Meet the Tutor: James C.

College: City University of New York

Graduate School: Queens College at C.U.N.Y.

How Long with 5 years

Subjects He Tutors: English and Essay Writing

James, an Associate Professor from New York, Helps Students with English, and Essay Writing.

Words are Worth the Time

James, an associate professor from New York proves that essay help is just a few clicks away.

When James isn't admiring Kurt Vonnegut’s body of work or teaching college students the importance of Kilgore Trout, he's online at, helping students decode King Lear while making their words sing.

James calls Long Island, N.Y. home, but as an associate professor with the State University of New York (SUNY) system, he considers himself a "wandering" professor. "I go wherever they send me," he says. Armed with a creative writing degree, James takes his background in postmodern literature, integrated art and American Frontier writers to campuses throughout New York state. Right now, he is teaching American Literature at Empire State College in Manhattan.

From Tutoring to Teaching to Online Tutoring

James' involvement with can be traced back to his college days. On the recommendation of a professor, James started tutoring at the writing center of Queensborough Community College while he was a student there. Compared to jobs outside of his field, the position was perfect—by having to teach what he was learning, James was forced to have a solid understanding of the material and rules of writing. And since he was already on campus, it made for an easy commute. "I found it to be a great job and I really enjoyed the teaching," James says. "I was always trying to get more hours at the writing center."

After graduation, James began teaching and started a steady independent tutoring service, but scheduling was difficult and travel was always an issue. "Sometimes my students just couldn’t make it out of the house. So I would meet them online somewhere [using an Instant Messenger program] instead of meeting them in person," James recalls.

In 2003, a friend introduced James to, saying, "It has better tools and students are lined up looking for help." James signed up a few hours later.

Teaching by Day, Tutoring by Night

At, James now tutors students in English and essay writing up to 30 hours a week during the summer, paring back a bit during the school year. "I was extremely excited to find out that had the same philosophy as I did about helping students find the answer rather than giving it to them," he says.

The question-answer method of tutoring is employed across all subjects at, which makes James' job of asking the right questions especially important. Students are not coming to just to get the answers, but rather to learn or get an understanding of core concepts. Still, some students log on to, land James as a tutor and say, "Fix my essay, it needs to be 800 words, and it's due tomorrow."

James says, "We never actually just fix a student's work. Instead, we do a question and answer with the student to find out what the student is concerned about. Through that, we may figure out they are having lots of trouble with commas. Then, for an in-depth lesson, we might go through the entire essay and say, 'Why would you need a comma in this sentence?' or 'What's the rule for this comma here?'"

When a student is really struggling with a concept, James takes advantage of's whiteboard tool. "Usually I will copy and paste a sticking point on to the whiteboard and ask a leading question. I might say, 'What would be the best way to approach this clause?'" James explains.

"When you are working online with a student and they finally make that breakthrough after arriving to the session having such a hard time, it's just a great feeling. Those are the moments that are kind of like, 'Ah, this why I do this,'" says James.

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