Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Reluctant Students

In class I brought up one of the most memorable experiences I have of tutoring a reluctant student, so I guess I will just finish that story. During summer semester an older man came in for a session on a communications assignment. He was at least 30 years older than I am, and he definitely made it clear to me that he didn't think I was old enough or qualified enough to tutor him. On top of his reluctance towards me helping him, he also just did not want to be tutored in the first place. It did not take long for me to realize that I would need to approach this session differently. After he asked me a few questions about what my qualifications were ("So do you have any sort of degree?" " How long have you been going to college?"....) we finally started to read through his paper.

 I remember thinking to myself that I would need to be very careful in how I phrased my feedback so as to not appear condescending or belittling to the student. By the end of the first paragraph I found myself desperately searching for some sort of thesis statement. The way he had written the paragraph made it seem like the paper could be on one of about five different topics. I decided to read the second paragraph in hopes that he would finally state his main point and thesis. Unfortunately I could not identify the thesis in that paragraph either. I told the student that he was bringing up lots of intriguing information, but his paper could really benefit from having a clear thesis statement. He leaned back further in his chair for a minute and thought it over, and then he flat out told me that he didn't think he needed a thesis statement. This was his first refusal of my advice. His tone was so blunt that I knew it would be unwise to press the issue. We moved forward and naturally other weaknesses in the paper appeared. I would point these out to the student, but almost every time he told me he thought it was fine and that nothing needed to be changed. He was so resistant to changing anything in his paper!

I tried a few different approaches for suggesting changes, most of which included trying to word what I said in a way that would not offend him. The student started to get more and more defensive about his paper, and his comments to me became increasingly disrespectful. I finally had to accept that we were at an impasse. No progress was being made, so I made the call to end the session. I was scared to death that ending the session was going to make him even more irritated with me, but ultimately I think the student was very pleased that I was "giving him a way out" so to speak. I politely explained that it didn't seem like I was the best person to help him on this paper and that he was welcome to come back, but the current session was no longer being productive. The student got up and left without so much as saying a goodbye. I felt terrible when that session was over, but honestly I tried everything I could to turn things around.The student's reluctance towards being tutored was so strong that I just could not get him to consider making changes. So here is the moral of the story; try your best to encourage and motivate reluctant students, but accept that sometimes no amount of personal effort can counteract a student's bad attitude.


Post a Comment

<< Home