Monday, December 05, 2011

Wow, we’re at the end. To me this occasion invokes those immortal words from They Might Be Giants: Now it’s over, I’m dead and I haven’t done anything that I want. Or I’m still alive and there’s nothing I want to do. There was a lot I still wanted to accomplish this semester as a tutor. In no particular order:

·         I was hoping by now to feel like I have a firm grasp of all the composition concepts students would encounter and be able to explain them to tutees. Hasn’t happened yet.

·         I was hoping to find a way to use tutees’ learning styles to help them understand and enjoy writing.

·         I wanted to ride Devin’s bike down the hallway and wave to her while she was in the middle of a session.

·         I wanted to find a quick, easy way to explain to ESL students when to use “the” in front of a noun. There doesn’t appear to be one. You can try the old “if you’re referring to something specific, like ‘Texas’s economy,’ you don’t need the, but if it’s more abstract, like ‘the economy,’ then you use the,” but there’s too many exceptions and I’m sick of lying to sweet, trusting, foreign students.

·         I was hoping for an explanation as to why articles aren’t considered part of speech. How can “the” “a” and “an” not be part of speech? Nearly every sentence contains those words. Far more than some of the other “parts.” Holy schnikies—like interjections!
On the other hand, part of me is glad tutoring is over for this semester. I find I have no mental energy left after tutoring and there are a lot of other things I want to work on. It will be nice to have time and energy for my own work.

That having been said, I’m going to miss tutoring. I enjoy the interaction and the challenge of helping a student who may not like writing see what it is all about and realize they are more capable than they give themselves credit for. In addition, I’ve also learned quite a bit.
I agree with Brooke about students needing to have a clear idea of what the paper is about. At the beginning of every session I ask the student what type of paper they are working on. Maybe 20% have a clear idea. The rest aren’t sure and seem a little surprised that I would even ask the question, as though they hadn’t thought about it. To wit, the infamous Bio Med papers. I tutored about 20 of those things. I asked every single student what type of paper it was. Not one of them answered with “Lit Review.” Some thought it was a persuasive paper, others thought it was research—one even treated it like creative non-fiction. The blame isn’t all on the professors, because students don’t always pay attention. I feel some of the professors can be a little more clear when it comes to papers, however.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Chegamos ao Fim...

Yeah, that's Portuguese for "We arrived at the end..."

Oh man, I feel like this post is going to piggy-back on everyone else's posts. I know that I have grown a lot as a tutor. Although, as a friend of mine once said, "The more you know, the more you know there's more to know."
The biggest selfish change I've undergone since the beginning of the semester is the confidence I feel about APA formatting. After tutoring so many BioMed papers, I feel like a crack at APA. I memorized the rules for in-text citations that deal with number of authors.

I remember thinking at the beginning of the semester that I probably wouldn't be able to glance at a paper and "guess" what kind of patterns I would see. However, while I'm not always 100% accurate and am still willing to change my initial roadmap if necessary, I am getting better at it.

One of my last sessions this week was really interesting - the student had two serious problems - verb-tense consistency and subject/verb agreement. However, to start the session, he asked me what I did to like writing - how did I get good at it. He said that he wanted to be a good writer but always felt unsure of himself or that he wasn't very good. I thought back on our discussion about how our primary goal is to make better writers and not better papers. We spent about 15 minutes just talking about the writing process and how to get better. I told him to write for himself - for fun. I don't really keep a journal, but I do free write all the time for therapeutic reasons. I told him that if he didn't keep a journal, he could just tell himself a story and write it down. It would help him enjoy writing better. I confided in him that I used to hate writing projects, only because I could never pick the topics. While I can write academically, creative writing is what I prefer to do. I told him that once I understood that writing is fun, it made my academic papers easier to write. And the more you practice something, the better you get (or the better you understand where you are consistently making mistakes, which then makes them easier to fix). He and I had a very good discussion and he thanked me for all the help I provided him over the semester and that he really appreciated the care I showed. It was one of those moments that made me feel all warm and fuzzy - the kind I would have recorded in a journal if I kept one.

That same day, a student was in the WC waiting for a session and sat at a table next to the one I was using in a session. I nodded and asked "how's it going" and he said "good." He looked familiar, but I couldn't remember who he was. As my session ended, he said "I got 100% on that paper you helped me with! Thanks again!" I was excited that the student was able to get such a good grade, and I was honored that he let me know. It's things like that which make this job worth while.

I also made quite a few tutees ask me what I was majoring in, and when I told them "English Teaching," they all responded with "I can see that. You'll be a good teacher."

So perhaps that's one way I've grown - At the beginning of the semester, I thought I wanted to be an English Teacher, and tutoring seemed like a good foot in the door. Now, by the end of the semester, that desire has only solidified and I know that I want to pursue this course. As burned out as I got sometimes, I do love this job and am thankful I was able to work with such a great staff this semester. I'm nervous and excited to see how the staff will change in the Spring.

Oh, and I got my CRLA Master Tutor Certification, so I guess I grew at least enough to become certified. That's a good parting thought.

Oh, and my book finally got published during this semester. It took nearly 3 years from the first keystroke to the release, but I am super excited. Here is the link to it on Amazon (Shameless plug, right?! If you want a copy though, I'll be selling them for $15 instead of the $20 on Amazon. Just let me know if you want one and I'll sign your copy and everything!)