Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I hope that my response to the class discussion and my blog post don’t overlap too much, but I have had many experiences with student expectations not lining up with my own expectations for the session.
I will never forget one session in particular because it was the one that Claire observed at the end of my training in May. The writer came in and wanted help on grammar issues and only grammar issues. I started reading through her paper and found many other issues with the writing. The writing didn’t have a thesis or many clear points, but she did not want any suggestion on things other than grammar. Whenever I brought up a point about the thesis or organizational issues, she would say something like “Well my writing is fine, I’m just here for the grammar part of my paper.” It was a very nerve wrecking experience, but I found that if I just tried to balance her priorities and mine throughout the session, she would accept my advice.

I guess I sort of mirrored the “insult sandwich” in which I give someone a compliment, a small insult, and then another compliment to soften the blow. I would help her with a grammar pattern, ask her how she could be more specific about her points in the paper, and then explain another grammar error.

I have also had many sessions that have started with the sentence, “I just want you to go over my paper.” Every time I encounter this, I start to ask questions to get a more specific answer from the tutee. I often grab the notepad on the table and ask them to write down a few specific things they would like to go over. This often motivates them to really consider what they are concerned with. Throughout the session, I work to include all of the points they wrote down as well as any other fundamental issues I find with the writing. If I make the tutee’s concerns a priority, they are usually open to what I have to say.

Sometimes the writers expect an error free paper, but don’t understand that the teachers are looking for much more than misspellings and punctuation errors. I wish that we could have a meeting with all tutees coming in to the Writing Center to explain the writing process and about how it takes much feedback before a nearly perfect paper is produced. I feel that while student expectations sometimes conflict with my own expectations of a session, these problems can be worked through with some compromise and patience.


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