December 11, 2020
Working at the writing centre has taught me a lot about the role of tutors. It has taught me how to be a guide to help the students correct their own work, instead of an editor. However, the biggest thing I have learned is to not have expectations going into a session, because everyone is at a different level in their writing. Sometimes you will need to only model once, and other times you will need to model multiple times before a student gets what you are trying to say. I have learned that you are not always going to follow a perfect formula during an appointment because every session will look different. Tutoring is a job that demands adaptability and the ability to try different methods when one does not work.
One of the biggest things I have learned to be aware of when helping students with their writing is assignment instructions. So many times, when I work with students we have to rewrite an entire section of their paper because they did not actually do what their professor wanted them to do. They think they are done, and we look more closely at the assignment instructions and they are missing a huge chunk. It is important to always make sure the student knows what the professor’s instructions are.
This semester has not come without its challenges. Most of the students I worked with this semester were international students who only wanted help with their grammar. As a trained tutor, of which grammar is the lowest order concern to focus on I struggled, because I felt more like an editor than a writing coach. I have learned the importance of being well-versed in helping multilingual students, or ELLs who have not yet completely grasped some of the most basic grammatical formations. Something that is small to you may be big to them.
The switch to online learning was also hard as it has made students harder to reach. It is far easier to ignore emails and messages from tutors in the writing centre if you never have to see them in person. This has led to the tutors putting a lot of time in reaching out to students, with few positive responses. This can be very discouraging, and for me it definitely affected my motivation to be proactive with reaching out to students. I believe the next step is figuring out how to reach those student’s who have fallen off the grid with the switch to online school. Student’s need to be pulled in so they can understand the role the writing centre can have in their success as a student.
Despite the difficulty of this semester, I was rewarded in my efforts by the few students who showed up regularly and were very grateful for my assistance. I love tutoring because of the ability I have to help people through it, and I am very thankful for the last year that I was able to spend as a tutor at the writing centre.