Friday, December 13, 2013

Blog 13: Advice to New Tutors

Any advice I would give to new tutors would need to be included with this  important disclaimer: I am not an expert writing tutor. I have only been here for a short time, so my knowledge and experience is not nearly as good as that of a master tutor who has been working as a writing tutor for years and years. That would be my first piece of advice – watch and learn from the masters. The master tutors have been in difficult tutoring sessions and know how to handle them gracefully and professionally. Also, learn to relax. If this tutoring session doesn’t go well, take it as a learning experience, and move on to the next student. Each tutoring session is a fresh start. Any bad feelings created during one session should be erased so that your next victim-(*cough) student feels welcome and that they are in a safe place to ask questions and learn. Show the student that you care by listening to their concerns. Empathize with them, but keep the session on task. Try to befriend them so that they feel you are trying to help them, not judge them. Realize that there will be tutees who are at different levels of writing competency, and that you should never make them feel belittled by emphasizing the gap between their ability and yours. Praise their strengths to increase their confidence, but don’t be afraid to gently point out their mistakes or make suggestions for improvement. Remember that this is their paper, not yours. You are not supposed to be co-author of the paper, so keep your ideas and your writing to minimum. Have the student come up with as much of the ideas as they can. If you fix the paper for them now, they will learn to rely on having someone else edit their papers rather than learning to catch their mistakes for themselves.

Blog 12

My experience as a tutor has definitely affected the way I do homework in other classes. For one thing, I am much, much more conscious of grammar rules. It has even taken me to the point that it sometimes takes me longer to write an essay than it used to before because now I think to myself, ‘what was the grammar rule about that again…?’ My papers lately are much better than my previous ones and my writing style seems to be more clear and concise. I also find myself feeling more comfortable and confident talking to people that I haven’t met before, which is not something that comes naturally to me.

Being a tutor has also put me in a position that have not experienced a lot, and that is being a teacher. Trying to help people understand a concept can be exhausting, so in a way, I feel more sympathetic toward my professors than I have in the past. I think that most professors (with a few exceptions) want to be good teachers and help their students to succeed, and it must hard when they have lessons that don’t go as well as they expected, or when getting students to talk in class is like pulling teeth, or when they have a stack of ungraded papers that keeps getting bigger and a time window that keeps getting smaller. I’m thankful for their patience and assistance.

Blog 11

In  a way, I think there is a sort of uncomfortable inconsistency between the way we accommodate middle-eastern students’ views/expectations of women and yet we say that we have zero tolerance for discrimination. Considering the example about a racist student from the South doing a study abroad in England being tutored by a black student, I personally don’t think his beliefs should be respected or accommodated. It sets a precedent that says it is okay to treat people differently because of their race/their gender/their orientation/their religion. If every white student were to refuse being tutored by this black student, it’s likely that he would soon be out of a job. It is shallow and superficial to assume that a person’s physicality (skin color, gender, disability, etc.) has anything to do with their personality or intellectual capacity.

 That said, when it comes to accommodating any middle-eastern student who disdainfully believes there is nothing a woman could possibly teach him, he should be given the polite equivalent of ‘suck it up cupcake’, and be invited to join the next available tutor (be it a man or a woman), or be asked to leave. Cultural values should be respected – to an extent. Westerners who visit Middle Eastern countries (especially religious sites) are expected to dress and behave in a manner that is respectful to the local culture. This expectation should work both ways, meaning that Middle Easterners who visit the West should expect to align themselves with our local culture and treat women respectfully, the same as men, since emphasis on individuality and equality are a huge part of America’s culture.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Blog 10: Reluctance and Resistance

            All educators must deal with reluctance and resistance. It is extremely common in every form of education, formal and informal. Many of the theorists we have read have been interested in pointing out the problems with the education system; the theorists point out that these problems tend to arouse sentiments that tend to lend themselves to worsening the learning of the student. Especially when the problems of power become apparent and the relationship between the teacher and the student is often when students begin to disengage. I have had experience with this in the writing center, and it has been one of the hardest things for me to face, as I have also been on the resisting and reluctant side of this issue, and I don’t know if my concerns were ever resolved nor that I can fully resolve any of the student’s. The best we can do is let them know that we are their advocate whether through our actions or through our
            The occasions when I most often experience reluctance and resistance in the tutoring center is when I am helping a student who feels that they are either forced to come to the writing center and don’t require any assistance and the students who feel that they have received or are receiving bad grades from a professor when they feel that they are superb writers. Often times, these students can be calmed down by just suggesting that there are things that we always need to work on, but there are many cases where the students are simply in a state of anger.
            It is often the case that when a student is experiencing this sort of anger or frustration, it is probably not going to result in an excellent tutoring session. Often times these students are combative or even, in many cases, withdrawn from the session. These are the students who will answer texts during a session, talk on the phone, stare at the wall, etc.
            I address combative behavior often by spending more time on single issues addressing the disputed points and giving the tutee credit where credit is due and explaining the concepts where it would be helpful. With disengaged students, I have taken the advice given by other tutors to mimic their behavior; I will sit back in my chair and wait for them. Oftentimes I decide that I might write that the student was actively disengaged during the session, but so far, the mimicking tactic has worked and brought tutees back into the session although I sometimes cannot change their attitude.

            I think the most important part is to respect them and know that they may be having a bad day or may be in over their head; however, respect for the tutee cannot override respect for ourselves as tutors. It is important to stand our ground and let students know that we are there for their benefit, not our own, despite what our paychecks say. I do think that genuine care for the tutees tends to be the game saver when a session seems to be taking a wrong turn or is coming under pressure. When the tutee senses that you genuinely want to help them do their best, I think they are very grateful and they have a very hard time continuing to be hostile. Overall, I think a mixture of these strategies can overcome these sentiments, and I hope that in the future the education system begins redesigning itself to not create them in the first place, granted some things are unavoidable.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Blog 13.

I would advise future tutors to allow themselves to malleable. Being a tutor, you must allow yourself to accommodate to several different situations and approach each student in a unique way. Also, something that has been particularly difficult for me, is not to be offended if a student does not respond well to you. Every person interacts with others in their own way, and your tutoring style may not pertain to their learning style. Do not get offended. Adapt yourself as best as you can to help that student and find out how to integrate your tutoring style with their learning style. I find myself wanting to assist the student in any way humanly possible, which isn't a bad thing, but it is important to emotionally detach yourself enough from the tutee so that you do not overtake their paper or the session.

Furthermore, knowledge that you have gained in the past may not be correct and it is crucial to integrate new information into your schema. English is one of those subjects where despite the fact that it operates within grammatical constructs, there are often situations where there is no solid empirical conclusion or answer. This can be frustrating. Once again, it is important to lend yourself to the style of the tutee, as we all have our personal writing styles. Sometimes it can be difficult not to impose your own writing style on the tutee. It is important to pay attention to the power dynamic of the tutor and tutee and understand that we are peers, not teachers or instructors. We are merely there to provide our knowledge and support to make them better writers and help them become self-sufficient.

Finally, I would like to stress the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. As many of us are both students and tutors it can be overwhelming, especially on long or busy work days. The purpose of the writing center is to provide a safe haven for students. Therefore, it is important to check baggage at the door in order to maintain a healthy work environment for both your co-workers and the students as well.

Blog 12.

This job has changed me as a student because it has made me more diligent and critical of my own work. I feel as though I am held to a certain standard being a writing tutor and that a certain level of quality must be attained for me to feel validated in my writing. Additionally, my writing also hinges on my personal validation as a writing tutor. I hold myself to a much higher standard because I believe I owe it to my tutees. Being an English Teaching Major my work filters into my studies. I am very lucky that the job I have in college not only lends itself to my studies but to my future profession as well. It is so refreshing to hear my tutees say that I am going to be a good teacher after an especially good session.

Not only does it validate my recent choice to become an English teacher but it motivates me to only work harder and gain more knowledge. Moreover, the knowledge that I gain from my work coincides directly with the knowledge that I am gaining with my studies. At times it can be overwhelming being constantly bombarded with essays, albeit my students or my own, but it strengthens me as a writer. Tasks that previously seemed daunting are now becoming second nature to me. I find myself growing as both a tutor and a writer each day. I find peace in knowing that my journey as a writer and tutor are far from over and that I still have much to learn. I am grateful to be challenged each and every day, for I know it will only benefit me in the future.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Blog 13: Existential advice

My advice is as follows:

Realize that saying "I know nothing" will always be the most truthfully descriptive statement you will possess--and, in fact, might be the only truthful thing you can say.

Remember who you are: no one. You are no one. Remember that.

Decide on an answer before you ask questions. Then the game becomes proving yourself wrong.

Be affected by all the trite platitudes that you hear about life--particularly the ones the rhyme.

If you are ever upset over something, remember that nothing matters.

Your nothing is someone's something, no matter how nothing. Acknowledge that.

Everything will kill everyone.

With nothing but to bleed and decay, you should help some people along the way.

Scarcely anything exists more human, and therefore sacred, than helping someone learn.

Blog 13: For Incoming Recruits (Tutors)

Blog 13: The Next Iteration: What I Would Tell the Incoming Tutor Recruits/Shelley Williams/Engl 3840

The Ten Commandments of Good Tutoring

1.       Thou shalt listen with all thy heart, with all thy ears, with all thy might, mind, and strength.

2.       Thou shalt treat tutees as thou thyself wouldst want to be treated.

3.       Thou shalt not write all for students upon their papers/parchment; Thou shalt make them work for what they learn, earn what they learn by so doing.

4.       Thou shalt read aloud the papers of 955 students so that they and you shalt catch more “stuff ‘n things.”

5.       Thou shalt praise with positive reinforcement whenever possible.

6.       Thou shalt focus on a few do-able issues when a paper is riddled with strife.

7.       Thou shalt not give in to a student’s negativity towards writing or a session in general.

8.       Thou shalt help the tutee to a knowledge of understanding regarding his/her own writing process as well as his/her most common problems and solution options for correcting these.

9.       Thou shalt concentrate on substance over mechanics.

10.   Though shalt reinforce thesis and roadmapping techniques for the dual purpose of orienting student tutees through rough composition terrain as strangers in a foreign land and for that of orienting readers of said composition(s).

You, dear Tutor, have chosen this position and title, much as you were chosen for it—because you care about what students learn and how they learn it. Here is a more detailed breakdown of each commandment given.

1.       Mandamiento Uno.  Show, not tell that you care by actually listening to students elaborate on their own writing and its meanings and discuss with them whether their meaning(s) are coming across as intended. Do this by active listening and by selective questioning based on what you see occurring already in the paper.

2.       Mandamiento Dos.  Honor tutees always by acknowledging, recognizing, and bridging from where they are in their writing skills/process and where they need to go and how to get there by noting their writing strengths with an eye to helping them fix that which needs gentle reproof.  Do that which will really help them; that is, do not assume your “constructive criticism” will be constructive until you’ve asked the student numerous questions to determine tutee perceptions.

3.       Mandamiento Tres. Limit writing you place on a student’s work. Writing in margins to the exclusion of the student tutee doing so, is highly discouraged if you wish to have students learn best by “doing” and thinking aloud their own errors and the corrections/solutions thereof.  Teach a tutee to fish . . . don’t fish for them. You will starve the tutee later if you hand-feed him/her now. This does not mean you should not break up the fish into bite-sizes your tutee can handle, but rather that you have to discern with keen awareness what that size bite should be with any given tutee.

4.       Mandamiento Quatro.  Read aloud the work of developmental learning students in order to catch the greatest multiplicity of potential problems. When appropriate to demonstrate the degree of difficulty you, as reader, are having, have the student read the problem area aloud.

5.       Mandamiento Cinco.  Empathize with a student about their difficulties and strengths in writing their text in order to draw out student’s perceptons of their own writing as well as their learning styles/strategies. This will develop student trust and confidence in his/her ability to resolve their writing issues in future.

6.       Mandamiento Seis.  Praise the slightest successful effort of a student to place a string of sentences or words on the page. This is especially true if it appears there is nothing good to say about the paper.  This is part of helping students to move from a place of vulnerability to a place of strength by showing (with “because”) what is right with their texts/paper(s).

7.       Mandamiento Siete.  Re-iterate the positive to eliminate the negative in order to make headway in a sea of woe and lamentation. If you can’t say something nice, find a way to say something true, while framing this in positive terms, i.e., “I like this. Do that here as well, and you will strengthen your paper.” In other words, do the things that will really help and will diffuse a student’s lambast of you, him/herself, or the text/paper, or the session itself.

8.       Mandamiento Ocho.  Teach not as you like to be taught, but as the student likes to be taught. This means you will have to be cognizant of signals the student gives that show what the preferred learning style is, or you may simply ask the student to elaborate on the process they use to take in new material or to generate the essay that is before you for review.  This will go a long way to teaching the student academic and communicative survival and excellence. Teach the student how to fish . . .

9.       Mandamiento Nueve.  Focus on the big picture problems and targets (well-constructed thesis and paper body and how these should reflect one another) before turning sights on minutia. This order can be reversed if the minutia is so multiplied that it is glaringly difficult to read the text without faltering. In that case, sentence construction becomes the big-picture issue of the session.  Mechanics concentration should be dependent on level of need, but never to the exclusion or overemphasis that would subordinate idea presentation to a place of lower status.

10.   Mandamiento Dies.  Finish where you begin; begin where you finish.  Ask the students always, and foremost: “Can you identify/bracket your thesis (main idea) for me?” If the student cannot do this, point out to said student that the likelihood is great that the reader will not be able to do so either. Additionally, highlighting topic sentences as necessary to generate or re-generate good organization of the paper should be done in relation to what is forecast in the intro/thesis. These will not be mirror images, but should be like a placid lake reflecting the sky. Use illustrations like this to help students, especially if you learn said students are visual learners, for example.

All commandments should build on one another in this way: Once you learn a new piece of information about the student’s writing, use that new knowledge to inform the session until the end of the session.

Finally, a genuine yet measured interest in your student and their paper and topic will cover a multitude of their sins. Find ways to connect with your students and their chosen topics, or use it to steer them in a new direction—not necessarily a new paper—but always in the direction of the best result the student can create.

Blog 10: Reluctance is good

No instances immediately come to mind of students being overall "reluctant to being tutored." However, many sessions come to mind when the question is contemplated with more nuance, particularly in terms of reluctance to different methods within tutoring. For instance, many students have been reluctant to listen to my advice about certain grammar principles; or, other students have shown reluctance when it came to talking about the overall structure of their piece (as if they just wanted easy fixes made, weren't interested at all to the extent that I wanted to make them do work they didn't want to do); or, some students have shown reluctance to picking up their own pen--or even when they do, to using it all to make any marks on their page (as if I am the one responsible for doing all the marking when tutoring sessions are happening).

But, to be honest, what's far worse than a tutee being reluctant about certain aspects of the tutoring session, is having a tutor be completely indifferent to everything that happens during a tutoring session. Indeed, nothing is worse than a tutee who is just there to run out the clock--a tutee who just wants the slip, or just wants the minor grammar fixes marked, and wants to get out of there as soon as possible.

That suggests, perhaps--and maybe this is only my experience--that reluctance can actually be a good thing. Maybe it sounds weird at first, but signs of a student's reluctance have an interesting way of implying engagement in the session. If they are interested enough in what you're saying to not agree with everything that you're saying, it actually might indicate they are actually taking the things you say seriously, and moreover, might actually be learning things in session that other students wouldn't.

In the end, even if they don't listen to some aspect of your advice (to which they were "reluctant") or whatever, it really doesn't matter if they were listening to the other things you were saying, and integrated them into their future work.

I remember, in particular, one student vehemently disagreed with me about a way in which he used past tense improperly. There were a few instances of this student's misuse of this particular past tense way a phrasing something (in an otherwise present tense paper), and by the fifth or so time, I stopped marking his paper when we came across it because I didn't want to deal with the student vocally disagreeing with me. "Uh, yeah, are you sure?" became, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's right how I put it." To be sure, this was a pretty clear example of a student's reluctance.

But something interesting happened when I read through it and didn't mark it: instead of being defensive, the student questioned himself. He stopped me, "So, weren't you saying this was wrong?" "Yeah," I said, "But you seemed hesitant, so we can just move on." The student gave me a funny look. "Well if it's wrong I guess I should know it is," he said. "Want me to get a second opinion?" I asked him. After the second opinion came in on my behalf, the student apologized for not listening. And yet, without his initial reluctance--if the student had just dismissed my correction and never actually thought about it--he would not have learned in the end that he actually was wrong.

So, everyone: be reluctant about stuff. And don't assume reluctance is a bad thing.

Blog 9: Composition courses

From what I remember of composition courses, the emphasis seemed always to revolve around the production of writing argumentative papers. I am not sure which class it was, but I remember one class consisting of writing three argumentative papers. Thinking back, it seems as though the purpose the class was designed that way was to be a sort of catch-all for students, to initiate students into the world of academic writing. At bottom, what these classes seemed to be teaching was the "genre" of college paper writing.

I distinctly remember writing one paper in which I failed to supply an adequate accounting for the objections to my view. I recall feeling really frustrated about this because I felt it unjust that I would be docked, not for failing to articulate my point, but for failing to account for other point of views on the subject. As I look back, I actually tend to agree with the professor, or at least I sympathize with his decision to make that an essential part of the paper. What motivated the professor, I take it, was a desire to have students step outside of their own perspective and at minimum reflect (even if indirectly in the process of regurgitating something you don't believe because it's a requirement for the paper) on positions outside of the student's, which he or she presumably entered the classroom with.

One thing that I really did not learn in those classes was how to actually do substantive research. In fact, as much as I love the English department at Weber State, as an undergraduate I was never instructed with any rigor on how to really engage with databases and so forth for the purpose of doing real research. It was actually in philosophy classes that I was introduced to the world of doing my own serious ("serious" for an undergrad, anyway) research. Interestingly, my first class in the MENG program was spent entirely in the library going over research tools.

The absence of doing real research in the composition classes rendered pretty poorly informed papers. This also has to do with the fact that I was a few years younger and less experienced, of course. It would make sense, and maybe other instructors do, to emphasize research before you expect students to compose anything meaningful. Then again, for the purposes of a catch-all class, it might be far more efficient to just have all the students produce papers based on the same body of work you provide the class. Maybe it comes down to a practical consideration.

Blog 12 Revamp (with full knowledge of prompt)

Blog 12:  What is a student? What is a tutee? Who am I as “tutor?” How Tutoring Has Shaped Me/Shelley Williams/Engl 3840

Though I’ve let myself get behind in this class, shamefacedly, I just re-responded to this in a way, by revamping my response to Blog 1, which, because I have no grade for it, as you know, I thought meant it was not received at all (and hence I re-submitted; I think there are no less than three iterations of it).

Essentially, I was trying to assess, and have been since last year when I re-became a student (how I always seem to re-define myself—by becoming a student and learning anew or learning the new), what “being a student” means these days, what being a good tutor means, and what being a teacher, my end-goal, still means. The hard way, I have learned that I have had to reassess my own natural learning abilities and styles and cater to these or I simply won’t ingest, digest, process or make a part of me new material.  And seeing the unique ways other students (tutees) ingest, partially digest, and bring forth their own processing of new material has essentially proven to be “all of a piece.”

Additionally, because I love working one-on-one with students like this, and feeling like I am making a difference because of their happy, satisfied comments at the end of sessions, I want to remain linked forever with helping students discover themselves and their latent abilities to communicate and communicate well, in writing. As such, I am planning to change my major.

Though this initially came from deciding to take a summer acting course simply because I enjoyed theater in high school, the tutoring has reinforced my love of language and word-crafting and helping others learn to do this as well. Even in the theater arts, through tutoring I remember it’s really the words of language brought to life on stage that I love. I want to write, reflect, learn.  That’s how I know I’m alive. And I want to teach; I always have. But one thing or another has thwarted my plans, perhaps most often myself because I’m not sufficiently audience-aware or for whatever other combination of reasons. Nonetheless, I will prevail in learning. I will prevail in word-crafting; this time in a new language.  So my new plan is to major in Spanish, potentially moving to ESL, and perhaps in so doing, empower myself and a large Latino population who seem to need it the most. I know one thing for certain--These ESL learners can be among the most grateful. I know this is not always the case (I read Ashley’s blog). However, I have experience with foreign students, which is unique and makes me more culturally sensitive that I know where/how to start from a place that bridges from their cultures to ours, since that is the ultimate goal. Whenever possible, I like to put my former knowledge base(s) in service of my newer ones, and so, I look forward to seeing where this journey leads.

The whole joy of being able to tutor (and inherent in my desire to teach) is this desire to empower other individuals with the written word. Writing is empowering. Education is empowering—one of the only tools left we have that truly is sufficiently qualified to help not only change individual lives, but communities, countries/nations, continents, our world.

What’s more--I get to, and in a way am obligated to, keep learning if I am going to be a teacher (and that is true even if I weren’t re-enrolled as a student). By definition, a teacher, or at least a good one, wants to always be learning and improving on what’s new in the field he/she teaches, what’s old that needs to be retained but potentially revamped, and how these can be synthesized but not diluted to reach students. I want no student left behind who wants to learn (but may not even know how much; ESL students do though). I want to be the antithesis of the slogan I heard was created by students themselves, i.e., “All students left behind. No teacher left standing.”  Not all good students make good teachers, but I am of the opinion that good teachers are good learners and so can know how to teach not only a subject, but how to teach learning (metacognition)—skills for the moment and skills to last a lifetime.

Re-tweak of Blog 11: To Accommodate or Not to Accomodate: That is the Question

Blog 11: Is there another tutor in the house? Accommodating Past Cultural Difference/Shelley Williams/Engl 3840

This is a slight re-vamp of a former submission of this blog. This time I actually know what the prompt said. I really need to leave well enough, (or shot at enough) alone, but alas, it's only done when I say, no? I mostly changed the first paragraph if you've already read this one.

I have been fortunate in this regard, never having had to deal with a disgruntled or full-out irritated foreign student male in relation to his writing, or anything for that matter. Though I used to be a foreign student immigration advisor, a blatently disgruntled student whose problem I did not successfully address has simply never was my lot, though I had to make one accountable for irresponsible actions. It's not that different from what I do with their writing. It perhaps worked to my good that I became known as the “problem scenario” magnet. It thickened my skin without making me crack or become brittle and unfeeling.  My enhanced cultural sensitivity from that position came from my natural curiosity and mutual respect for another culture within the bounds of our culture, wherein they found themselves--ours.  But you don't have to have a foreign tutee on your hands to find you and your tutee are not speaking the same language. I can think of at least one good instance (for illustrative purposes) when for both my sake and the sake of the tutee, the request for me to be replaced had occurred due not to cultural difference but my inability that day, for whatever reason, to speak the same language as the student--the one needed to propel the student forward.


She came in semi-confident, semi-wary as a returning "mature" or non-trad student. She made it clear that she was new at this; didn't really understand what the teacher wanted; never liked English that much in high school; and finally, as the session wore on, gave me quizzical looks that indicated not only was I not reaching her either, but I was potentially making things worse.


It was at the beginning of spring semester 2013, my first semester tutoring for WSU.  I was struggling with 18 credits (several of which I changed to audits later). Although I felt I was so not hacking it again as a student, I felt I was setting the student at ease by telling her that I'd taught 1010 before, and that this was not going to be as bad as she thought. Because I was so busy "telling" versus showing her how easy it was, it became a labored session--both time-wise and emotionally, as in emotionally-draining--for us both.


Between not saying what I meant or wanted to say because I felt I already knew how to do that, I ended up feeling there wasn't anything I could have done to make the session go less smoothly by what was coming out of my mouth (I now know far less at all should have been exiting that source).  The only tool I didn't forget, mostly because I never didn't have this, was some modicum of self-deprecation or genuine humility in this case, sufficient to say that I was learning again too, being back in school with credits over my head and that I wasn't really explaining myself very well.  When in final and utter doubt, I always self-deprecate.  And sometimes that's useful. Though I think aiming for a middle mark of inspiring confidence by neither bragging nor over-commiserating would have been far better. Or, failing that, if a session starts to get off track and it becomes like a runaway train, for whatever reason, I would at least now not be afraid to ask for a second opinion from a fellow tutor by asking some pointed question to which he/she could respond to with wording that might enlighten the tutee in a way that my words have not as they just kept dimming the switch in the wrong direction.

I've learned that I can also switch tacks midstream too if my approach isn't working and am now more skilled at that. However, I'm sure the day will come when a completely derailed session will have to pass into other hands. Until that day, I'm learning how to avoid it in as many circumstances, with as many kinds of students as possible. Knock on wood.

Blog 7: What's on My Mind?

So, it seems as if I slacked off and didn’t write a blog post for the simple prompt of “what’s on your mind?” Well, now it is the end of the semester, and much is on my mind. I’m excited to finish these classes that I am currently in, but I am also excited for the classes I will take next semester. But I’m in limbo, really, stuck between almost being done with a semester and my nearly overwhelming lethargy that inevitably destroys my work ethic just prior to the Winter break. But I’m getting along, mostly.

Before I make my next statement, I have note that I am inspired by the grad students I have had the opportunity to associate with this past semester. I say this, because for the past couple of weeks I have been dreading a simple eight-page paper for my Irish Literature class while many of them were spending their nights and early mornings in hours-long marathon writing binges. I have much to learn from you all, to include improving the effectiveness of my procrastination. It’s not working as well for me as it seems to be working for some of you.

It has been a stressful end to the semester. As always, final assignments stack up, the workload in the WC increases, and tensions begin to stretch to the breaking point. I find solace in knowing that I am officially half way through with my degree, but I look back and realize that it hasn’t been easy to get where I am now. All at once I am excited, frightened, stressed, confused, and hopeful as I move forward, not knowing quite what to expect.

Also, as a side note, my family and I just finished our move to Ogden. On our first night sleeping in our new home, we were awakened by a man screaming obscenities to himself as he sat on the curb outside our house. Ogden is not like Farmington. The End.

Blog 5: Emotional Writing = Emotional Students

I am almost glad that I had waited so long to write this blog post because I hadn’t had much experience with emotional writing until last week. A student of mine had been given the all too loaded assignment to write about a “memorable experience” in her life. Like many students, she went for the most memorable, and most tragic, of her life experiences. Quickly after beginning the session, I knew that this would be a difficult and emotional paper to tutor. She apologized before we even began reading, telling me that it was a pretty sad paper. I had just assumed she meant that her writing wasn’t as good as she wanted it to be, but then I read her paper which was about her first miscarriage and the death of her first live-born child. After reading this portion of her paper, I looked up to see tears streaming down the students face. She was overwhelmed with emotion, and I, too, was moved by her tragic narrative.

In this situation, I felt that it was best to take a short, two minute break. I told her that I was sorry for her loss and acknowledged that these experiences must have been very hard for her to go through. She thanked me for my concern, and told me that her baby had only died two months ago and that she was sorry for being so emotional. I assured her that no apology was needed. I waited until she was calm and her tears had stopped before asking her if she would like to continue with the session or take a break. She said she would like to continue, and it ended up being a very productive session.

I have heard from some tutors that they encourage students to avoid these sorts of topics because of their emotional nature. I have also heard these same tutors advising students to “write what you are passionate about.” When these two things overlap, it becomes difficult to know how to advise a student on his or her writing, and  I’m still not sure whether to ask these students if they would consider a new topic or just help them to make their assignment the best emotional paper it can be.

Blog 12: Has Tutoring Helped My Studies?

Tutoring at the writing center has both improved my regular schoolwork and hindered its progress. Let me explain. As an English major, it is always great to see writing in all of its forms. Good writing, bad writing,  absurd writing: It all helps. From the really excellent pieces I was able to tutor, I was able to steal ideas for future papers. I was able to witness new organizational schemes and recognize what it looked like when tried and true writing techniques were adhered to. From the papers that were obviously struggling, I was able to compare my writing and avoid many of the pitfalls writers fall into. After a semester of tutoring, I feel as if I am better prepared to revise my own papers, and the red marks I receive on the papers I have turned in are growing less and less common.

But, as I said, tutoring has also hindered some of my schoolwork. This is not a consequence of being a tutor, though. It has actually been a result of poor planning on my part. In the first half of the semester we filled out some time management forms which detailed our typical, weekly schedules. After mine was filled out, I realized that I only had a couple of hours every week to study for my classes. I had taken on quite the workload, devoting much of my time to tutoring and the rest to classes and sleep. Because of this, my sleep schedule suffered, and consequently, I found it hard to really put the effort into my assignments that I had intended. My grades have not suffered because of this (yet) but personally I feel that I could have done more. In the future, I will try to plan my schedule more evenly and give myself more time to read, study, and write.

Blog 13: Tutoring Advice

As far as advice for the next batch of tutors, I would tell them mainly to be flexible. The skills and abilities taught in the tutor training class are important, and in many ways invaluable, but they are in no way all encompassing. There will always be situations for which a tutor will feel unprepared. This is not a time to panic. In fact, I have found that these are the moments that helped me to grow as a tutor. When dealing with unfamiliar, mindboggling tutoring issues, the tutor is forced to reflect on how he or she handled the situation. For good or bad, this is an excellent learning opportunity.

Next, I would advise new tutors to give themselves breaks. This semester I learned that tutoring can wear a person out both mentally and physically. Tutors must remember that, as students, they need to give themselves time to both recuperate and study for their own classes. We may feel like super heroes, at times, but we need to give ourselves time to relax, or we will get burned out pretty quickly.

I would also encourage the new tutors to enjoy the unique opportunity they have to correspond with students across the curriculum. For those of us who have completed our generals, we tend to see the same people within our majors no matter the class we are in. As tutors, we are able to develop friendships with students and coworkers who are not associated with our field of study. The most enjoyable papers I read this semester were not from English students. Instead, I was intrigued by papers written by zoology majors, geography majors, and students of the physical and life sciences. I was able to learn things that may not have been available to me otherwise, and likewise, I was able to impart some special knowledge to these students and help them to improve their writing in their field.

This leads me to my next, and final, piece of advice. New tutors need not be afraid of the “difficult” subjects. When I first started tutoring at the beginning of the semester, I was terrified of upper division papers. It was daunting, having to tutor a student who was years ahead of me in their academic career. But, as the semester progressed, I realized that I did have the knowledge and ability to provide meaningful feedback to students from unfamiliar fields of study who were writing advanced, lengthy papers. It was from these experiences that I learned the most about myself as a tutor as I was able to challenge my knowledge.  

Relax. Remember. Respect.

First of all, if you have been hired to work in the Writing Center, then believe in yourself. Claire does not hire tutors willy-nilly. She has confidence in you; have confidence in yourself.

Next. Take your grammar training, and your MLA, APA, documentation seriously. But don’t freak out. There will be plenty of on-the-job learning and discussion, even debate, about theses topics with your fellow tutors. If you are uncertain of a rule, remember that there will always be a bigger grammar geek who knows the answer. There are loads of reference materials around, but if you can’t find an answer, don’t be afraid to ask.

Keep an extra pen tucked in your folder. A mint or stick of gum doesn’t hurt, either.

Remember to get up, walk, stretch, get a drink, get your head together every once in awhile. You can’t help students if you are too foggy. If a session gets too intense, don’t be afraid to take a break or stop the session. Suggest continuing later.

Respect the student and her learning process. Recognize your own strengths. Relax. You’ve got this covered.

The study habits of old dogs

(Somehow I missed this prompt, so its a bit out of order.) 

I can't really say that my work in the writing center has had much effect on me in the day to day schoolwork element. I guess that I am a bit of an "old dog" in some of my habits as a student, and I don't think there is much that can reasonably done to change that. I am lucky that I have always had pretty good study habits (at least when it comes to English), so my stubborn approach to classwork is not too bad. I am sure that it could have changed me more had I been an undergraduate, but maybe my bachelor's degree solidified my approach a bit. 
That's not to say I didn't learn a lot about the process of being a student. I was able to see a lot of learning techniques in action and participate in helping others become more effective students. I was able to examine this process for many of the tutees, and through that I confirm many of my preexisting notions. Its not that I think I am a superior student that is beyond reproach, but I know I had some fantastic teachers in my undergrad that did a good job preparing me for being a student. A lot of those elements have just been reinforced this year, and now I am looking at way to pay it forward. 
What has changed is how I view myself as a teacher. The last few months have drastically altered my pedagogy, helping shape me into a better teacher. I guess, in the end, I have changed a bit in my study habits. I still go about things in the same way, but now I think about the process more. I analyze why I approach material the way I do so I can help others be as successful as I am. Teaching an old dog to teach young dogs might be a metaphor too far, but the idea of learning from myself to help others is pretty fitting.

Gary Lindeburg

Seeing Students

Being a tutor hasn't really changed how I see myself as a student. I've spent a lifetime learning, reading, studying, and practicing what I learn. I have strong views of myself as a leaner, how I learn, what I want to learn, and the method by which I want to learn (self-directed, formal schooling, direct practice, etc.).

Tutoring college students has helped me understand how contemporary students think. It is interesting to observe and work with a cross section of students: The stereotypical, 18 year-old college freshman; the middle-aged student returning to university studies; international students and more have all come through the Writing Center doors. Each student comes with his or her own set of needs and expectations.

As we discusses in class, when Claire presented about the Millennial Generation, students of a certain age seem to have a different conception of the world and their place in it than students of other generations. This is the normal order of generational growth. Each generation is slightly different from the previous. Working with the Millennials helps me understand the students I will be teaching in my 1010 classes next semester.

Working with English 1010 students, and students in other undergraduate classes, has shown me how students view assignments given them by professors / instructors. I have seen when students think an assignment is "busy work"; when a student is disdainful of an assignment (or a teacher); when a student flat-out misunderstands an assignment; and when a student "gets it" and is working in synch with the teacher and the course materials.

I hope that working with students one on one will help me when planning instruction and assignments for the next couple of years. I hope that I will remember to be clear about the concepts I teach. I hope I can explain assignments thoroughly and provide clear rubrics for grading. I hope, that when assignments are graded, I am able to provide my students useful feedback. I hope that my time working with individual students will make me a better instructor for all students I may come across.

Working in the Writing Center has taught me less about myself as a leaner, but instead has informed my teaching philosophy. Instead of learning how to be a learner, I hope I am learning how to teach.

To the fall 2014 tutors

The first thing I want to tell new tutors is to relax, enjoy working with students, and try not to worry or overthink. The job is challenging, but rewarding. It can feel like the tutee expects you to make their paper absolutely perfect, but in the end you clan only do so much. You are there to help them learn to be better writers, not ensure their individual papers have perfect grammar. It will be a fight sometimes, and they will walk away feeling like you failed because you didn't doctor their paper and do the work for them. I know the idiom about giving a man a fish/teaching a man to fish is a bit overused, but fits fantastically to writing center pedagogy. You can fix all the commas in a paper or you can teach them how to fix their own commas. Which is more valuable?
I think the biggest piece of advice I can give to the incoming tutors is to be mindful of ESL sessions. From a lot of my previous posts, my particular interest in teaching English as a second language is probably pretty clear. There are a lot of specific elements to tutoring language learners, as opposed to developing writers, that can add extra stress to the job. Talking at length about complex essay structures is a bit difficult when the listener is still trying to grasp verb conjugations. These are times when the support of coworkers and the writing center staff can come in very handy. Hopefully, most of you have taken a foreign language class, so try to remember what that feels like.
All in all, I hope you enjoy the experience of working in the writing center. No matter what field you are planning to go into, the ability to help people understand their own thought processes and how to express themselves in writing can be useful. You will get tutees from all around  campus, but your job will remain the same.

Gary Lindeburg

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


Oh man, what advice would I give to new tutors? I think my biggest bit of advice is don't be afraid to be friendly.  It is important to maintain a professional boundary with tutees, but a smile and a laugh go a long way.  If you pay attention to the tutors how seem to constantly have tutees asking to meet with them, you'll probably notice they are the same tutors who are smiling or laughing during their sessions.  Part of our job is putting a good face to the university.  Tutees who feel like they are welcomed and enjoy being in the writing center will definitely see us as a good face.

Another bit of advice is ask for help! There is nothing more embarrassing than giving a tutee bad information.  Best case scenario they ignore your help, and worst case scenario they lose respect for you as a tutor and will not come back to you; they may even tell others not to come to you.

Along those lines, study as much as you can.  Become familiar with APA, MLA, and (if you're feeling particularly brave) Chicago.  Study the handbooks and reference guides.  Ask other tutors for help.  The more you know, the more effective you'll be as a tutor.

Also, pay close attention to the hierarchy of help (or whatever it's called) that is in the writing center.  Know what you should be doing and do it.  One big complaint among tutors is that other tutors are not properly occupying their time.  When people are waiting, walk up and help.  Don't even wait until then. If you see someone walk in to the writing center, stand up and go offer help.  When there are OWLs to do, offer help. When there is nothing to do, ask someone what you can do.

As you become more efficient at tutoring, your sessions will become faster.  Make sure to stay on task; do not sacrifice speed for effectiveness.  However, pay attention to other tutors.  If you notice that they do three sessions in the time you complete one, ask to observe them.  Maybe you can learn some things.  Take as many sessions as you can.  Master tutors need to practice to maintain their tutoring skills, but new tutors need to practice to GAIN tutoring skills.  Do the work and you will get better at it.  It's as simple as that.

And my last bit of information I'm going to provide is this: work well with the OAs.  They are the ones who distribute sessions.  Do your fair share and they will like you.  Slack off or don't work hard and they may not like you much.  This may be a little selfish, but sometimes tutors need a break.  The OA can definitely help you know when would be a good time for a break.  They can also keep you on track for session length.  They are your lifeline; don't be afraid to use them a bit.

Blog 12: I'm a better student because I tutor.

12: How has your experience tutoring affected your other schoolwork?  Has it changed the way you approach being a student?  The way you think about yourselves as students?
Part of tutor training is learning good study skills so we can model for tutees.  Being a tutor has definitely changed and even increased how I complete my schoolwork.  I am much more confident at using reference materials, though I didn't lack in that before.  I guess the biggest thing I've learned through tutoring is that it is okay to ask for help.  My first time walking in to the writing center was for my interview for a job.  Now, I feel no shame in asking another tutor a question, whether for myself or during a session in which a strange question comes up.  I appreciate students who come in to the writing center even after they are no longer required.  I wish I would have used more campus resources in my undergrad, but I use them more now that I understand the importance and benefit.  Tutoring definitely changed how I view campus resources.
Another thing about being a tutor is that I am expected/asked to keep my grades up and stay on top of my homework.  Admittedly, this last part was a struggle for me this semester, as I'm pushing through the last few blog posts to get things turned in.   However, I did learn how to interact with faculty as a tutor.  I learned that maintaining an open discussion with faculty is not difficult nor scary, and it can be a huge benefit.  

Blog 11: Unexpected Racism/Sexism

The question "Is there an inconsistency in the way we treat international students' expectations of women and the way we might treat sexism or racism?" gave me quite a bit to think about.  I was having this discussion the other day, and I'm pretty sure they started it due to this blog post.   I don't know if I would expect of feel entitled to special treatment if I were to travel to a foreign country.  My culture, though, does not punish me for disobeying the cultural norms.  From my interactions with another tutor who has a repeat-tutee from Saudi Arabia, she informed him that if she is caught disobeying cultural norms, not wearing a burka in public, she can be mocked and ridiculed when she gets back to her country.

So I guess to answer the question, do I think there is an inconsistency or double standard, is yes. I do think there is one.  But I don't see it as a problem, to a certain extent.  We are lenient when students want things we can provide within reason.  If a tutee requests a certain tutor because they have a good working relationship, we make it happen.  Sometimes the tutee has to wait for that want to be met.  If a tutee wants a certain gender of tutor for social or cultural reasons, we try to comply.  But again, sometimes they may have to wait to meet their want.  I think as long as the service we provide to international students is the same service we would provide to other students, we should have no problem.  

Monday, December 02, 2013

Blog 11: Hostility

A couple of different sessions come to mind when I think of how, if it all, hostility has played a role in any of my experiences. In both cases, there was no "open" hostility--it all remained pretty well internalized. As such, it may more accurately be described in terms of "tension."

The first involved a 1010 student who came in with a paper on Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. The essay was essentially the work of a student who had not read a page of the book, who was reduced to regurgitating bits and fragments of summaries he had read online. (I feel confident about this due to the complete absence of understanding he demonstrated when I pressed him about some of the assumptions Friedman (and he, by the transitive property of not contesting anything on which a book is based because you are writing an essay on a book that you didn't read) imported into their bumper-sticker economic platitudes.)

I tried to facilitate him in some discussion about the empirical data that now eviscerates Friedman's reductionist claims about the celebratory potentials of globalization. I tried to get him to, at minimum, think about the words that he had rearranged from wikipedia and other sites about Friedman's book. Finally, he said, "I just really want to finish this thing, you know?"

This was near the beginning of the semester and I had not yet learned, when necessary, to completely remove myself emotionally (and probably socially) from the content in the papers I was reading. Because of this, I remember feeling an sort of visceral sort of pain as I focused on surface-level grammar mistakes operating between completely unsubstantiated claims about the nature of the world economy, which are contradicted by even some the most detestable bourgeois economists in recent years.

I struggled through the paper. Life moved on. The next time a tension-inducing paper came to me, however, was even worse. A young girl came in with a speech about abortion. "Oh boy," I thought, "Here we go." While I am unambiguously on the side of women's rights, I am actually sympathetic to some of the more nuanced perspectives opposing abortion (e.g. concerning "personal opposition, but policy support," for instance, as Jimmy Carter expresses).

The student's speech, however, had little-to-no relation to any semblance of nuance or subtlety (and the student would have none of my "liberal" bias). Right off the bat, the student referred to her opponents as "murders," "anti-lifers," and the like. Before even closing out the first paragraph, I tried to explain to her the nature of these arguments. "This is a really serious topic," I said, "I think many--even those who agree with you--will find these characterizations of pro-choice advocates unhelpful at best." I went on, "These don't really pertain directly to the subject itself--these are just assaults on people, not even specific people, but on general, holding the opposing perspective."

The session didn't last much longer--and I honestly did not editorialize her opinion in the least bit. I merely suggested she amend her characterizations of the opposing side. "K thanks, any other suggestions about the other stuff in the speech?" I remember her saying.

The Last Blog (Blog 13)

My advice would have to be twofold: what advice could I give to next year’s tutors and next year’s teaching assistants.

            Tutors: Don’t be discouraged! I had little to no tutoring experience in composition when I first started at the writing center. While I had experience content tutoring for upper division English courses at my undergraduate school, I was unfamiliar with how to educate students on basic essay composition. As an English student, I felt that my ability write essays started at the high school level and gave me the necessary foundation to adapt it throughout my college experience. The class is helpful; the observations are more helpful. While learning about tutoring pedagogy and crisis management can give you a nice toolbox, there is nothing more helpful than watching the master tutors in action and adopting their techniques for yourself. Please do the reading! There isn’t that much in course and all of it is helpful in one way or another. Even if it doesn’t seem helpful on the surface, it is helpful when discussed in class with Dr. Rogers and Claire. Ask them questions! Don’t be afraid to send them an email or visit Claire in her office. They are full of knowledge and experience – use them!

            TAs: This semester will not be what you expect. When I first started at the Writing Center, I felt that it was a waste of my time. How is tutoring going to help me in the classroom? It helps, oh my goodness does it help. No matter what kind of institution you are coming from, working in the writing center gives you invaluable insight into the kinds of students and writing you are going to face in the English 1010 classroom. When I first came from CLU, I assumed that Weber State students were going to be almost exactly the same as those I had worked with before. This is not true. Weber State is a different animal; you need to prepare yourself for it. Consider working in the writing center and taking 5840 as boot camp. You gain the necessary skill set to go into the classroom with confidence. The extra reading you will do is also worth it. The pedagogical tools are great insight for those who, like me, had no prior teaching experience. Yes, there is a lot of writing. Yes, there are a lot of personal responses. Yes, you will tire of the blog posts at times. Do them anyways. Not only are you graded on them, you will realize about ¾ of the way through the semester that they taught you things that have enhanced your ability to tutor, teach, and connect with students. In any case, embrace this opportunity. While it may seem frustrating at the beginning, it will all be worth it when you leap into the classroom for the first time. Weber State knows that their TAs need training. And, while many schools barely even allow their TA to speak in the classroom, they give you an opportunity to gain real world experience that you can use in your future career. Just get through this semester and you’ll see what I mean. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Yoo-Hoo, New Tutors, Come Hither

Hello, Blog!

This is the last blog of the year; hence, this blog is about what I have learned and want to pass on to next year’s tutors.

As an incoming tutor, know your stuff (or be willing to put in the time to learn your stuff). One of the most important things that I have learned this year is how to be a better student using the tools that I have been given in the Writing Center. I have learned so much about writing mechanics, writing formats and styles, balancing the assignment parameters and the professor’s wishes, and how to critically review my own work. Be prepared to study hard and take correction as it comes.  Know that professors give assignments for a reason and complaining about the assignment or the professor will not solve your problems. With this in mind, help other students to recognize this as well. Have a strong resolution to do your professional and scholarly work to the best of your ability and learn to be thankful that you have the opportunity to get an education and a degree.

                Another thing that I have learned is how to be a better communicator in the workplace. If you want to succeed in the Writing Center, know that communication is key to everything you do. Between Claire, the office assistants, other tutors, and students, it is very helpful to let others know what you are doing and why you are doing it (in the appropriate context). Be a team player and learn how to work well with the team that you have using the strengths of each person to complement the other members of the team. This group is truly remarkable.

                Lastly, learn how to be sociable, personable, and clear in your speech and learn how to use those skills effectively according to your personality and your interests. I am not a very talkative person, but I really enjoy spending my time with people and being a helpful friend even if I do not know the person. Use your personality to your advantage. If face-to-face is your strength, use it. If OWLs are your strength, do them. Find what best suits you and do it to the best of your abilities. In all this, be prepared to learn about yourself and introspect. For me, all I want to do is help where I am needed, and I think that working here has helped me to recognize that in myself. When you work with each individual student one-on-one, know that it is an exchange of information as well as an exchange of self. If they are willing to give up a little bit of themselves, you also must give them something in return. Knowledge is great, but being their peer and friend is better.

                For me, working at the Writing Center is a joy because I get to meet new people every day and share in a small piece of their college success and learning process. When you help others learn, many times you learn new things yourself, including grammar rules that you never knew existed. Be determined and polite. Communicate above and beyond what you normally do so that your team is solid as a rock. Best of all, be willing to learn about others and yourself. Do this (and more), and you will go far!

Good Luck and Break a Leg!



Blog 13: PSA

For the students who decide to be tutors next year, I would advise them five things in order to make it.
1.       Do not be normal. If someone normal were to apply to be a tutor, they would run the other way. All of us have something unique to bring to the table. Whether it is our quirkiness, creative genius, or strange, philosophical way of looking at the world, it makes the Writing Center staff special. I remember a student commenting how she was grateful to meet me because I was another anime and Pokémon lover, and this made her open up and feel more comfortable being tutored because it is such a warm and relaxing environment.
2.       Let it go. I learned the hard way that my uptight, perfectionist nature would drive me crazy working here. Things never went my way or anywhere near the way I planned them, so I learned to roll with the punches. You learn to be flexible and a team player. There may be times where Claire is having a “moment,” a tutee maybe acting annoying, or a coworker may call out sick, and the slack needs to be made up. Having everyone’s back and being supportive of peers, colleagues, and higher ups is important here. Love the job. Yes, it sounds very cliché, but it is a necessity. If you hate tutoring, it is very obvious and reflective in your work. It is not necessary to be an Early Childhood major like me and love to teach, but it is important to love to help people, to be patient, and to be open and understanding to others’ individual and cultural differences.
3.       Also, be open to criticism. As a tutor, you are always being observed, assessed, and given feedback about your performance, and it will not just be by Claire. Students will have a chance to have a go at you. The other tutors will offer you advice, feedback, and words of encouragement or criticism. Other staff and faculty members will criticize you, as well. Their students report back to them about the help they receive from the Writing Center. Whether it is positive or negative, all criticism is a part of growth.
4.       Be prepared to learn about yourself as a student and staff member. The Strengths Quest, learning styles, and other forms of assessments will be given to take, so you learn to understand your behaviors, attitudes, and styles toward many different aspects of your life. It truly helped me become a better student, employee, and educator, so it is worth it.
5.       Lastly, be a hard worker and selfless. It is okay to take a break sometime; it is honestly needed after some sessions or personal life crisis. But, do not try and get out of taking a session or avoiding a certain student just because you are “not in the mood” or a certain student is “annoying” or “difficult.” All that may be true, but we have a job to do. We are paid to help other people improve their writing abilities and sometimes their lives. Learning to become better writers may be the difference between them getting the scholarship of their dreams or repeating a class over again. Be their advocate. Someone was once yours.

Blog 12: What is a student? A philosophical inquiry into inquiry

As I see it, the concept of "student" lacks general identification, being only meaningful to the extent that "a student" is applied to a particular realm with a field of knowledge (i.e. an objective orientation within a scope of inquiry; what we might call a realm, which is, in any case, a field of effectively demarcated discourse, even if boundaries remain implicit). To be clear, "a student" lacks signification without designating scope: "a student" is therefore always only "a student of _______ [within a field of knowledge]"

This is a necessary quality on pragmatic grounds because the generalized form "a student" takes (without a particularized field designation) implies a generalized absence of acceptance (of assumption, in other words) or of "states of knowing"; that is, to the extent that one knows X about Y, one is not a student of X about Y (though one may be a student of Y with respect to other dimensions of Y).

Having established the necessity to associate a student with some "of," my definition of a student proceeds as follows: A student is someone in a state of questioning, who strives to identify lack within a particular field of knowledge, whose action contains three conditions (which may vaguely constitute steps of learning):

(1) questioning (implicit or explicit);
(2) a desire to learn in conjunction with a willingness to listen and absorb formerly lacking data, perspective, and/or possibility.
(3) acknowledgment that there is knowledge that one does not know;
(4) active engagement in discourse (verbally, written, or otherwise) attending to sources proclaiming the knowledge one acknowledges to be lacking.

In most cases, to be a student is ephemeral: to be a student ceases with the questioning's resolution.

Everyone is a student, in the formerly disposed generalized sense, in that everyone emerged from an infantile state. Everyone becomes a student of, at one point or another, in various capacities, within a variety of contexts (which entail either open or closed scopes of inquiry).

To be student is always relative, however, to the object within the scope of the student's inquiry; that is, a student can only be identified in relation to his or her wanting knowledge, which is distinct from his or her claimed knowledge.

If I am correct, then with few exceptions, a student may be most obviously identified in terms of its absence. If we accept that everyone basically contains knowledge with respect to his or her life circumstances, to the individuated extent that each man or woman has claim to knowledge, he or she is, with reference to the knowledge claimed, not a student. Moreover, without any of the four conditions I take to constitute a student (assuming particularization), one cannot be a student.

To have any title (formally institutional or otherwise social) is to cease to be a student concerning the field over or in which the title resides. The title itself designates proficiency, which negates some or all of the listed conditions.

A student of language: A foreign exchange student who continually pursues supplementation of lack, contributing to an increasing presence of his or her knowledge with respect to grammatical normality. His or her being a student ceases when his or her questioning ceases.

For some students, the book never formally shuts, but the number of days, months, and then years separating the vanishing moments in which the book is opened grow only longer.

One's end of being a student is always imposed; being a student is never completed, only abandoned.

For most, assumptions converge with the distorted memory of once-questioning, while infrequently remaining moments of transient inquiry operate in terms of their immediate function; being a student is asphyxiated in the routine integration of dispassionate knowledge with subsuming indifference otherwise, all of which generally account for mass life.