Saturday, December 03, 2011

Time as a tutor

So the things I learned in my fist semester as a tutor can be divided into two categories, knowledge and skill set.  The two categories influence each other, but it is still a useful division, one that would have been helpful for me to recognize as a new tutor.  As a new tutor I was a little stressed about tutoring on my own.  When I realized that I could look up what I didn't know and could only develop the skills I needed through practice over time, I was able to relax more.

Perhaps I could add one more category.  As a graduate student in class we studied the field of writing pedagogy.  In general what we studied was highly theoretical.  The conclusions to many of the articles we read were often something like, "So the entire educational system at the primary, secondary, and university levels needs to be restructured to more effectively teach writing."    This task is obviously beyond the capacity of a tutor in the Weber State writing center, so at fist I found these  conclusions overwhelming to the point of irrelevance.  It is only now, looking back, that I can begin to appreciate how studying these in depth  theoreticals has affected the way I approach a tutoring session.  They have changed the way I view writing as a mode of learning and communication.  I am better able now to focus on the students' underlying processes and approaches; I understand better why they write the way they do.  One of the first things Claire told me to do when I began tutoring last spring was to focus on the student and not the paper.  I think focusing on the system, process, and purpose of writing has helped me do that.

So to sum up, I have learned a specific knowledge base -- grammar, MLA format, academic conventions, a skill set -- how to speak calmingly to stressed students, how to explain IC without having to explain the basic structure of human language, and a theoretical or cognitive approach to writing -- focus on process, understand the purpose of writing.

I am sure that with more time I will continue to develop in all three areas.  I would like to spend some time next semester focusing on how to better help the ESL students.  I always feel like I just add articles to their papers and call it good.


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