December 11, 2020
Writing has always been something that I am passionate about. Whether it was writing stories about dragons in elementary school or writing about the monotony of my day in my journal, I loved to do it. Alongside this, though, came a rather fierce passion for grammar and spelling; I trusted no one who did not know the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ or ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. In fact, I often found myself saying that if I were to be a teacher, no student would ever leave my classroom without knowing these grammatical faux pas. I believed that working in the Writing Centre would solely allow me to help students combat these typical writing errors, along with sentence structure, word choice, and other easy fixes—areas I was comfortable and confident in. However, I quickly realized that working as a tutor would take me out of my comfort zone and expand my writing process horizon, enabling me to learn so much more about writing and how to help others be successful in it.
The first few tutoring sessions that I had this semester went without a hitch; the students were familiar with the services of the Writing Centre and knew what they wanted to get out of it, and I was happy to guide them in the process. However, this was not the case for a session that I experienced a few weeks in. One student came in with a paper that was finished and was due that day, but he said he needed help with his conclusion, grammar, formatting, and making sure that “it all just seemed correct”. Rather overwhelmed by his requests and the size of the paper, I started reading it aloud and upon reaching the thesis, quickly came to the realization that his paper did not have an argument. I knew from looking at the assignment instructions that it was supposed to have an argument, but when I brought this up to him, he reasoned that it would be fine, and we should focus on the rest of the paper. In that moment, I knew I had a choice between pushing back on the importance of the argument or letting it go and moving on to what he wanted to work on. Choosing that latter, we worked on the easy parts of the paper—the areas that I am most familiar with. The decision making stressed me out, and I hoped I wouldn’t be faced with a dilemma like that again.
This theme of students coming for help with spelling but actually needing help with higher order concerns really exposed my aversion of confrontation; when given the choice, I would much rather concede than fight. This links directly with my lack of assertiveness as shown through my MBTI results as well as my enneagram, and I have been aware of it for quite a while now but didn’t think it would affect me as a writing tutor. After the aforementioned incident, I recognized my decision as one of passivity; not speaking what I knew to be wrong with his paper. Of course, I faced this problem in almost every shift that I worked, and with the awareness of my decision-making issue, I recognized that helping students address the higher order concerns of their papers was far more important than my temporary discomfort with confrontation.
I am so thankful to have worked at the Writing Centre this semester, as it certainly taught me a lot about myself as both a writer and a person. Not only did I grow by facing my fear of confrontation, I learned about so many interesting subjects through reading students’ papers, solidified my knowledge of the use of the semicolon, and got to interact with wonderful people.