Category Archives: good wishes, new year, growth, teaching, change, learning, school

Thoughts on a Page- Random

Rhythm- rhyme

Taken together-

A chorus Line

The moment you begin

You will be moving yourself forward

The moment you take to care

You will be improving

for all around You

The moment you stop to share

and  breathe and pause and renew

You will be giving and…

– giving is needed by all

to Begin.

– Let’s start again- Here is to September 2011

A New School Year Approaches- Are you Ready?

Keep watching as I will be posting websites, reading lists and a few templates.

As always, only best regards from ALI, your English Tutor

Excuses, Excuses or Pet Peeves

Ever noticed how someone can be incredibly rude and then think they are being clever when they suggest their rudeness is the result of a disability? GRRR…

Recently entered a bank and was accosted by the grating sounds of a female shouting nonsense into her cell phone- when told she was Yelling, instead of toning it down this ignoramus laughed that she was” deaf”.  Her use of a very real disability that afflicts many people as her excuse for rudeness was even more disgusting than her decision to expose all of us to her ridiculous conversation.  This is not just another tirade against misuse of cellphones – the person was an adult female whose ignorance was grotesque and proved the point that when some people open their mouths, their ignorance shows.  Over the past decade I have come in contact with many students with special needs- Please help me spread the word that pretending an illness instead of saying “excuse me”  is bottom line low.  I understand when people shout in their cars and forget to change the decibel level once entering a public space- but don’t pretend to be a wit by mocking a group that have a very real need.  That this woman was a fool was apparent to all in the bank- unfortunately her attitude may not change without social pressure reminding people to offer each other, regardless of perceived need – a little bit of thoughtfulness. 

Summer and Volunteer hours

Often I discuss basics relating to education, and volunteering is one of the better ways to gain experiential knowledge.

I love sharing great websites- what makes a website great?

When a website does offer helpful information in an easy to apply format-

The following comes from Patricia Rossi, America’s Etiquette and Protocol Coach,who is based in Florida, and her comments relating to “Intern Success Secrets” apply to the many students here in Toronto who are gaining community service hours this summer. 

Some tips to help you get ahead:

  • Be professional. Take your responsibilities seriously and treat your internship as if it were a full-time job.
  • Dress for success. Make sure you dress appropriately by observing what your co-workers are wearing. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
  • Be punctual. Make sure you show up for work on time, including after lunch and breaks. Tardiness is not a quality potential employers are looking for. Also, do your best to avoid missing work. If you must take time off, be sure to request permission in advance.
  • Develop a good rapport with the boss. Don’t complain about the tasks you are given and even offer to do the project no one else wants to do. Don’t underestimate a menial chore, as it is just one more task that teaches you how an office works.
  • Find a balance. Be proactive by identifying office needs. This will demonstrate initiative and motivation. But, be sure to find a nice balance so you don’t appear to be a brown-nose or overly confident.
  • Approach your work with enthusiasm. Even though some projects may not appear too exciting, your eagerness may convince supervisors to give you bigger responsibilities.
    • Watch for growth and training opportunities. If there is a project that interests you, ask a supervisor if there is anything you can do to help. Let them know your interest in the project. Never stop learning!
    • Build a network. Be polite and courteous to everyone and establish valuable connections. Getting to know people in the company may lead to great opportunities. Try to set up informational interviews with various staff members. Always avoid office gossip.
    • Relax and have some fun. An internship probably won’t make you rich, but it has the potential to be very rewarding. Make the most of your experience and it will help get you started on the right career path.

    Wishing you much happiness and success!



Grease and other summer movies-

My school age students (k-12) are visibly relaxing this week- are yours?  June always reminds me of the importance we place on ritual: tests, final projects, exams, reports and ceremonies.  One of my rituals is to get out a stack of movies that are set in a school, and just indulge in a few, and remind myself how Hollywood simultaneously manages to glamorize the teaching profession while bashing administrators and capturing the essence of why so many of us do teach- ’cause the students are great!  The students are great even when getting into trouble, talking back, periodically dropping out, and behaving nastily towards each other.

This past year I have been both administrator and teacher, and the two hats require quite a bit of juggling.  As I prepare for summer students I find myself wondering why I so enjoy teaching through the summer- the pleasant weather? the students appearing less pressured? the knowledge I have that, with longer days, students will get it all done within the shorter time frame?  Yes and one more- the fact that the preparation will have its effect long-term, and that as each student grows toward his/her “eureka” moment, the maturing, which inevitably takes place over the summer weeks, will also result in a better use of time over the upcoming fall/winter-school year.

Hope everyone manages a little bit of romance, a little bit of change, a whole lot of learning, and the chance to grow, like the flowers and the grass and trees, upwards …

Best wishes as always-

Oh yes you can!


  Happy students = Happy teacher and today my name is “Happy”

Not only is it a beautiful spring morning but also this weekend I heard from parents and children- University acceptances are in, student work is showing marked improvements, adults have had business proposals accepted- deadlines are being met, and my elementary school age students are growing…I tutor English to a broad range of students, children and adults, who keep me constantly on the lookout for up to date new materials. I mix and match lesson plans as many of my students are first language English speakers in need of clear direction how best to improve in their usage (homework help, k-12), on school reports, post secondary papers.  With adults, again I tend to be eclectic and select materials for the professional business person per each student’s background and current needs- it is challenging and fun to learn about others- in addition there is the “specific to the test” prep as required.  But perhaps most importantly – I believe everyone can learn how to do it for him/her self. 

You see I was lucky- I grew up in the 70’s, a time of tremendous change, when “rail against complacency”,   “enjoy the journey”, and “challenge yourself” were buzzwords, and learning to ask “why” a mantra to be practiced.  And I do like to read, but not everyone does, which can make the school program(s) a real challenge for some. What I have found is that many students who don’t like to read don’t know How to read, and have accepted that they “can’t”.  Actually they Can, with proper instruction and guidance, master what is needed to achieve academic goals.  I don’t think everyone has to become a book lover any more than everyone has to become physicist; some people’s personalities are more inclined to grow in certain directions. But everyone can learn how to move through a school system and own their own learning style.   We just have to adopt the mantra of a little blue engine that made it up a hill and brought toys to the children on the other side- keep saying ” I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”  ask questions, take chances, and grow. 

Yes, You can.

Don’t you just hate piggy backing google spam?

Hi everyone,

   my name is Alison and this is my space.  I am a private tutor and my students tell me that this space is inundated with google spam featuring the logos and ads from major tutoring companies which means, the decades worth of graduate schooling that I have earned (my writing) is absorbed by these big companies and exploited by them- while they hire young kids to do their teaching – I am not a computer geek so don’t know how to remove the ads- in Academics this would be plagiarism – why is it OK? 

Your feed back is welcome – thank you from Alison (ALI)

Spring and the Growing Season- on a Mother’s Day morning.

   Growing is what happens when a student of any age stretches and pushes beyond their original level.  On this Mother’s Day morning my two children are still sleeping and I am still juggling the challenges that come with being a single parent, of two now nearly grown up, beautiful young adults, and developing a small business.  I love what I do, that tutoring gives me the chance to work directly with so many different people of various backgrounds and at a broad range of learning levels.  And I love being a mom and knowing that the two now deeply sleeping will soon fill this home with their energy and enthusiasm and caring.  What I try to nurture as I grow with them is their curiousity, for it is curiousity that allows for learning to take place.  Happy Mother’s Day to all celebrating today and stay curious.  

Please everyone note I can be contacted directly through email to . I am repeating the blog below because a reader mentioned that my recent blogs have been absorbed by Google ads! While this is a compliment of sorts I guess, that the big Tutoring firms have chosen to piggy back on my blog, I remain Ali (Alison) the English Tutor- one woman with twenty years of active teaching and learning here in Toronto and in Manhattan.  I am able to cull from that experience to personalize lesson plans and work together with a student and a student’s family for the strongest outcome.  Ali stands for Achieve Learning Ideals, my company is called Together Academics because nothing grows in a vacuum

 For me the most important part of the lesson is when a student gives input – if I am helping a student edit work during a writing conference, I am very careful to make sure that the final result remains the student’s words.

Content: How do students of any age prove their knowledge?  Usually through some form of test taking.   And my role is to help improve the student’s ability to get credit for learning.  I have worked with many a student who didn’t realize how important it is to respond directly to the question.  As a tutor I value all the extra free thinking I get to hear, but I know that certain forms of testing still want very focused responses and a deliberate review of in class material. 

Words on a page form an argument, present a point of view and establish proof of accepting or rejecting the assigned materials a teacher is testing on.  For example, if a student is being asked to discuss a current event, the teacher marking the paper will be looking not only for clear grammar and punctuation, but most importantly for the discussion itself; how was the argument formulated? I’m going to try to be extra clear now- and mention that Academic argument is not the same as a “fight”.  It is closest to an examination of a point of view, a sharing of an opinion with an attempt to support that opinion through strong examples

             Think. Create. Perform. Commit to Practice. Improve.

Games, Golf and Good marks

” Know that nothing will bother or upset you on the golf course, and you will be in a great state of mind for every shot” courtesy of Bob Rotella, from The Golfer’s Mind, Play to Play Great.

Yes, and “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a Heaven for”  ( Robert Browning) “Everyone makes mistakes- don’t erase it- learn from it”- Alison  ( aka Ali the English Tutor)

We all have particular sayings that tend to just fit into a situation, and what the three above have in common for me is how practice and focus go hand in hand.  I have watched students furiously erasing words on a page, while glancing at the clock throughout a timed test.  Erasing takes time- better to draw a line through the offending section and move on. 

Back to Golf which in today’s televised sport’s world allows for instant replays – and no erasures.  And High Definition permits closeups that show the emotion of the competitors while we, watching, get to recognize their distress at missing a shot.  We also get to view the next focused shot, cleanly executed and performed as a result of practice, and understand that the players have decided to “Love the challenge of the day, whatever it may be” (Rotella).  Learn how to study, prepare, and share- and like great golfers everywhere, practice.  The good marks will come.

Passover, Easter, Studies and Chocolate

What is it about candy and chocolate that holidays seem to encourage their consumption?    

My grade four teacher used to return project work with a little Hershey’s bar tucked inside, adding sweetness to the marking process.  And listening to students get excited at the prospect of chocolate covered matzoh, or chocolate Easter Eggs brought back the memory of those tiny Hershey bars, scotch taped to the top of a paper.   The atmosphere when waiting to get papers back was electric; project work completed nearly always resulted in a free 1/2 hour with students munching while this teacher read aloud from her favourite story collection.  Best of all, she was a swift marker, no lengthy weeks of waiting to receive results. And all the students were given a treat, valuing effort made.  The holiday feel in that classroom was regular (but not daily), a mini ritual, a reminder of each unit of learning completed. 

Chocolate covered matzoh and Easter bunnies tell me that not only has another winter been managed but that celebrating the return to “order” and appreciating the beauty of annual renewal can involve indulging a little bit- Enjoy!

Practice and more

What to do when sharing knowledge about a specific focus seems more natural than twittering about my day?  Take a tip from myself and start by practicing.  I am a huge believer in the fact that being able to “wing it” comes from many many “practice run throughs” until the knowledge one wishes to share truly has been understood at the personal level and will be accepted as such.