March 28, 2007
3/27 Tutoring Session
Last night, I had a tutoring session with someone other than one of my roommates (a first in a few weeks). That in itself made it initially enjoyable because it seemed more like a legitimate tutoring session rather than just assisting my friends with their papers. The student and I went over a couple short papers together and we focused primary on what the student referred to as the “mechanics” of the paper. After reading his GSI’s comments on one of the papers and assuming that the student and the GSI meant “grammar” wherever “mechanics” was mentioned (he was an ESL student), I became a bit annoyed.
After going through the paper and pointing out key grammar errors, I realized that the papers were pretty solid despite the occurrence of awkward phrases and incorrect word choices every once in a while. When I thought we were done with one paper and began to move on to the next, I was surprised when the student made a point to ask me whether I thought anything else needed to be changed. He specifically asked about the structure and organization, and I was impressed.
I realized that the student wanted more than just assistance with his grammar; he wanted to make sure that he was being coherent and thorough in his paper. This unexpected inquiry from the student made the session enjoyable and I felt that even though he did not say much throughout the session, the student was engaged and interested in learning how to improve his writing.
March 27, 2007
Better papers...that's fine by me
Today, I’m not really looking forward to tutoring. It’s beautiful outside, I just experienced the first sun-shower of the year (where it’s rainy and sunny at the same time), and I find myself just craving some time to relax rather than help others with their writing. On days like this, where I’m lethargic and more introspective, I question whether I am really helping students become better writers or if I’m complicit in the idea that I simply make papers better, which is of no benefit to anyone except the consuming institution of the university.
When have I ever helped someone with their writing without focusing on a specific assignment? When has the writing process been the focus of the session rather than the written product? I honestly don’t know and I’m not sure if there is a way to focus solely on the process because most students only come to the writing center when they need specific assistance, rather than for general guidance. Perhaps my efforts are futile and they will not carry over across assignments. Maybe I do make better papers rather than better writers, and to me, that’s not too bad. I’m helping students fulfill university expectations as a means to an end, until they get a job outside the university and learn what kind of writing is expected of them in that environment; they adapt, they find ways to make that writing better, and the cycle continues.
We are all complicit; altruistic actions are unrealistic. We as tutors help make better papers, and inadvertently, sometimes better writers. And I think I can accept that.
March 26, 2007
Tutoring in General
Peer tutoring has been kind of a drag, lately. The center has been slow, and I usually help some of my roommates with their papers (they decided to come and give me something to do because I had been complaining about not having many sessions). Granted, I enjoy tutoring but sometimes it feels as though I’m wasting an hour or two, sitting around, hoping for people to walk through the door before my two hour block of time runs out. There have been weeks where I simply did not tutor at all due to a lethal combination of overstaffing and a lack of tutees.
I just want more experience! Sometimes, when I have mediocre sessions, I question my ability to be a tutor and I find myself craving more opportunities to really work with a student on his/her paper. Then, I find myself sorely disappointed when I come in contact with a student who persistently asks for assistance with grammar, and after reading his/her paper, realize that grammar is the only issue and the paper is solid throughout. Sadly, my best session so far has been with my roommate, who did not really need my help, but simply wanted another pair of eyes to look over her midterm. I was honored that she asked me, but I knew she was just trying to keep me busy rather than bored at the center. Oh well. Hopefully things will pick up during finals.
March 19, 2007
3/13 in the PTC
During my most recent session at the PTC, I was fortunate enough to be able to assist my roommate with some of her midterm papers. She had several short essays for me to look at and I was excited to do some serious work with someone who I know is a great writer. This was my favorite session so far because I finally felt what it was like to collaborate with someone who believes I’m her equal rather than an all-knowing expert. We tackled higher-order as well as lower-order issues, we dealt with the structure and organization of her papers, and we had a good time talking about writing.
I wish every session could go as well as this one but unfortunately, many tutees put me in a position of authority. This role is very hard to shed because on one hand, I want the student to respect my suggestions and take me seriously. On the other hand, I want the student to collaborate with me, which is somewhat difficult when he/she sees me as being in control of the session. Oh well. Although tutoring your friends is somewhat controversial, I find it comforting that my friends trust my abilities and are not afraid to debate and collaborate on their writing during a session.