Friday, September 21, 2012

And so it Begins...

Wow. My first tutoring session was difficult.

I thinking back to that fateful day when I received my first tutoring session throws me into a type of Twilight Zone where all of my worst nightmares came true.

At least that's what it felt like, anyway.

My first session turned out to be a non-traditional student who hadn't written an essay for 20 years. When the student told me this I about blanched, thinking to myself "Oh great! Both of us have no idea what we're doing." I remember shaking so bad as I introduced myself and sat down with him and his paper. Lucky for me he was on the second draft of his paper, and most of the hard stuff had been fixed by more experienced tutor than I earlier that morning.

 I wasn't sure how to proceed, and I felt like I was bungling around. The things that we had been talking about in class came echoing back to me (thank goodness!) and I asked the student about the assignment. He was supposed to write an essay as a response to the reactions of a character in a short story or article that had been assigned for homework.

Panic number one: I wasn't sure how to deal with an essay that was a response to a character's reaction. I had no idea what that was supposed to mean, and to my dismay, the student didn't have a prompt that I could work with.

Oh boy.

I felt like I was stumbling through a forest full of spiderwebs, unsure of what action I should take, what question I should ask next--I'll be honest; I have no idea how this student understood what I was trying to tell him. I very sketchily sounded back what I understood and I hoped and prayed that the student wouldn't catch on that I needed about as much help as he did.

And still we pressed on.

Things didn't seem to get a ton better before we hit some grammar problems. There were commas in strange places, interesting word usage, and sentences that read like a three wheeled wagon on gravel. 

Panic number two: I had no idea what the heck I was talking about when it came to grammar rules and names. 

I found myself using the horrible "this sounds wonky" phrase I mentioned in my last post and tripped over recalling terms. I felt like it went pretty bad. I could tell I needed to explain things different ways when the shadow of confusion dashed across his face, and it got harder when I realized I couldn't think of a way to simplify it.

About half way through the session, the student mentioned that he had a class soon, and that he would need to get his revisions taken care of within the next 30 minutes.

Panic number three: I was faced with the ever-terrifying session time crunch. 

Being unable to finish reading the whole paper blindsided me. I had to force myself to calm down and think straight. I ended up taking a leaf out of Claire's book and looking at the conclusion to see if the student had completed the assignment.

Thankfully, he had managed to tie everything back to his thesis in the introduction and it didn't need a whole lot of reconstruction. I was so relieved to discover I had managed to finish on time, leaving the student at least 20 minutes to take care of his edits.

All in all, I think it's safe to say that the session went alright, at least on the student's end. I've seen him numerous times working on things in the Writing Center, and I've received a positive reaction when I have said hello to him.

I can definitely say I learned a lot from that first tutoring session. I have a lot to work on, like staying calm, for example, and I'm really looking forward to honing my tutoring skills so that future sessions will leave me feeling like I did my job effectively.


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