Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Prompt 10/29-11/4 Reluctant Students?

During this semester, I had a student come into the writing center with a lit review. He told me that his professor had already looked at the paper and told him that the only thing that he needed was a tutor to look the grammar. However, the student’s paper was not what it needed to be. It did not have an introduction or a conclusion, complete lacked transitions, and the clarity was way off. I knew, despite what he had told me, that there was no way his professor, who was a writing tutor, would give his stamp of approval to the “lit review” minus the grammar. When I started addressing some of the issues, the student started pushing back and arguing with me.
Although not the biggest issue, the grammar did need to be addressed along with the clarity because both were so off. I actually was having trouble understanding what he was trying to say at times. When I asked him if he could make a point clearer, he would say, “Well it makes sense to me.” When I tried to explain that it also needs to make sense to his audience because that is who the paper is for, he just looked at me, waiting for me to move on. Unless there were actual grammatical issues like a missing noun or verb, which happened frequently, he completely disregarded every suggestion.
Because he was not listening to me, I decided to stop tutoring and be straightforward with him. I essentially told him that I was not his professor, but I was a peer tutor there to help him. He could take my advice or he could completely ignore everything I said, but I was giving him honest suggestions I felt would improve his paper. Take it or leave it, I just wanted to help him. After that, he started taking more of my suggestions, especially when we discussed organization and the normal format of a lit review.
We discussed the structure of his lit review because the paper completely lacked an introduction, and the first paragraph felt like it was jumping right into the middle of a summary. The student then went into making connections with the readings. However, the connections relied on the analysis, but the analysis part of his paper came after the connections. I tried to explain to him that the connections generally go after the discussion, and when they come first in the paper, I, as a reader, am confused about the points he was making because I am missing information. He seemed to understand this after we talked about it (which was technically the second time because he wasn’t listening the first time) and actually sounded like he was going to take some of my advice.
This may have been the most difficult session I have ever had because of the student’s reluctance to put any value into the advice I was giving him. I’ve never been treated so disrespectfully in a session even when I’ve tutored students who are pissed off about something. His smug attitude was almost condescending when all I was trying to do was help him. However, instead of letting my frustration show, I collected my thoughts and explained to him why I was trying to help him. I also tried to remove any sense of authority I might have so that he could relax and respond to my advice as just that: advice, not telling him what to door demanding that he do what I tell him to do and destroy the paper his professor had already okayed. I wouldn’t handle every reluctant student this way, but I believe how I handled it was very effective, especially after hearing other tutor’s experiences with the same student. The fact that he at least acted like he cared what I said was an improvement.


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