Thursday, September 06, 2012

Is this Normal?

Looking at past posts has shown me that my nervous feelings of inadequacy are normal! Most of the past new tutors expressed concerns about leading the tutee astray. Rachel in 2006 wrote, “I cringe when I think of having power to affect another person's grade,” and that has been one of my biggest fears. Larger papers contribute greatly to a student’s final grade, and what if I screw him up? What if he fails because I gave him bad advice or didn’t address all the professor’s requirements? What if I look stupid or make the center look bad? Knowing that these feelings are pretty much universal gives me hope. Because I have already tutored for a semester, these feelings have calmed down significantly, and that makes me happy, but I still feel concern for the student’s paper and never want to be the reason why he gets a bad grade.
Like other tutors, certain professors expressed to me that I write well, and I did well in my English composition courses and on papers for other classes, but I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint what made my papers work. I knew I instinctually knew grammar, but I didn’t necessarily know the rule or how to explain it. One of my biggest fears was finding out that I actually didn’t write well. I knew just how Rachel felt when she wrote, “Maybe I'm not as good of a writer as I thought I was,” and maybe all my professors were just being generous with their compliments. I’m still nervous that I might find out I don’t write as well as I think I do, but even if I’m not the most amazing writer in the center, I still know that I can help students to improve their papers.
One of the biggest concerns that past tutors and I share is the fear of not knowing the answer. There is a huge pressure to be the all-knowing, walking, talking style handbook/dictionary/thesaurus writing expert, and “I don’t know” just would not be acceptable. Will not knowing an answer make me look stupid? Will looking up a rule or definition make me look incompetent? The last thing I wanted to do was to cause the student to doubt me or feel the center can’t help him.  I have learned that we aren’t expected to know everything, which is a great relief. “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer as long as it doesn’t end there. We have resource books to search for answers, seasoned tutors who may have been asked the same question in their sessions, and, of course, Google!
Long story short, the main things I was nervous about when I was a new tutor seem to be pretty normal. Concerns over screwing the student up, not knowing the answer and feelings of inadequacy are normal concerns. The uncertainty of learning a new job and new responsibilities can cause feelings of doubt, but we have the skills, resources and support to do our job and really be of service to our tutees.


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