Monday, March 28, 2011

A 25-Point Improvement

Rocky (not his real name), a freshman in a New York City public High School, received a score of 58 on his last Geometry test before I started tutoring him. On his next test, the first after I tutored him in Geometry for one and three quarter hours, his score was 83, a 25 point increase! The improvement was so significant that Rocky’s teacher wrote an encouraging comment of recognition on the top of Rocky’s test. I do not know who was more proud and satisfied: Rocky, his parents, or me.

To what do I attribute the 25-point improvement? During our first tutoring session, Rocky and I reviewed his most recent Geometry work; including teacher handouts, worksheets, and notes he had taken in class. Rocky knew theory but needed more practice applying it. I congratulated and reinforced him when he correctly solved a problem. I also corrected him when he wrongly applied a theory or made a calculation error.

During our conversation, I learned that Rocky might experience test anxiety that prevents him from doing his best work. I briefly demonstrated and had Rocky practice some anxiety and stress reducing techniques that he could use before and during a test if he felt nervous. At our second tutoring session, Rocky said he found the techniques helpful.

I am convinced that Rocky’s 25-point improvement was not attributed to my command of Geometry or superior tutoring skills but rather to the individualized attention I provided Rocky. Overcrowded public schools staffed by underpaid teachers cannot provide the individualized correction and encouragement a tutor can provide. For parents who cannot afford private school and want their child to excel, a tutor might provide their child with enough extra attention to help them get the most out of their public education.

So far I have tutored students in Bushwick, NY (a neighborhood in Brooklyn), Ridgewood, NY, and Glendale, NY (neighborhoods in Queens), but I prefer to tutor students in the Ridgewood, NY area.  I  have worked with students as young as sixth grade and as old as twelth grade, tutoring in both English Language Arts and Math, including Algebra, Geometry and Algerbra II/Trigonometry.  The greatest reward I receive from tutoring is not the extra income it provides, but knowing that students like Rocky come closer to reaching their full potential.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Sacred number
Triune enumerator

Decimal declinator

The loneliest number
But more to come

Completeness, but not quite

Calculating out of sight

Monday, March 7, 2011

Returning to the United Nations

The UN Headquarters in New York City
Most residents of New York City have probably never visited the United Nations Headquarters in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan overlooking the East River. I recently did.
I first visited the United Nations before I lived in New York. In fact, I visited it twice before moving to its host city. In the mid 90’s I participated in a three day, two night, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) United Nations Seminar organized by the Peacemaking Committee of Shenandoah Presbytery. At the time, I was a member of the committee. A few years later, I returned for a second tour of the UN. That tour was part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference the year the conference was held at Hofstra University on Long Island.
Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure to visit the UN a third time, but this time as a resident of New York City. I was helping with a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Youth United Nations Seminar involving youth and their adult leaders from upstate New York. Most of the seminar took place around the corner from the UN in the fellowship room of The Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. The afternoon of the seminar, we walked down to the UN and enjoyed a group tour.
Visiting the United Nations is like visiting an art gallery and museum. Numerous displays depicting and interpreting the work of the UN are intermingled with paintings, tapestries, sculptures, mosaics, stained glass and cultural artifacts given to the UN by foreign governments and wealthy patrons. One could easily spend a few hours viewing the displays and art.
Visiting the UN is also like visiting a foreign country, except it is not a country. Although a passport is not required to enter the UN compound, (in fact, no identification is required), one leaves US territory when entering. Many of the employees of the UN are foreign nationals, and many of the visitors are not American. Tours are available in any number of languages, as there are six official languages spoken at the UN: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
When you add the work of the UN General Assembly, Security Council and its various agencies that takes place in the building to the displays, art, culture and languages found in the building, the UN can be an awesome and exciting place. I have been to the US Capital Building and even visited members of the Senate and House of Representatives in the offices. I have been in the West Virginia Capital Building and Governor’s Mansion. The United Nations, however, surpasses them all in terms of culture, art and international mystique.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

About the March 2011 Header Photo

I shot this photo of a full moon over Mill Basin on the evening of September 28, 2010. Mill Basin is located in Southern Brooklyn and feeds into Jamaica Bay after passing under the Belt Parkway. Several marinas are located along its banks. Although I have twice explored Mill Basin by kayak, I have recently become more familiar with it as I have motored, and occasionally sailed, a C & C 24 through its waters and out into the more open water of the Jamaica Bay.