What are your qualifications?

I have a thorough knowledge and understanding of first year organic chemistry based on core principles, I know how to explain it in ways you’ll understand, and I know how to give you a structure that will result in success if you do your part.

I’ve been tutoring organic chemistry full-time since 2004 and have helped hundreds of students dramatically improve their grades at several different universities and colleges.

If you’re familiar with the Malcolm Gladstone book Outliers: The Story of Success, you know what he says about the 10,000-hour rule to become a phenom. While debate may rage over whether his claim is accurate, I have done over 14,000 hours of private tutoring in organic chemistry.

I’d like to think with all this experience, I’ve learned something about how to help you.

Regarding my formal education, I graduated in 1991 with a B.S. in food science and a minor in chemistry (I’ve completed 42 credits of chemistry).

In addition to tutoring organic chemistry full-time, I taught organic chemistry for The Princeton Review for 10 years, and I also ran teacher trainings for their new organic chemistry instructors.

Additionally, I was on staff at Harvard for a year as a teaching fellow for the Harvard Chem 17 course in the fall of 2015, and was the head teaching fellow for the Harvard Chem 20 course in the spring of 2016.

I’ve been involved in teaching both private sessions and groups in various subject matter since 1988, and I am obsessed with organic chemistry and continue to increase my own understanding of it while constantly developing techniques, methods, and study materials to better present it to students.

Teaching and tutoring organic chemistry is my version of a dream come true. I love what I do and am passionate about the material. You will see the difference, and you will benefit from my dedication.

Are you accepting new students?

What do you charge?

How is payment handled?

Payment is due at the conclusion of in-person sessions, but before online sessions.

In-person payments can be handled with cash, Venmo, check, or PayPal.

Online payments can be handled with Venmo or PayPal only. Mailing a check to me is not an option.

Do you offer online tutoring?

Yes. We can do the tutoring sessions remotely using Zoom as the platform. We’ll be able to see each another, and you will be able to see my desktop and everything I’m writing. We can mark up pdfs you send me and/or documents I provide, and I’ll email you the annotated notes afterwards.

Do I need to do anything before we meet for the first time?

Please read my webpage Will We Click? to be sure we have a shared educational philosophy before you contact me for the first time.

When we do meet for our sessions, please be prepared with a game-plan. Ideally, you have done problems beforehand and are bringing in some specific questions that have arisen from your efforts.

Also, be prepared to handle the payment for the first session.

How long should we meet for?

We both want our tutoring sessions to be as productive as possible. In my opinion, 1.5 hours is the optimal session length.

That said, I am not saying 1.5 hours is a requirement. Most sessions are either 1 or 1.5 hours. It is your responsibility to let me know in advance how much time you’d like to meet for.

Please be aware that I will not agree to doing a session that is less than 1 hour long.

Experience has shown me that 1 or 1.5 hours is the optimal time for most students to remain focused and absorb knowledge throughout a one-on-one private tutoring session.

Some students can handle 2 hour sessions, but thanks to “distraction overload”, those students are becoming rarer than sightings of Sasquatch.

Going beyond two hours is an invitation for fatigue and “zoning out” to occur. We don’t want that.

In special cases I will allow the session to go beyond two hours; however, if only your physical carcass is propped up next to me while your mind is goofing off, I will suggest we wrap up for the day.

How often should we meet?

Organic chemistry cannot be learned and mastered overnight, so the ideal situation is a student be consistent and steady with their training. Cramming for two days before each test will (predictably) result in an outcome that won’t please you.

I believe the ideal scenario is for a student to meet with me at least once a week (and at least twice a week for summer programs).

Will meeting once a week be enough?

Much of that will depend on whether you do effective work on your own between tutoring sessions.

In order to make noteworthy progress, you have to spend time without me by your side practicing problems, struggling with mechanisms, and wrapping your mind around synthesis. “You can’t become a master without first being a disaster.”

You have to sit with a challenging concepts and reasoning problem and try to solve it on your own without giving up too soon. You have to develop an “organic chemistry rhythm” that is necessary for time management during exams.

If the only thing you do is see me once a week, then don’t put in the needed time working on problems between sessions . . . well, that’s like doing one set of ab crunches each week and then wondering why you still don’t have a 6-pac.

What is your cancellation and no-show policy?

When should I start tutoring?

As soon as possible, ideally BEFORE you encounter trouble.

Ideal situation: we start BEFORE your course begins

In the idealized situation, you and I team up BEFORE your course begins. One of the BEST steps you can take in ensuring a smooth (and enjoyable) experience is to “front-end load” some of the crucial concepts before the duress of the course (and your other courses) begins.

Almost every student who begins working with me for maybe 5 or 6 sessions BEFORE their course begins not only goes on to get an A, but they do so in commanding fashion. These are my students who are wondering why everyone talks trash about organic chemistry.

When we start before the course begins, the work that then needs to be done over the next 16 weeks of a regular school semester will actually make sense, and you’ll be able to apply a framework of understanding to the new material as it rolls in each week.

You will understand what is happening. That’s very different from how most students go through the course.

And you will probably need less tutoring overall. Instead of the tutoring becoming a “save my ass” Herculean effort where there’s scrambling, there’s trying to unlearn bad habits, trying to catch up, etc., the tutoring becomes proactive.

Proactive tutoring: I’m your trainer more than your rescuer

The proactive version of us working together is a process that looks more like this:

  • We’re laying down understanding before you see the material in class, so when you do see it, you are already ahead of the game.
  • This allows you to get much more out of the actual class experience.
  • You can then approach problems with understanding, not total confusion. Now you can come to tutoring sessions having tried many problems and making a list of areas that need attention and clarification.
  • We can then address awarenesses of what is coming up for the next lectures so you can continue to be in the driver’s seat.

See, I’m describing a very different tutoring experience than what most students end up doing. I’m describing a picture where my role is more of a trainer, not a rescuer. I get you in the pilot seat and you go in and enjoy the class because it makes sense.

When you follow along with what is happening in the course and why it happens, you end up having a completely different experience from what most students have. You do not join the masses who go away bad-mouthing organic chemistry and saying how bad it sucks, how it’s all memorization, how it’s a nightmare, etc.

Organic chemistry is a cool class when you understand what is happening. But when you don’t follow the logic, the course frickin’ sucks!

Unfortunately, the usual scenario is the student needs to be air-lifted out of the ditch, and then there’s lots of backtracking along with keeping up with the incoming new material. Because organic chemistry is so dependent on all that came before, the student who fakes their way through the first half of the semester is on a collision-course with disaster.

We build chemistry and familiarity

Another benefit of us starting before the course begins is it gives us time to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment. A big part of how effective you will be in working with me will depend on how we interact.

It’s like how a sports team made up of all new players takes some time to gel as they figure out how to be a great team. In professional sports, the individual players are the best in the world at their craft, yet they still need time to get used to working with each other. Us maxing out the ochem experience together is no different.

Avoid the “streetlight effect”

When a student waits too long before seeking help, it can be very difficult to get them to modify their flawed approach to the course. It can become a situation of the “Streetlight Effect.”

The longer you wait and fall behind, the more difficult it will be to catch up. In fact, if you wait too long, I may not take you on. I am not interested in playing the role of a hospice aide where all I can do is minimize the agony of your certain demise. Experience has taught me that there comes a point where it’s just too late in the process for a student to make appreciable gains, and I’m not in the business of running a fool’s errand.

Did I say start early?

So in summary, START EARLY! Many students put in a lot of hours with organic chemistry only to still do poorly; most likely, they approached the class with a flawed approach because they didn’t know how to learn ochem and study effectively. Your final grade will be a reflection of how effective you were with your approach, not necessarily how many hours you pumped into the course, and starting early gives you the chance to learn how to be effective BEFORE you get into trouble.

Do you tutor general chemistry?

No. I only tutor organic chemistry. I am an organic chemistry specialist and devote all my time to this wondrously fascinating subject.

Do you actually like organic chemistry? Don't you get sick and tired of talking about it all day long?

Yes, I love organic chemistry and helping students; no, I don’t get sick or tired of talking about it.

I believe the attitude of the teacher makes a big difference in how effectively they work with students. Many peer tutors, TAs, and TFs are tutoring and teaching because they have to, not because they want to. This is going to affect your learning experience. Here is one of my favorite quotes regarding the importance of attitude:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, our attitude.”

—Charles R. Swindol