Giving Voice to Thoughts – Tutoring from a Feminist Lens
Divyasri Chakraborty | April 27, 2023
I have been working at the Writing Centre for eight months now. I had no idea that my “personhood” as a therapist would be aligned with that of a tutor until I started here. Carl Rogers, in his book, On Becoming a Person: a therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (1989), says, “The degree to which I can create relationships, which facilitate the growth of others as separate persons, is a measure of the growth I have achieved in myself.” Even though my roles as a tutor and as a therapist require me to put on different hats, there are so many occasions where these two parts converge. In this reflection, I will share how these two roles meet, enabling me to answer a higher calling.
Parker Palmer (1999), in his book Let your Life Speak, talked about how the poem by William Stafford inspired him, and he wondered what his life was about and what he meant to do with it. As I reflect on my journey so far, I feel that through these roles, I have been able to walk in the direction of embodying and expressing what my higher calling requires of me. To elaborate, I would say that this refers to my trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, feminist way of being in the world. The values of empowerment, equalizing power dynamic, and an equity-focused lens are fundamental to this lens and apply to tutoring as well.
To further explain, I have attempted to promote empowerment by assisting the students in finding their own voices and helping them in realizing the value of expressing themselves effectively. Helping them understand that their opinions and thoughts are meaningful. They matter. Their writing allows them to express themselves in their own unique way. Empowerment also comes through freedom of choice – where we make the students aware that it is absolutely their choice whether they would like to incorporate the feedback we provide.
Furthermore, through this lens, it is critical to first recognize that as tutors, we are automatically assumed to be experts. There is an imbalance in power when a student first comes for a tutoring session. However, the feminist strategy involves collaboration and aims to balance the power structure. This can be achieved by first identifying this presumption and informing the students that while we do not claim to be experts, we can undoubtedly assist them in determining how they can express themselves in a way that they believe is appropriate for them.
Lastly, an equity-focused lens is in recognizing that different individuals have diverse needs; hence, we cannot really treat everyone equally like a cookie-cutter mold. Equity vs. equality has always been a contentious and frequently misunderstood topic of discussion. This year, on March 8th, 2023, International Women’s Day was celebrated with the theme of Embracing Equity (International Women’s Day: What’s the Difference between Equity and Equality? | World Economic Forum, 2023). The difference between these two concepts can be illustrated with an example. For instance, a person who is 6 feet tall will climb the same 12-foot ladder faster and get to the top of the ladder sooner than a person who is 4 feet tall. Therefore, if there are physically fit versus people who live in bodies that are disabled, the complexity will be different. Hence, in the context of tutoring recognizing the diverse needs of different students and that their contexts define their needs are important. This has been an important value for me to provide an inclusive space for the students.
It really strikes me how feminism and an anti-oppressive approach go beyond some philosophies and theories but is really a way of being. As we end this semester, I find myself in a very reflective and grateful state. This semester has been meaningful in showing how my values are solidifying through different spheres in my life. I am thankful to be able to do this work and looking forward to future insights from these roles.
International Women’s Day: What’s the difference between equity and equality? | World Economic Forum. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/03/equity-equality-women-iwd/
Palmer, P. J. (1999). Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. Jossey-Bass.
Rogers, C. R. (1989). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy.