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Tutor profile: Molly O.

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Molly O.
Student Success Specialist with 10 years experience
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Questions

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

How do you approach teaching English to a student who is either a non-native speaker or who isn't completely comfortable with the English language?

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Molly O.
Answer:

When I was interviewing for a writing consultant/tutor position at the University of Southern California, I was asked how I could make myself more approachable and empathetic to students who were coming to see me for support. At the time, I answered that I recognize that tutoring can either be an incredibly uplifting or insecurity-ridden effort and everyone's motivations and reasonings are different. Learning and writing in English are incredibly personal processes, and students can sometimes feel defensive when their academic work is critiqued or even commented on, especially by someone who does not have "teacher" or "professor" in their title. However, I believe I am able to assuage students' insecurities about outside-of-the-classroom additional learning, making them realize that I am only there to help them, not to further prompt insecurity or frustration. After I got the job at USC, I worked with many students (undergraduate through doctoral), but I became the primary consultant for ESL and nontraditional students. The experience of working with students who have potentially higher barriers inspired my desire to work in an international education setting so I could learn more intimately about the English learning process and outcomes for non-native speakers. Now that I have worked one-on-one with Japanese students and foreign exchange students at a private school in Tokyo, I am much more informed and sensitive to the needs of ESL learners and those that are not so comfortable even with their own language. While I was working in Japan, the majority of my time was spent finding innovative ways to make learning English fun; I worked with over 300 students and not a single one was the same in terms of their learning standards and preferences. Based on this experience, I believe I have the patience, cultural and emotional sensitivity, and ambition to help non-native speakers feel more relaxed and content when they are learning English. The most important aspect of teaching English to non-native learners is not making them feel bad or insecure if they make a mistake - I believe that over-correcting, especially in the context of speaking, can be incredibly damaging and prevent further improvement and motivation. In the context of English writing, it is acknowledging what non-native speakers have expressed clearly and giving them alternative ways of writing their ideas without explicitly telling them that what they have is wrong or too simplistic. Tutoring is a delicate art and everyone experiences it differently. Interestingly, although my experience at USC working with non-native speakers illuminated many of their academic learning issues, I found that it was the native speakers who were not completely confident in English who had the most insecurity and hesitation about tutoring. After working with 10 such students on a weekly basis - with assignments ranging from English literary analysis to argument papers and research summaries - I realized that approaching tutoring as a friend and learning soundboard is more effective (and encouraging) than acting like an authoritative expert tutor. Consequently, I approach English teaching with both native and non-native students the same way - as their ally and confidante who is there to help them with the unique challenges they face academically and even socio-emotionally.

Subject: Education

TutorMe
Question:

The educational standards and learning outcomes of elementary school students in Japan and the US differ considerably, as is to be expected. What are some major educational takeaways that the US can adopt from its Eastern counterpart? On the other hand, what educational practices can Japan learn from the US?

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Molly O.
Answer:

In addition to the way in which elementary school is conducted in Japan, the way students learn and grow outside of the classroom is very different compared to the US. One of the most distinguishing aspects of the Japanese elementary school educational environment relates to cleaning, which would undoubtedly surprise many American students. Japanese elementary students are not only taught to clean up after themselves following a meal or activity (as they are in the US), but also taught to be responsible for their entire school's upkeep. Following the end of the school day, Japanese elementary school students are not allowed to leave the school until they have successfully worked together as a team to clean their entire school. Teachers divide classrooms and students into small groups that are assigned different tasks (i.e. washing the chalkboards, mopping the floors, cleaning the stairwells, wiping the desks, straightening out filing cabinets, etc.). This activity inspires social responsibility that follows students into their adult lives, teaching them to be mindful and respectful of their environment, which is evidenced by the overall cleanliness of the country. While I was living in Japan for three years, I noticed that commonly crowded areas such as subways, train stations, bus stops, and outdoor shopping malls were surprisingly spotless, free of trash, debris, and stains. When I spoke to fellow colleagues and professors about this unique situation, they told me about Japan's elementary school standards, wherein students are taught from an early age to clean up after themselves. Given the US' level of litter (most noticeably highways, train stations, city centers), American elementary school students (and greater society) could greatly benefit from the value of Japan's unique school-cleaning custom. In addition to social responsibility, Japanese elementary school students are also taught social values such as respect for elders and cooperation during the school day. In Japan, there is a unique system of hierarchy called "senpai-kohai," wherein younger students (kohai) are taught to respect and follow their senpai (older students), who are consequently responsible for nurturing their younger classmates. For example, Japanese elementary through high school students are highly encouraged to join sports teams and recreational groups that are hosted through the school. In these clubs, the older students are responsible for being role models and teaching younger students about cooperation and how to successfully complete activities (i.e. bowling, baseball, or painting). Meanwhile, younger students - through this system - learn to respect their elders and follow rules that keep peaceful relations between everyone. This follows children out of school and into their homes, where they are expected to help their parents take care of household chores and cooperate with their siblings. Although this cooperative and respectful culture of learning would be extremely valuable for American elementary school students to learn in the way of an established in-school youth mentoring program, Japanese students would also greatly benefit from learning about American standards of "if you see something, say something." In grade school, American students are taught to speak up if there is something wrong, especially if it is happening to them or to someone else. For example, this language is common in the bullying context. However, in Japan, since students adhere to the "senpai-kohai" culture of looking up to older students for counsel and direction, some younger students may hesitate to speak up for fear of speaking out of place. Consequently, American values of independence and confidence would strike a good balance to Japan's existing elementary school values. Furthermore, American students are encouraged to be very expressive and open about their own unique personalities, which is why their self-esteem is arguably higher compared to Japanese students of the same age. American elementary school students are often required to give individual presentations like book reports and science projects or encouraged to participate in talent shows, where they showcase their special talents and individual opinions. However, in Japan, elementary schools primarily focus on group work and group projects, downplaying individuality. Students will likely not give an individual presentation until close to when they graduate to the secondary level, which makes them more uncomfortable about working independently as they get older. Consequently, Japanese elementary school students would potentially develop a lot more self-esteem and courage to be more individualized if they follow this American educational practice. While both the Japanese and American elementary school education systems have a lot of advantageous practices, both could benefit from adopting certain customs from the other to ensure a greater future for global society.

Subject: Communication

TutorMe
Question:

Effective communication is essential to sound healthcare practice. Clear, coherent, and thorough communication is critical to protecting patient lives and providing appropriate care. In addition to verbal communication, nonverbal communication is a significant component of the medical communication process. How does doctors' nonverbal communication impact patient care?

Inactive
Molly O.
Answer:

Nonverbal communication plays a critical role in the medical communication process between doctors and patients. When doctors encounter patients suffering from daily anxiety or chronic pain and illness, nonverbal communication (i.e. eye contact, appearance, facial expressions) can assuage patient distress and facilitate better quality care. Doctors' skill in employing nonverbal communication practices promotes empathic relationships, resulting in tangible benefits such as greater patient satisfaction, treatment adherence, and clinical outcomes. For example, eye contact signals a doctor's level of affiliation, empathy, interest, and immediacy, impacting patient satisfaction and comfort. Research has shown that doctors who maintain eye contact with their patients are perceived as more credible, authoritative, sincere, and truthful than doctors who look away during interaction. Eye contact translates to more meaningful interaction, in which patients feel more inclined to speak freely about their ailments. Consequently, doctors' nonverbal behavior produces meaningful socioemotional exchange that is otherwise impossible through verbal speech alone. Nonverbal communication's value stems from its ability to communicate what words cannot. In doctor-patient interaction, nonverbal communication transmits and receives meanings that may not otherwise be expressed, especially in situations where language and cultural proficiency are limited. By consciously employing nonverbal communication, doctors can make a significant difference in their patients' current and future health outcomes.

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