Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Pettiness of Tutoring Nervousness

According to the post by Dr. Rogers:  "Since the beginning, I have asked the incoming tutors one question: what are you most nervous about with regard to tutoring? What scares you? What keeps you up at night as you think about the hoards of ENGL 1010 papers you'll be dealing with?"

I get nervous about being judged by pettiness. Like, what if I say that I have "one question," and then I ask three questions? Okay, maybe the three questions are really just parts of the same question, but what if someone gets petty or "anal" about the number of questions I am asking?

 Many of the blog posts I've read regarding tutors' initial nervousness at the Writing Center seem to deal with tutoring nervousness about technical grammar questions. But what about pettiness? Is it okay for me to be nervous about pettiness? Will I be respected for my comfort with grammar rules if I am sweating over a student who thinks my example sentences that use coffee as their subject are disgusting? Maybe I should use "hot chocolate" sentences for my examples.

 Okay, so pettiness doesn't really "scare me" or "keep me up at night," but I worry that I may not be giving students the best of what I have to offer. Maybe what I am giving them isn't worth their time. Do students ever come into the Writing Center thinking, "that tutor better give me his best example sentences today, not any of those crappy sentences about his coffee?"

 But, as I have discussed this idea with other tutors or my wife, I've come to realize that nervousness about pettiness may not be petty at all. Maybe students are nervous that their paper topic might be viewed as petty by the tutor or their teacher. So what can be done if both tutor and tutee are nervous about being perceived as being petty? Apparently the issue with pettiness is perception. What I think is petty may not be viewed as petty by the tutee or their instructor. I'll go to a personal example. After my near-fatal accident I was in a nursing home. My physical therapist was walking with me one day and I needed to use the restroom. She pointed out the restroom and I went in. The "sit down" toilet was being used, but the "stand up" urinal was available. So, for the first time since my accident, I used the urinal. The other patient who had been using the toilet and I emerged from the restroom at the same time. My physical therapist was extremely apologetic about guiding me to a restroom where the toilet was being used by someone else. "That's okay," I said. "I can stand and pee." That became my rallying cry for the rest of the day. My therapist had me respond with, "I can stand and pee," whenever someone asked me, "how are you doing?" Standing to pee is only petty to those who have never been stripped of the ability to do it.

 So, my nervousness with tutoring is really that my perception about a student may not be an accurate reflection of that student's reality.


Post a Comment

<< Home