Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hey, This Is Fun!

Well, I have been tutoring all week, and it is very exciting. I am beginning to feel comfortable with my position and finding my own style. The best thing about tutoring is that with few exceptions, students are happy to be here. They want to succeed and they realize we can help them. I have yet to encounter a student who is not appreciative and respectful. It helps to have a great group of people who are experienced and always willing to help answer questions for us newbies.

I have found both challenges and opportunities in every session. My biggest challenge has been to resist the temptation to just fix errors. I have made it a point to ask each student whether they have a pen, and if not, to offer them mine so they can make their own corrections and changes. I tell them that it is their paper, and that I am merely a resource. I have found this to be very effective. The students seem to feel more comfortable this way because they realize that they still own their work.

I have also found that recognizing patterns is very important for students. Often during a tutoring session, I will point something out once and the student will catch similar mistakes later in their paper by himself or herself. It is a very rewarding experience to feel like I am teaching rather than fixing, and to know that I am helping students to help themselves.

Remembering to avoid directive tutoring is an even bigger challenge with online sessions, because I cannot have a back-and-forth conversation with the student, so I have to really think about what I can say or ask to get the student to become aware of a pattern or error, and how to fix it. I have tried to take my time in composing each reply and also to put myself in the student’s shoes before hitting “send.” I ask myself whether I would understand what is being communicated and whether I would recognize a pattern given what I am writing in the email response.

As for my anxieties, most of them are slowly disappearing. The wonderful thing about working at the Writing Center is that people who come to us generally trust us. At first, I was scared by the thought of not having every answer. Now, I am realizing that it is alright to not know everything. We are not perfect and we are also students who are always learning. What matters is knowing where to find the answer and using every resource at our disposal to help our students succeed.

I am also becoming more comfortable with the process. Each student’s needs are different, but I am beginning to get my rhythm and to manage my time more effectively. I noticed that at first, I had the tendency to go too fast, but the last few sessions have gone better because I have slowed down and taken my time explaining concepts to students. I have also told each student to stop me at any time if they have questions or would like to discuss anything. That seems to make them feel like they are full partners in the process.


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