Saturday, August 30, 2008

Week Two Prompt

For this week's blog entry, I think I'd like to see you all continue the little debate we had in class on Friday.  The questions, roughly, were as follows: are we in the business of making the individual essay on the table in front of us better, or are we in the business of making better writers?  This is, of course, a false dilemma, but it's a crucial question/balancing act/issue/concern that we'll be talking about throughout the term.

How does this all play out, in your mind?  If a student were to bring in an essay that had, for instance, no coherence whatsoever—it was simply a pile of non sequiturs—would you be right to tell the student to start over?  Would you try to find something in the essay that might form the basis of a significant revision?  Are you more concerned with making that essay better than you are with making sure the student understands what went wrong and why?  Are there ethical issues associated with each position?  Almost certainly, a student would balk if you told him or her to start over.  But wouldn't a student also find it frustrating trying to wade through a tutoring session focused on global issues when the essay is incomprehensible?

What about a situation that's worse?  What about a student who brings in an essay that is broadly offensive (that is, it contains racist or sexist language that many people would take issue with)?  How would you respond?

Please post your responses by Friday.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thanks for the Advice

First I want to thank all of the former students of this class and former/current tutors who left advice for those of us starting this journey. I have enjoyed reading what was said about tutoring. We all know we should start out bibio papers soon, but none of us will so let’s just get that out of the way. (Except for maybe the graduate students because most of us have developed a nasty habit of getting our homework done early.) But I most enjoyed reading the positive comments about tutoring and what to look for when tutoring. It’s good to know this class will “pump us up like football players before a homecoming game” because I think some of us need that confidence. It’s also good to know we’re in good hands with Claire and Scott who can help us feel prepared for our first tutoring session. As I was reading I came across advice that said not to let students use Wikipedia as a source. That was a little bit of food for thought because Wikipedia is so new I would have never run across that as a problem in the past. I love that website but I’ll work hard to make sure the students coming in for help only use it as a jumping off point. I’m sure many students believe Wikipedia to be the gospel truth.

I am excited to be a tutor. I think there is quite a bit from tutoring that I can learn and I am excited to share my love of writing with those students who come in for help. While I have missed the last two classes the first day of class and orientation made me realize how much I have to learn about helping people in a way that will help them learn and become better writers without just editing and giving them the answer. The positive advice and feedback on this blog have really encouraged me as well. I feel a bit more confident having read some of the posts. One of the posts mentioned watching the other tutors and gaining ideas from those who have experience. I appreciated that piece of advice because I feel watching and observing will probably be the most valuable training I can receive. One post just stated, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” That post might be my favorite. It’s scary admitting you do not know everything when you are supposed to be the expert, but after that piece of advice I will try to avoid the “know-all” syndrome, move aside my fears, and ask for help when I stumble. I also really enjoyed the stories about the students who have appreciated the time we spend tutoring and the help we give. I think the appreciation will be what makes it worth it for me. One of the posts mentioned working with ESL students and how impressive their life stories are and how good it feels to know you helped them. It will be nice to have a job where I am helping others and where there is some appreciation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Thoughts on Tutoring (Before Actually Doing It)

It is interesting to me that the last time I regularly posted on a blog was in ninth grade. Back then, five hundred words seemed an impossible task for me to accomplish weekly. How long ago that seems now! So much has changed in just four short years but here I am again, as another freshman in another school, posting blogs. The irony in life! When I began this tutoring class, I thought that there couldn’t possibly be that much to learn about tutoring other people. But after skimming through some of the chapters and already discussing a few things in class, I think that I am about to be proven very wrong. I have done a few tutoring jobs in the past but I am a bit concerned that tutoring writing will be different from anything else I have done so far. Last year before I graduated from high school, I was a tutor at a local junior high school where I helped in just about every subject offered there. Many times, however, the job was more of a babysitting gig; keeping the kids on track, making sure they were completing their assignments, etc, etc. Obviously, I don’t think that will be the case with college students (at least, hopefully not). On the side, I was a private math tutor. Its one thing to be able to explain concrete things such as formulas and the intricacies of graphing, but quite another to try to express how to write a good paper, one that not only gets the job done but is beautiful in its own way. It comes very naturally to me to be able to sit down and write my own thoughts and feelings on a matter, but I think it takes a great deal of training and skill to be able to convey this to others. Especially others who need help on the subject. I really liked the first chapter’s discussion on how important it is to include the student in the writing process. I firmly believe that if the student does not comprehend the lessons being taught, than the tutoring session has been a waste. The problem is, then, how to make the student understand the need for this comprehension and, more importantly, actually learn the lesson of the session. That is, in my mind at least, what this class is set out to do. By training the tutor in the skills necessary to facilitate this sort of understanding, the tutor can then “train” their tutee in turn. Writing is one of my passions, and I am looking forward to sharing my love for this art with others who obviously don’t see the underlying beauty in it. Perhaps these sessions alone will not inspire great love for the art (to believe that they might, would be wonderful and, I’m afraid, highly idealistic) but perhaps students can gain a sort of appreciation for writing, and will approach their assigned English papers in a different light. Not only should they learn the fundamentals to writing their papers, but I would hope that it shift from a heavy burden to a somewhat meaningful assignment. I’m sure my high hopes will be quickly crushed as soon as I am actually in a tutoring session, but for now at least, I will remain optimistic. I am excited to begin tutoring and even more excited to begin it with the knowledge gleaned from this class!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Hi all, and welcome to English 3840.

While you still have some time before your school assignments begin to overwhelm you, I recommend that you take a few minutes to look through the posts on this blog.  The most recent (e.g. here, here, here, here, and here) contain advice from former 3840 students that you might find valuable.

You will all need to set up an account with blogger to be able to post here.  We'll make that simple for you by simply inviting you to join the blog, so check your email.