Paul France Headshot (1)

Families across the country are grappling with what to do about their children’s education right now. It’s possible that traditional schooling may not be providing the level of individualization your child needs. As a thought leader in progressive education, specialist in personalized learning, and author of two books on teaching my goal as a private teacher (both virtual and in-home) is not only to provide children with the educational support they need, but also to serve as a support to families looking to better understand a child’s learning profile and progress in school.

I’ve been an elementary teacher for over a decade now, working with students from Transitional Kindergarten through 8th grade. I’ve worked in private school, public school, and non-traditional learning environments. I am also a Certified Reading Specialist and National Board Certified Teacher, an honor earned by just under 3% of the nation’s teachers. As a result, I know that engaging students in meaningful learning experiences starts with knowing them as human beings.

“An inspiring young teacher.”

The New Yorker

I provide weekly one-on-one and small-group (“pod”) sessions both virtually and in-person, at a minimum of one hour per session. Currently, my availability is extremely limited. I expect a lot to change over the next few months, so please reach out through the contact information below as soon as possible to get your name on a waiting list for in-person or virtual sessions.

My Approach

My mission is to make learning come alive for students. While interest-based learning can certainly play a role in an individualized education plan for your child, I believe that helping students connect with learning experiences rests upon a child’s intrinsic motivation. They must feel a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose when learning (Pink, 2009). If they don’t, they will easily disengage.

This is why my individualized approach to teaching rests not upon interest-based learning, but instead cultivating effective habits and productive mindsets towards learning that cultivate independence in students. In fact, the students who struggle most in school often show signs of dependent learning habits (Hammond, 2014), overlying on adults for help on homework or other assignments. The key to a child’s success in school is by building their independence.

“The kind of teacher

every parent would want

for the their child.”

WIRED

But it’s important to remember that every child is different and that there is no guaranteed path to cultivating independence. In our first consultation, we will discuss your child’s interests, affinities, strengths, and challenges—and together, we will discuss a plan of action that meets your child’s needs while cultivating independence and strengthening intrinsic motivation towards learning.

Paul can provide support in the following areas:

  • Literacy (Reading and Writing)
  • Word Study/Spelling
  • Mathematics and Problem-Solving
  • Executive Functioning through Passion Projects

Literacy

The research tells us that the more kids read and write, the better readers and writers they become (Allington, 2011). Worksheets do not provide valuable time with text, and as a result, I rely heavily on journaling for literacy tutoring.

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At its core, literacy instruction is about teaching children how to communicate, and as a result, I believe that authentic children’s literature and a child’s journal should be the key media through which they grow their literacy skills. While I believe it necessary to put constraints and accountability measures on a child’s individualized plan, I also know that centering a child’s interests matters while building literacy skills in elementary school.

I do this through a blend of interest-based learning and systematic instruction in foundational literacy skills that allow students to access and compose increasingly complex texts. In one instance, one of my pods was engaged in a spirited debate about whether flying suits were actually possible. This sparked a research project on flight, ultimately resulting in the entire group publishing informational books on flight. One of my students, Lorenzo, even published it on Amazon! You can get it here.

Writing projects often serve as a great opportunity for building executive functioning skills, as students have to break the piece down into parts and plan for its completion.

Word Study/Spelling

It’s a common misconception that students simply must memorize words to become better spellers and more efficient writers. For many students, memorization simply doesn’t work, and instead, they need structured tools to support them in strengthening their understanding of English orthography.

You probably grew up thinking that English was a “weird” language, and that there was no rhyme or reason behind spelling rules. That’s not true, though, and I’ve seen great success in leveraging the Structured Word Inquiry approach to help students better grasp English orthography. This entails cultivating an understanding of:

  • The meaning and etymology of words
  • The structure of words (i.e., prefixes, bases, and suffixes)
  • Relatives of words, building vocabulary in conjunction with efficient spelling
  • Pronunciation, and how the pronunciation of words changes based on affixes and part of speech
Sample element board from Word Study pod.

Mathematics

Students who struggle in mathematics often struggle with number sense and problem-solving. Unfortunately, far too many schools employ an approach to teaching math that emphasizes procedures and underemphasizes critical thinking or conceptual knowledge. My approach leverages “low floor, high ceiling” tasks (Cohen & Lotan, 1997; Boaler, 2015) and math games that build number sense.

Through open-ended tasks and math games, students learn to articulate their thinking. By engaging them in conversations about mathematics, I also gain a better understanding of where their conceptual knowledge is weak and what I can do to support them.

Executive Functioning

Executive functioning refers to the set of skills related to working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. This can’t be taught with a worksheet, and instead needs to be experienced through multi-step tasks that cause students to think critically. This is why in each of our sessions, no matter the content area, I will center discussions about learning habits. By centering learning habits, we can focus on the resulting behaviors of strong executive functioning skills, including:

  • Organization and planning
  • Self-regulation, self-evaluation, and self-monitoring
  • Pursuing multi-step tasks/problems to completion
Sample KanBan board for passion project.

Contact Paul

Please reach out to paul@paulemerich.com to get more information about hourly rates and availability. Availability is limited, and families who cannot find availability in Paul’s current schedule can be added to a waiting list upon request.