Category Archives: tutoring, learning, Higher Education, on line schools, FUNK



by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

THIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:–

There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;

And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged

A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords

Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner

Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.

A craven hung along the battle’s edge,

And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel–

That blue blade that the king’s son bears, — but this

Blunt thing–!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,

And lowering crept away and left the field.

Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bestead,

And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,

Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,

And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout

Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,

And saved a great cause that heroic day.

“Opportunity” is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.



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!



Just a minute…

Pregnant, purple stretch jumpsuit doing little to hide the obvious, bare feet in sandals, and slightly out of breath from a quick walk along Broadway from West 67 up to the campus at 116th I approached my professor for clarification- my paper had received an A- but only had one word with a line drawn through it as a marking, and I wondered how I could improve the focus, the details, the general tone of the piece?  The piece as a whole was fine I was told, but the word had been a poor choice-diction- and suggested more than one meaning.  “But it’s just one word?” I asked, unsure…and letting my annoyance slip through.  “Never “JUST” one word” replied my prof in his inimitable way, then the clincher: “Alison,EVERY word counts; this IS linguistics,”  Well I laughed, and I learned.

Today I hear students referring to word count and they mean how many words are allowed on a paper, or rather, how many words must they write.  I want them to write “as much as possible”, because editing a work is part of the process.  But most assignments do have a word count as do admissions essays and twitter blogs-

Diction or word choice becomes essential when the reader only has a minute to decide about a piece, Valuing the reader’s minute is a sign of respect, saying, “I care that you understand this”-and it is a skill that can be taught. But like many skills, the learning rarely takes only a minute.





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-

Are you really, really, really good at what you do?

     Are you really, really, really good at what you do?  DO you remember how, when young, repetition of words for emphasis brought the meaning home?  I was reminded of this by a student whose questioning about repetition throughout an essay had me jump up and find some strong examples of when and how an author effectively repeats a thesis, the theme, or even a symbol to keep the reader focused on the author’s purpose.  Why then are so many of us hesitant to use this technique?  Instead of scrounging around for a hundred different ways to say the same thing, focus on a clear way of describing and discussing your main point. If you highlight your thesis statement as you work on your essay, your writing will become more focused and your argument contained.  TRY it- then practice- and become really, really, really good at what you do-

  Achieve Learning Ideals- work with Ali  call 647 348 8436

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.

Marriage- Science and Art together !

    May, and the British Royal Wedding providing great photos even to those not interested in the monarchy.  I think people feel good about William and Kate because they look like they will be able to meld forces while retaining individual personalities.  – Can Science and Art do the same?   They always are, as a quick trip to an Art Gallery (I suggest AGO if you haven’t been for a while) proves when one looks at materials used and the ways in which technology is incorporated within the works on display. 

The question was recently posed “how reading coaches could better work with the American focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, the Stem approach to learning”  and as a reading coach I realized that the artificial divide between the arts and the sciences is one I constantly bridge for true student literacy growth.

    As someone who has been Arts based and still has a strong desire to promote the arts in education I am constantly reminding science focused students how relevant “thinking through the arts” can be to develop the critical thinking skills that help one problem solve.  As I understand the Stem focus, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, to include not just memorization of facts but interpreting these facts to create new ideas and see a push for further encouraging the collaborative approach, and utilizing museums and other hands on out of classroom learning facilities, the trend may be to move to full holistic recognition of what Literacy means.  When I coach, I mix up and select materials from a wide base to build not only fluency with decoding but also to encourage the scaffolding students need to develop to be able to make connections for themselves.  Active reading involves comprehending and questioning material, when students are shown that new vocabulary is just a new way of expressing ideas and sometimes a shorthand for communicating, they feel empowered to use this vocabulary. The STEM focus can be a way of organizing readings so that a student is both learning how to tackle a new reading level and is having other curriculum material reviewed with the reading coach.  We already know to work in conjunction with the student’s regular teachers- certainly I find math problems in early grades often to be the function of a student’s inability to read and make sense of the word problem.  So, for example, in coaching reading with a student in grade five, I will also introduce math questions, or in working with the Engineering students now at University level but having difficulty with essay writing I will shift my teaching to focus on how the readings for a course become models for the students writing.  Yes – I just jumped to writing skills, because for me the reading and writing skills remain entwined.  I also keep handy a list of writers who have been or are science focused and share their scientific knowledge throughout a novel.   

Science and Art – made for each other.

setting, character, plot development, story

        Add to the above, conflict, tension, and resolution- the basics to look for when deciding what to report on after a good (or not so good, read).  We tend to draw a simple cliff like diagram when doing a text analysis and draw the characters as if they were literally climbing the face of the cliff, chapter by chapter.  The tip is the turning point after which it is quite literally a downhill process- a tidying up of loose ends within the story and the conclusion.  The key to an effective analysis is recognizing the various strands, and noting the author’s signals.  The question then for students to be aware of involves the “how” as well as the “what”.  How does an author create the tension?  What literary techniques were involved?  The amount of detail that goes into the answer will depend on the level of the student responding.

 – key tip – to become comfortable using literary terms check out: