Friday, September 23, 2011

Themes and Common Advice


The most frequent piece of advice provided in the blog is that tutors should not feel like they need to know everything about writing, and that it is important to draw on the knowledge of other tutors and refer to writing manuals and books in order to find answers to questions that arise. This is important counsel for two reasons. First, if our main purpose as tutors is to help students become better writers, then we need to provide them with accurate information and useful strategies. Secondly, asking for advice and looking up information in books and online is a way to model effective learning strategies.


Another recommendation that repeatedly appeared in the blog was to get the tutees involved in planning the objectives of the session and to keep them engaged by having them summarize, explain, and rewrite.


Something else previous tutors have advised is to respect the tutees’ role as the writer. Writers have to make several decisions in their work about what to include and what to exclude. It is their responsibility and privilege to choose what their writing expresses and how they convey their message. However, we can give input that may help the tutees get their intended meaning across more clearly and effectively.

Respecting the writer’s role is an especially important consideration when offensive or politically incorrect topics are broached. Tutors can inform students about how their language or discussion may be offensive or inappropriate in a school setting and can suggest that the student consider different phrases or topics, but it is ultimately up to them to decide what to say. Whether the tutor mentions these things or not depends on the situation. For example, if a student uses an unwelcome or offensive word to refer to a group of people, he or she may just be unaware of the proper way and would be fine using either term. Or perhaps they used the word deliberately because that language was used in a text they are responding to. On the other hand, if a student’s paper is promoting a certain viewpoint that the tutor personally disagrees with, it would be wisest to let it go. The writer has the final say and tutors need to respect that.


Previous students of English 3840/5840 have also counseled future tutors to identify a manageable number of revisions to be made in the tutees’ papers and to not try to address every problem or mistake. As one tutor explained, “It's important to remember that not every suggestion or technique can or should be employed in a particular setting. It's like the contents of a drawer have been dumped on a wide table: we choose the pieces to organize and call our own” (Mario, 2005). If tutors tried to use each tool in the drawer and didn’t select the most useful ones, the session would be disorganized and overwhelming for the tutors and the tutees.


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