QUESTION 01 | 08
When did you develop an interest in your chosen field and private tutoring?
Luca — My interest in mathematics started since starting high school in year 7. I was not a strong maths student during Primary School, having even failed maths tests. I did not come from an academic family either, my family having migrated to Australia in 1995 from Palermo, Italy. My older two brothers did not do well in primary school and high school growing up in Australia since they had to learn English whilst also learn in a class full of native English speakers.
Consequently, they never found interest in studying and received relatively low ATAR scores that significantly reduced their chances of studying at university. Moreover, they attended a relatively poor performing Secondary School in the Northern Melbourne suburbs. I wanted to break the cycle of my family's lack of academic qualifications. My mum's efforts to obtain a Bachelor of Law as a mature age student inspired me. She later went on to get a Masters of Law at the University of Melbourne.
I picked mathematics as my main area of focus when I started high school because I believed that if I could get good at mathematics, I could become proficient in just about any other area of academia. It was also my 'kryptonite', and I endeavoured to become as best as possible to challenge my perception that I was just not smart enough to do well in Maths.
I tried to develop self-discipline and self-critique at an early age to achieve this desire I had of being good at Maths. I remember the first ever Maths test I did in year seven that I studied hard for. I felt, nevertheless, too scared to even look at my mark once the teacher handed my graded test back to me. I had received 90%, which had truly surprised me and ultimately challenged what I thought I knew about my potential and my abilities at the time.
I continued developing my self-discipline, new effective learning techniques, and exam-taking strategies throughout my high school years. In year 9, I received '100' for maths on one of my report cards for the year after having aced three maths tests in a row.
In two years, I had come a long way with my mathematics progress. My success in maths allowed me in the accelerated maths stream in year 10, which felt like quite a leap for me. However, crucial for further development in my mathematics learning. There were sporadic feelings of 'imposter syndrome' I had to overcome. Ultimately, I had developed such a deep interest in mathematics that led to exceptional study scores in my year 12 maths subjects.
Likewise, I did not believe in my abilities when it came to science during high school. I had never really enjoyed biology or chemistry and decided to drop science in year 10.
In year 11, I had a timetable clash with one of my top preference subjects, global politics, meaning my two chosen standby subjects had to replace global politics to address this clash. It was out of VCE Philosophy 1/2 and VCE Physics 1/2 (I picked VCE Physics 1/2 as my very last preferred choice). By sheer randomness, the timetable manager selected VCE Physics 1/2. I had to do a science subject after dropping science in year 10, putting me in a disadvantageous position relative to my peers.
I was somewhat distraught by the clash, but I recognised that there is some overlap between physics and maths and that I was not fond of biology or chemistry that much in science but never really gave physics a proper chance.
The irony was that physics would later become one of my best subjects in year 12, where I received a study score of 42 in VCE Physics and even achieved 100% grades in a few SACs (assessment-based tests in VCE) this time. In particular, one quite challenging SAC we did in class involved electromagnetism, electronics and wave motion. I was one of three to received a perfect score out of a course of about 83.
I had just kept an open mind to a subject I didn't expect to have an interest in at all. Somehow, I developed a profound interest in Physics and went on to study Physics at university for a couple of years. Studying Physics at the university level entailed studying mathematics prerequisite subjects, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing.
As far as tutoring goes, I was usually one of the most approached students amongst my friendship groups for help with upcoming maths tests or assignments. Before tertiary studies, I had more of a 'lone-wolf study style but wanted to do my best to help those who I felt close to. I also had tutors during year 12, which gave me the idea of becoming a tutor since I felt I could help make seemingly 'difficult' concepts intuitive to understand for others.
QUESTION 02 | 08
Tell us more about the subject you teach, the topics you like to discuss with students (and possibly those you like a little less).
Luca — I teach all levels of high school mathematics and physics. I've even tutored some undergrads in both subjects here and there. I like to consider myself an all-rounder when it comes to maths and physics. Suppose I can't recall a particular concept that well. I go back and brush up on that concept before I proceed to teach it to my students.
Often the saying goes, 'if you don't use it, you lose it. But, I owe my 'all-roundedness' to the learning style that I developed throughout my years in school. This learning style is highly centred around 'big picture' understanding, acquiring deep intuition, visualisation, active learning and the use of foolproof mnemonics. Topics that rely too much on recall/memory, I don't like to recall a whole lot. Matters that require visualisation and intuition to understand I enjoy the most.
In saying that, I love to discuss electromagnetism, circuit theory, quantum physics and special relativity most of all. I find these topics to be the most counterintuitive, mind-boggling topics, which is what draws me into these topics.
I enjoy thermal physics and mechanics somewhat, but these would probably be lower on the list of my favourite physics topics. These I find a little under-stimulating to discuss, perhaps because they are pretty classical and intuitive to understand.
In maths, I love to discuss just any topic but very much dread statistics and finance-related mathematics. I also am not a big fan of mathematical proofs since I love applying mathematics and logic more than having to prove mathematical tasks (although sometimes they can be fun!).
QUESTION 03 | 08
Did you have any role models; a teacher that inspired you?
Luca — There are so many I could mention. One particular teacher that stood out and inspired me during year 12 was my VCE Specialist Maths teacher, who I had as much teacher in year 10 for my advanced maths class.
After my first specialist SAC test, which I had flunked while under pressure, I remember this teacher handing me back my SAC paper with a 60% score. I felt I had underachieved on this particular SAC but couldn't understand where I went wrong after putting hours in preparing for the test. This teacher knew I had underachieved because they knew my potential was better than the test score I obtained from past assignments I had handed in with a much higher average mark.
After handing my test back, all this teacher said was, "I think you need to work on your exam technique", and that was it.
I took this piece of advice, "exam technique", and broke it down to what exam technique means and what my teacher was trying to suggest I work on. It clicked to me that my Achilles heel was my time management skills under exam-like pressure.
So, what I did from that point forward, was to time myself every time I attempt to complete a question across all subjects, even English Language. The idea was to replicate 'exam conditions' as my study environment and time myself on questions. Then see if I could beat my previous time record for a specific question.
Surely enough, my time management skills under exam pressure had improved for the latter half of year 12. I obtained assessment scores averaging 80% and above and never received a grade on any test that was lower than 80% after taking that advice on board and implementing it.
What life-saver piece of advice that a straightforward sentence was from one of the most brilliant teachers I ever had
QUESTION 04 | 08
What do you think are the qualities required to be a good tutor?
Luca — A good tutor has a profound ability to communicate effectively, understand student needs and discern the prevalent areas the student requires assistance in. It is also essential that a good tutor can gauge whether the student understands the concepts being taught.
Finally, a good tutor should be personable and engaging with the student in a relaxed manner, allowing the student to express their ability or inability of comprehension.
QUESTION 05 | 08
Provide a valuable anecdote related to your subject or your days at school.
Luca — After doing much practice on my exam technique during year 12, I had nailed a fair few physics SACs with perfect scores. Getting excellent marks on a test is such an enjoyable feeling beyond what words can describe. I remember almost all of the times I had worked hard to obtain 100% for tests throughout high school.
Reminiscing those times is such a great feeling even today, particularly on days where I have doubts about my beliefs. These experiences taught me a lot about the nature of human gratification. Delayed gratification can truly be relived and enjoyed for eternity.
On the other hand, we tend to forget about times of instant gratification. The importance of having experiences of delayed gratification is that they can sometimes remind us of our efforts, achievements, successes, and brilliance. These experiences are enough to inspire ourselves, so it's crucial to gain as much delayed gratification as we do instant gratification.
QUESTION 06 | 08
What were the difficulties or challenges you faced or are still facing in your subject?
Luca — The main difficulties mostly involved my performance on exams and tests. The exam technique, time management and composure involved with exam-taking were characteristics I lacked. These are still things I work on today, but experience has helped me in these areas. I also gained an interest in learning about how to learn more effectively, and it is something I am most certainly still trying to work on and develop. Learning is an art form, as is exam technique.
QUESTION 07 | 08
Do you have a particular passion? Is it teaching in general or an element of the subject or something completely different?
Luca — I am predominantly passionate about problem-solving and applying sound logical skills to various scenarios to reach a conclusive outcome. I love and value creativity as a skill. Creativity can often mediate problem-solving. My passions lie in human skillsets, which are necessary for both learning and teaching. You need to problem-solve and discern your student's needs to help them. The same way you apply problem-solving skills to solve a question
QUESTION 08 | 08
What makes you a Superprof (besides answering these interview questions :-P)?
Luca — Having used superprof.com.au to find tutors before becoming one myself is what makes me a Superprof. I've had lessons with top tutors over Superprof and even other ambassadors on this website. To be one of the best at what you do, you need to learn from those who are better than you, mimic what they do that drives their successes, and add your creative signature to distinguish yourself from those who are part of the very best. I feel like a Superprof thanks to other Superprofs, and I hope to pay it forward and inspire the future Superprofs to come! :)