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.

Posted by aimroby at 05:03 PM | Comments (1)

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.

Posted by aimroby at 04:02 PM | Comments (1)

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.

Posted by aimroby at 11:03 PM | Comments (1)

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.

Posted by aimroby at 01:53 PM | Comments (1)

February 25, 2007

Tutoring Session: Feb 20th

This was the week of midterm exams and essays, and I expected the peer tutoring center to be a madhouse. I was proven wrong. Although I believe that every tutor had at least one session during their shift, it was not overwhelmingly busy and the student that I tutored did not seem overly frantic about her paper. She came in asking for help writing an argumentative thesis and that’s exactly what happened throughout the session. We looked at her original thesis, her topic of interest and tried to examine why it was important. This ultimately allowed us to work through several arguments she could make and she decided upon one, although she opted to discuss some minor ones in the body of her paper.

I believe this was the most productive session I’ve had so far because the student was readily engaged in her work, was open and expressive about her topic, made many interjections, and volunteered suggestions rather than waiting for me to prescribe some. Something else that made this session different was that it was observed by an SWC 300 student. At first, this made me extremely nervous but after I saw that the tutee was fully engaged in the session, I no longer worried about the observer. Even the observer mentioned how well the session went; it was nearly “by the book?.

Overall, this was a great session and I believe the tutee benefited from our collaboration and came up with a solid, argumentative thesis. I also think the observer benefited because she was able to see a type of rare, ideal session that we used to discuss in 300, that I always wish I had more often. This session was invigorating and it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile as a tutor; this is something that I have not felt after any of my previous sessions and I hope I’ll be able to experience it again. Until after break~


Posted by aimroby at 04:42 PM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2007

3rd Tutoring Session

This tutoring session brought to mind a concept that we discussed in class, the idea of authentic listening. I heard what the student was asking me to do, look at the clarity of his paper, and instead, I allowed myself to focus on the details. This disconnect prevented me from actually helping the student make his essay easy to understand and may have only caused him to make it more complex…hmmm.

In this session, the student presented me with an essay that had a strict word limit, a limited scope, and too many details. My first mistake was to have the student read it to me rather than reading it to myself. In the past, this technique has worked well however tonight, it backfired. Instead of allowing me to understand the paper more easily by hearing it read aloud, I became confused and disoriented because there were too many unnecessary details that shrouded the main points.

My second mistake was not stopping the student from finishing the paper after a paragraph or two, and then read the paper silently to myself. Because of this, I believe I missed some important points that the writer was trying to make because his writing was very convoluted and overly specific. After he read the paper, we went over it one paragraph at a time (it was rather short) and we identified the main ideas of each paragraph and some unnecessary information that was only making his argument less clear. Although this seems like a positive step, in some paragraphs a number of details had to be eliminated leaving him with very little information per paragraph. Then, we had to create new details that connected back to his topic, which proved to be a difficult task.

Overall, we had to reconstruct parts of his paper, and make sure that the focus of his thesis was actually consistent throughout the entire paper. I think the student did receive some relevant help but at the same time, I did not really address his original concerns. I tried to help him simplify his essay to improve its clarity, but it was to no avail. There were too many details and I did not tackle the tutoring session economically from the beginning. (This description of the session does not necessarily do it justice—it was a bit more involved, but at least it somewhat conveys my sense of disappointment with it.) Live and learn. Until next Tuesday~

Posted by aimroby at 09:49 PM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2007

My Second Tutoring Session

My second tutoring session presented me with a bit of a challenge in comparison to my first. Instead of tackling a formal essay, which is what I tend to expect, my student came in with an assignment sheet and simply wanted help brainstorming for ideas. I was a bit caught off guard and I had the student thoroughly explain the assignment, the class, and the novel the assignment was based on in great detail. Eventually, we dove into discussing several possible ways the student could go about addressing the requirements of the assignment. First, we discussed the novels themselves and how the characters fit in to the question of interest. After discussing several characters and the novel as a whole, the student began to make notes on specific characteristics that would be relevant to his essay. Ultimately, the student left the session with a rough outline of how he could begin the assignment and what key points he would need to prove in order to have a strong argument.

Although this was a situation that I was less accustomed to, it provided me with valuable experience concerning the importance of the brainstorming process. This is definitely not my favorite type of tutoring session because I felt somewhat conflicted about the student’s ownership over the ideas that the student took with him, and whether I had fostered his ability to brainstorm or if I simply gave him ideas that he would not have come up with on his own. Either way, it was a productive session; I tried to keep specific suggestions to a minimum while continually asking the student questions rather than putting forth original ideas. I look forward to more tutoring sessions that are a bit more structured and conventional in nature rather than more sessions similar to this one. Until next Tuesday~


Posted by aimroby at 05:36 PM | Comments (3)

February 10, 2007

My first day back in the PTC

During my first peer tutoring session of the semester, I remember being incredibly nervous because I have been absent from the peer-tutoring environment for nearly 2 semesters. I took SWC 300 in the winter of 06, so I have had the entire summer and the fall of 06 (which I spent as an intern in Washington, DC) to ruminate over my training, as well as how qualified I thought I was to tutor other students. After completely over-analyzing both of these topics, I decided that I wanted to continue to be a peer tutor—which brings me back to my very first session of the semester.

On a quiet Tuesday night, the third student that walked into the center was my tutee. It was my chance to get back into the swing of peer tutoring and my hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I told my student that my name was Aimee, and that I would be helping him tonight. My tutee was an ESL student and asked for help with his grammar. Naturally, I assumed he probably needed help with more than just grammar, but was unsure how to express that. So, we sat down and instead of having a paper to go over, he presented me with some discussion questions that he would present to his class the following day.

We went over the questions together, and I helped him correct some grammar mistakes (which were few in number) and eventually I realized that this student was looking for validation. I believe the student lacked confidence in his ability to describe images from a movie in English that would be easily-comprehended by his peers. Ultimately, his descriptions were very clear, and I helped him clarify some of the points he tried to make; but other then that, I think the only thing he needed was the extra verbal support from someone who is familiar with English writing. Overall, it was an enjoyable session. The student seemed to appreciate my feedback and I was no longer nervous about returning to the center. Although this session was somewhat uneventful, I think it was beneficial for both the tutor and the tutee.

Until next tuesday...


Posted by aimroby at 03:19 PM | Comments (2)