December 11, 2020
Primarily what I feel I grew in as a coach is developing a social rapport with the students. This is not something I expected to get out of the move to the Zoom environment. However, I think a lot of students were extremely stressed out about online classes and more directionless than usual, which made them more open to coaching and more grateful for anyone who could provide any kind of assistance. One of the biggest challenges, on the other hand, were scheduling issues. Even at 20 hours a week it was a struggle to accommodate every student, in particular the embedded tutoring students who were less likely to be proactive in booking. I wonder if that is something we need to emphasize in the future: that the embedded tutors are still part of the regular tutoring schedule and can be booked by other students. The other option is reserving certain weeks for only embedded students.
The observations were also a helpful reminder to me to be a little more ready to give students external resources. Outside of Purdue Owl (which I usually give out a couple of times a week, especially earlier on in the semester) it can sometimes be challenging for me to remember to do that, partly because I worry that without me there the students will not be able to understand the resource without me there to explain it. However, the Quick Start Guides have actually been super helpful for that since I am more confident in their ability to be explicable to the type of student we typically see in the Writing Centre.
Overall though, I would say that the biggest takeaway from this semester has been the importance of flexibility. The most common source of stress for many of my students, especially those starting their first year, is that they were receiving a lot of information all at once and a lot of instructions that they were not sure how to fulfill yet. When I spoke to many of them they often seemed like they were paralyzed by indecision or uncertainty. Within that context, the simple willingness to meet them where they are at can be helpful, not just in terms of their paper, but in terms of their schedule. Most students seemed relieved when they were told they could cancel an appointment if they needed or when I offered to help them reschedule. Additionally, most of them seem to prefer receiving concrete feedback limited to two or three steps, which is something I am now trying to focus on more for my own tutoring. It can be frustrating as a coach when a student constantly has to reschedule at the last minute or shuts down when you are giving them feedback that you know will help. Ultimately, it has been most helpful for me to remember that they are likely feeling just as overwhelmed or frustrated as I am, and to try and give them solutions that are much more manageable (even if a little incomplete sometimes). Better a student who has only one appointment and a concrete action plan than a student who has three appointments but misses some major deadlines and experiences excess anxiety as a result.