two years teaching English at the American Language Center in Morocco, teaching all levels from beginners to those preparing to take the TOEFL test. More recently I have volunteered as an ESL tutor at Kentuckiana Refugee Ministries. While my experience is that conducting the classes entirely in English is the fastest way to become proficient, I am comfortable adjusting the amount of native-language use to the preferences of the student. I am at ease in both French and Spanish and speak enough Moroccan Arabic to be helpful to students from North Africa.
Reading comprehension is one of the slowest content areas to improve a score on, because the truth is reading a lot over several years is really the best way to do extremely well on this test. However, there are a number of ways to approach the test that will improve most students' scores 3 or 4 points, and it doesn't take most students more than half a dozen sessions to get the hang of those techniques.
I have worked as a writer and editor for more than 20 years, but my greatest strength as an ACT English tutor is recognizing the kinds of questions most students are likely to miss and helping them recognize those. I am also good at helping students understand when they can trust their ear and when they must follow rules because standard oral American English doesn't follow the rules the test's grammarians are looking for.
This is one of my specialties. I'm good at helping students get comfortable with the content areas where they feel a little shaky, because confidence is one of the most important issues in taking the test. But my greatest strength is in helping them learn a half-dozen short-cuts to getting answers quickly and learning which questions to skip the first time through. Finally, there are 8 or 10 things they need to look for throughout the test. When they spot one, it's a sure short-cut to the right answer. I've had students jump from a 19 to a 27 and a 24 to a 30 after 8 or 10 sessions.
This is an odd test, because it actually relies very little on the supposed content, scientific knowledge. What it tests most is the ability to make sense of charts, figures, tables and diagrams, and to recognize what patterns in those visual aids imply. Some reading comprehension work and some math work can help, but more than anything this is an area where practice in the techniques of taking the test will pay off. I help students work through practice tests until they're comfortable working them quickly on their own.