Hello Prestige Prep family! This week, Sharlee and I zoomed on a hot afternoon, and she and I talked about how we grew up as readers, how we encourage kids to learn, and of course, our favorite study snacks. Sharlee Taylor is originally from Atlanta, GA. After studying Theater and Linguistics at UC Berkeley, she received her MFA from the A.R.T./Moscow Art Theater School Institute at Harvard University.
Olive: Ok! I guess let’s start off with how long you’ve been with Prestige, what is your specialty, you know, if a parent clicked on your bio, what you would present to them.
Sharlee: Yes! It’s so weird, with pandemic times, time is so weird. I think it’s going on 2 ½ years. But I’ve been a tutor in New York state for five years, with other companies. I tutor ISEE and SSAT prep pretty frequently. I really enjoy working with kids trying to get into private schools, or even the SHSAT, schools that require standardized tests. I’ve also been doing a lot of academic support in Spanish, English, and History.
Olive: Nice. Do you have a favorite thing to tutor, or is it just across the board…
Sharlee: Oooh. That;s a really good question. I really enjoy tutoring English and encouraging students to think about written pieces in different ways. Specifically for standardized tests, but also for school or maybe just for their hearts and their souls! I like doing that because that was my favorite subject growing up, but I also do enjoy subjects across the board. I just really enjoy helping students wherever I can. So very specific and also very general, haha.
Olive: No no, I get it. I’m working with middle school kids mostly, I tutor French and then general academic subject support too. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a kid go ohhhh I get it!
Sharlee: Totally, I 100% feel the same way especially for standardized tests where they start learning the tricks and strategies. You see them getting better exponentially. It’s really exciting for them, and maybe even more exciting for me.
Olive: Right, and you get to see them, outside of the score feeling more confident.
Sharlee: The confidence, totally.
Olive: I guess along those lines, if you’re instilling values in your kids, what are the big ones that you want them to take away? I know it’s hard to say with standardized testing sometimes as well, but…
Sharlee: Yeah, I think overall, I would say curiosity. I think just approaching whatever subject they’re learning with a sense of learning and openness and the idea of “What can I Learn?” Like even if they feel really good about exponents, is there maybe another way I can think about them? Approaching material they don’t know with curiosity instead of fear and anxiety. That’s tricky, I mean that’s a skill in and of itself.
Olive: Yeah, for sure.
Sharlee: Also approaching material that they do know with curiosity. I think that’s a huge thing, and it builds connections across disciplines that students may not even be initially aware of. So yeah, curiosity, openness, willingness to question, and wonder, and to be surprised by material they’re encountering.
Olive: Yeah, I mean in my experience, French is a hard language. Maybe it’s not ever going to be “Oh! I love this language now,” or “I’m curious about it”, but it’s thing like “I know I can tackle this.”
Sharlee: One of the kids I tutor in Spanish, when we first started we talked about how he felt in the classroom. Or the virtual classroom, as it is.
Olive: haha, right.
Sharlee: He said “Uh…I don’t really raise my hand much,” and I said “OK, well why do you think that is,” and his response was “Well I don’t really know what’s going on!” As our time together has gone on though, his teacher wrote him this really lovely note where he said “I can see you participating and speaking more in class, and not that everything you say is correct, but you have that willingness to try!” That comes from the curiosity setting in. That’s an improvement! It’s not even that you’re speaking Spanish fluently, but you are willing to try. That’s huge for me.
Olive: Yeah. Absolutely. You’ve been tutoring virtually right? How has that been going for you?
Sharlee: Hmm. I feel like there have been really cool ways of integrating technology into our sessions that I think previously weren’t available, or previously we just didn’t think of it. Annotating our screens and having it become a more interactive lesson because we both now have the ability to write together, whereas before it’s a sheet of paper that I may be scribbling on or they are kindof taking notes. Now we are able to have a collaborative process which is really cool. I think that I get to experiment as a tutor with new tech that’s exciting for them. Quizzes, flip grids, things that I’ve never had a need to explore, but now I’m trying to see how I can get the material more engaging, and get students more interested, and the student is benefiting as a result.
Olive: I will be excited when we can see the kids in person though.
Sharlee: For sure. It’s been like a really interesting experiment.
Olive: yeah! Yes, and now we know, at least…
Sharlee: Now we know!
Olive: Now we know what would happen if a pandemic completely crashed the school system.
Sharlee: We got that down!
Olive: Since you’ve worked for both other companies and Prestige, is there something that separates Prestige from other companies, in your experience?
Sharlee: For sure. I feel like Prestige has a really unique and individual approach to students. Phil in particular, I feel like he thinks about every student that comes through his door, and he thinks about who is really the best person to serve this student for what their needs are.
Sharlee: It goes even beyond academics. It’s like personality and connection. I think that’s even more important than the academic connection. Just having someone who speaks the same language, or who has the approach that’s best for a particular student. I think that makes the academics go that much farther. I could be an amazing Spanish tutor, but if there’s a student I don’t click with, I just don’t click with them. It doesn’t matter how great I am at Spanish or how much that student wants to learn. You need a person that clicks. I think Phil is really astute at looking at students and matching them with a person.
Olive: You know, it’s also great to have someone on the team that already knows the kids and has a sense of what’s going on with their personality and emotions. Did you ever have a tutor as a kid?
Sharlee: not really, I was very independently motivated as a kid. I’m from Georgia, from Atlanta and…
Olive: I was just in Atlanta! I went with a group of friends to canvas for Warnock and Ossoff in the 2020 runoffs.
Sharlee: Oh wow!
Olive: I guess that was a while ago.
Sharlee: Atlanta’s great. An incredible city. I miss it.
Olive: Was there something that got you through the school years?
Sharlee: I was a huge reader. I still am a huge reader.
Olive: Me too!
Sharlee: Books were my companions. One of my favorite books growing up was Jane Eyre, and I just admired how hard she worked in school. I felt like books really opened worlds for me, I don’t know. They pushed me in a way I think I needed to be pushed. I think that added to the independence. I thought “if these characters are doing these great things, I wanna do these great things too!”
Olive: Do you have a favorite YA book?
Sharlee: I think my current favorite, because I’m re-reading it with a student, is The Golden Compass.
Olive: mmmm. That one’s so good! It really hits different.
Sharlee: Really really good.
Olive: OK, my last formal question before we get to some rapid fires is: What do you wish parents knew, if anything about how to help out a tutor?
Sharlee: That’s a really good question. There are so many parents that are so different, but in general, I want parents to encourage students to take ownership of our sessions. I think the relationship between student and teacher and student and tutor is an important part of the process. Enabling the students to take control and be independent learners will really serve them academically and also in life.
Olive: Yeah. Also, enabling the relationship between the teachers, tutors, and students is a great way that parents can support.
Sharlee: I’ve had students come to me and say “I really need help with this one thing in math,” and I’m like “have you asked your teacher about it?” They’re like “no.”
Sharlee: Right, like why would they do that? But I’ll say, “OK, let’s sit down right now and write them an email.” That’s also enabling the student to take ownership of their academics themselves, which is so important, because that doesn’t just apply to math, that applies to literally everything.
Olive: Ok I know you have a session with a student soon so let me hit you with these rapid fires.Favorite Study Snack?
Sharlee: Fruits. Apples, if I wanna get specific.
Olive: I actually mix my fruit with some chocolate chips, a really great snack. Do you listen to music while you study/work?
Sharlee: I do not, because I’m really distracted by sound. If that helps you, though, go for it. It’s a great thing to learn about yourself. I’m an auditory learner, so music i’m always like hmm what are the lyrics?
Olive: Did you have a least favorite High School Class?
Sharlee: Probably. What was it? I feel kind of bad but like, I think, geography.
Olive: Well what was your favorite?
Olive: Yeah me too. Well, besides The Golden Compass, what are you currently reading?
Sharlee: I’m reading this book called Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell, it’s a fictionalized account about the restoration of magic in England.
Olive: oooh. That sound’s good.
Sharlee: It’s like 1,000 pages.
Olive: I love a big chunky book in the summer, that’s my favorite.
Sharlee: The book I just finished was A Gentleman in Moscow, also super chunky and great.
Olive: Ok noted! I’ll put them on my list. Are you watching anything fun?
Sharlee: Yeah! Hacks, with Jean Smart. It’s this antiquated comedian trying to make a comeback and this 20-year-old writer needs her to get her career started.
Olive: Ok I’m going to let you go, but it was so nice to meet you, and thanks for taking the time to chat! I hope we’ll talk soon.
Sharlee: Thank you so much!! Looking forward to chatting with you again in the future!