Newsletter Library

Alexandra in Tutorland

As we get ready for a new calendar year, I would like to share with you some updates from Thinking Caps. Though I usually reserve the Winter newsletter for a review of past months and preparation for the second half of the year, there is some exciting news that I really want to share! So, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome a few new members to the leadership team. Our staff has grown and shifted in the recent years. Every change has made us stronger and better able to serve our growing population. As we prepare for January, we are thrilled to have several long-standing tutors transitioning to expanding roles at Thinking Caps.

A picture of Jhokania De Los Santos

Jhokania “Jho-K” De Los Santos will be working in New York as an Academic Director overseeing Study Skills. As a tutor, Jho-K focused on study skills, English reading and writing, and Spanish language enrichment. She prides herself in not just teaching her students, but building positive mentorship relationships. A Division I athlete (Jho-K played softball as an undergrad), she values the importance of team work and collaboration. Jho-K brings extensive experience and training in clinical psychology to her work at TC. We’re excited to have her energy – and amazing organizational skills – in the NYC office.

A picture of Sawyer

Sawyer Huff, currently a Study Skills and English language tutor in New York, will now serve as our Academic Director and Outreach Coordinator for our North/Central New Jersey location. He is passionate about education and, in addition to aiding students academically, seeks to be a positive influence in young lives. Sawyer will maintain responsibility over the New Jersey campus and is looking forward to expanding our presence there. An avid reader, Sawyer will probably take it upon himself to make Moby Dick fans of the rest of the TC team.

A picture of David

David Moroney has been part of the TC team for over 3 years and has focused his energy on tutoring upper levels of math, science, and test prep. This fall, David expanded his role and now helps to oversee our Demystified Programs. His new responsibilities include curriculum maintenance and the design of interactive components for our SAT, ACT, and ISEE prep programs. In addition to this work, David also serves as the Academic Director for Demystified SAT and Demystified ACT. When he’s not thinking about Standardized tests, David is hiking in upsate NY, singing with a chamber choir, or performing with his band.

Please help us to welcome our new leaders with open arms. It’s going to be a great year!

A Tale of One Tutor

Lauren Heymann,

There's a difference between learning something in a book and really experiencing that knowledge in the real world. This past summer, I spent my time at UT's Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas. Every day, we would spend half of our time in the classroom and half of it out on the boat, exploring the bays, the beaches, and the Gulf. Everything we learned in the classroom came alive as we experienced “facts” in real life with our own eyes and touched “information” with our own hands. One day, we went out to the ship jetty at sunrise and snorkeled in the 50-foot-deep seawater. I had never snorkeled before, but I snapped on my gear and dove headfirst with enthusiasm.

As soon as I broke the surface, all sound from the outside world ceased. When I opened my eyes, I noticed how clear the water was and how different it looked from the pictures I had seen that morning. We had been studying Echinoderms, which is the taxonomic term for animals like sea urchins and starfish. Some tiny, striped Sargeant Major damselfish whisked past me, and I followed them with my eyes, surprised that I was so excited to see such a small, seemingly insignificant animal. But they weren't insignificant; they were alive and in their natural habitat, experiencing their wet world as they had for millions of years.

The silence of the water calmed me, and I floated, looking this way and that way for more marine life. And then I saw it. About five feet down from the surface and along the edge of the granite blocks on the side of the jetty, I saw black and purple spines sticking out from under a rock. I stared, fascinated, and dove down to get a closer look. The urchin was huge, maybe eight inches from one spindley end to the other. I located its lantern, which operated as a mouth and sat directly in the middle of the spines. I passed my hand over it, and its spines followed the motion, detecting the change in the water and preparing to protect itself. I was amazed.

Sometimes, after learning something in class that interests you, it's great to go out there and discover it all over again on your own. It's one of the many moments in your education that will stick with you and make you into a better student and a well-rounded, experienced person.

The (academic) Odyssey

Jackie Freeman, LCSW
Psychotherapist for Children, Adolescents, and Families

A picture of Jackie Freeman, LCSW

Winter break is finally here, which means it is time for some fun and relaxation! Since school started, you’ve put in long hours involving a ton of: studying, prepping, writing, presentations, and taking exams (and let’s not forget about your extra curricular activities too!). All your hard work can take a toll on you after a while both physically and emotionally. When you’re stressed out, a hormone called cortisol is released into your body and can cause serious emotional and physical problems down the road if not managed effectively. Research has shown that when people incorporate rest and relaxation into their lives, it can drastically improve brain functioning, health, and happiness. Here are some suggestions that help a young person like you de-compress:

1. Be Social: Socializing with people we care about has been shown to have a calming affect on people. Make plans to hang out with your friends who you didn’t get a chance to see much during the year due to workload. Just be careful not to overschedule yourself!

2. Get Moving: Regular physical activity has been shown to help people feel more relaxed and energized. So, if it snows, go outside and play in the snow with friends and family or go for a walk at least five times a week to get your body moving.

3. Sleep Regular Hours: Now is the time to get a full night’s sleep that you may have missed out on during the school year due to late nights and early mornings. Try to get at least nine hours of sleep each night. Also, try to keep your bed-time and wake up time close to your school schedule, that way when school starts again, it will not be hard to get back on schedule.

4. Do a Fun Activity: Do something you enjoy that’s unrelated to school. When people do an activity they truly enjoy and ‘get in the zone’ of what they are doing, a sense of calm and relaxation takes over. So, think of your favorite activity like: painting, reading, sewing, playing a sport, cooking, etc. and allow yourself to feel the calm waves take over.

5. Quiet time: Quiet time helps you quiet your mind and body. Spend time reading a new favorite book, listening to soft music, writing in your journal, or practicing deep breathing. 6. Eat Healthy: When people eat healthy, they tend to feel better emotionally. Processed sugary foods can make people feel irritable and tired. So, eat the holiday treats in moderation and choose vegetables, fruit, lean meat, fish, and whole grains when possible.

As your winter break comes to an end, remember that taking care of yourself is important. Try and practice these suggestions throughout the year, your mind and body will thank you!

Sense and Sensibility

A drawing of a student listening to music

A student asks: I learn best by studying from flash cards, but when it comes to math I never know how to study. You can't make flash cards for math can you?

Answer: You absolutely can! However, they might not look quite the same as your vocabulary flashcards for English Class. Some math concepts, such as Geometry theorems and Algebraic Equations, work particularly well with the traditional 'flash card' format. Write the name of the theorem or equation on the front and the details on the back! Symbols such as negative signs can easily be lost if your writing gets cramped, so write big and use large index cards, a bold pen, and neat handwriting when creating flash cards. The standard 3 x 5 index card is probably a little small. Another way to use index cards to study for math is by creating 'review cards,' where you take a larger amount of closely related information and put it all together on one card. Take a large index card and put a title at the top such as "Derivative Rules." Underneath the title list relevant rules, definitions, notes, and diagrams. You can use the back to show a neatly solved example problem from class notes or homework. At the bottom, list the page numbers of relevant practice problems from your text book. Using index cards is a great way to study for math tests, and to file away important information over the course of a year so that you can quickly recall it at a later date. Think of it as writing a helpful note to your future self!

Much Ado About Learning

"The hardest part of writing, from writing an academic paper to a short story and everything in between, is getting those first words down on the page. Therefore, it is important to just get something, anything down on the page. Don't worry if your first sentence or your first draft is absolutely terrible, it can only go up from there. Just start writing, don't be concerned about the quality -- just get words on the page." -- Lizzie Thompson, New York

"Hemingway said he knew all the ten-dollar words, but he preferred the simpler, better words. Never forfeit clarity just to sound smart. It is better to have a strong argument than pretty sentences." -- Avery Erwin, New York

"I always like to make a clear outline of what I want to cover in my paper. It doesn't have to be perfect, you can scribble down ideas, but, just getting started and writing out your thoughts really helps when it comes time to fill in the rest of the paper. Breaking down the paper into these smaller pieces is a great way to get over the stress of starting what seems like a really long assignment." -- Angela Le, Dallas

"If a writing assignment seems overwhelming, daunting, and impossibly huge at first, take a step back. Look at the assignment sheet. More than likely, you'll find several specific questions written right there to make sure you include all necessary information. This is your paper broken down to key points. Begin by writing everything you know to answer each question, and before you know it, you'll have more than enough information to fill an entire paper! After this, fitting everything into a clear, concise essay format is a simple matter of fill-in-the-blanks." -- Rebecca Bachman, Austin

"If you ever get stuck and you cannot figure out where to take a paragraph next, often asking questions, sometime as simple as "why?" about the last thing you wrote can serve as a way out. A lot of the time people think they have already answered the "why" questions, but there is often plenty more to answer. Asking the somewhat less obvious questions can help to extend your flow of ideas and give your writing a more personal touch." -- Chris Ruenes, New York

"Study common homonyms and homophones. Don’t lose style points because you put “dear in the headlights,” or 'I need to cell my car.'" -- Victoria Graham, Houston

"Chunk the writing process into steps to make it easier on yourself. First, think about what you want to argue (thesis): it should be a sentence that states an opinion that another person could disagree with. Secondly, think about the structure of your paper. How long is the assignment? How many body paragraphs might it take to prove your thesis? Consider giving each different piece of evidence its own paragraph. You can fill it in later. Thirdly, work on your introductory paragraph: is it engaging? does it incorporate your thesis? does it introduce the rest of what you'll be discussing in your paper? Finally, flesh out your paragraphs with more detail and write a conclusion that restates your thesis in a different way." -- Maya Vashee, Austin

"Writing doesn’t end with the last word on the paper. Don’t forget to edit! When I'm done writing, I always read what I’ve written out loud to myself. It really helps me catch grammar mistakes or even just hear an awkward turn of phrase. It feels silly sometimes, but it lets me get a better feel for how my writing flows together and how someone else might read it." -- Alec Puente, Austin