Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First Tutoring Session

My first session was with a student whose native language is Spanish. She had an accent and I thought her writing might have grammatical errors because her speech contained a number of mistakes. That could have made me nervous except I can speak, write, and understand basic Spanish not to mention she had incredibly advanced grammatical skills in English. The paper itself had a minimal amount of syntactical errors not to mention her grammar functioned really well. A few sentences could have been changed to reflect more common word usage, but I liked her paper the way it was.
We were working directly from her computer screen which I did not mind as much as I thought I would, but I plan to not do this future. I see the value in the process of fixing mistakes on paper then transferring them onto the computer because several writing concepts that skilled writers are familiar with are reviewed and discussed during the tutoring session and need to be reviewed. This revision happens during the editing process and forces the students to familiarize themselves with the concepts that were discussed during the tutoring session.  
The organization of the paper was well formed so no worries there. I could read the whole essay without a lot of friction because her transitions were comfortable for me as the reader. The few corrections I made, with her help, to the paper mainly dealt with subtle language barriers which were easy to fix but difficult to explain why. I felt like my experience with Spanish helped me to understand and better explain concepts in a way for her to understand. I mainly relied on having her reread sentences that did not make a lot of sense to see if she could do it without me. The adjective order definitely came into play. I got a feel for how difficult it must be to write for a class where the other students were ahead by default just because they knew concepts such as adjective order (not even on a conscious level). Native English speakers have an advantage even if they were not themselves necessarily aware of their abilities. I did not feel especially smart or important as I helped her make her corrections. Instead, I felt humbled. I realized her English was so much further ahead, by leaps and bounds, than my Spanish. Native speakers take for granted what they know when it comes to writing in their native language. Speaking of writing in one’s native tongue, I told my family how we discussed verb conjugation in class and they got a kick out of the idea of deducting points because a student mis-conjugates a verb in their native tongue.
As a tutor, it is important to remember to slow down. The tutee might find it helpful if you go back and make an outline of what you as a reader derived from the paper. When I was tutoring, I just did a verbal outline making sure I understood every point the tutee wanted argued. She was happy with the overall outcome of the paper, and so was I.        


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