Saturday, September 28, 2013

Blog 5: Empathy

The only time I have dealt with verbally emotional students was when I was home back in Maryland. My friends would come over my house or dorm, so I could edit their papers or tutor them in math. I remember one particular afternoon in our freshman year when my roommate, who is also my very best and longest friend, asked if I could listen to her read her ecology paper aloud to me. My sister and I are both Pisces and have very similar personalities. We are pretty quiet, reflective, and introverted people, unless, of course, we around each other or our friends and family – that is when the party starts. However, as water signs, we have a highly emotional side to us, and it can come out at any given moment for any reason if we have been holding those emotions in.
I guess that is what happened to her. When she was about halfway through the paper, my sister threw her essay down and began to go into a very (colorful) rant. In between curse words, I gathered she was frustrated that it was the third time she had to redo her paper because she thought her professor was a jerk, her father had not contacted her back about the money for school, her mother was being overbearing, as usual, and being an Environmental Science major maybe was not her calling. My heart really broke for my sister because I had never seen her like that before that day.
My “motherly” instincts took over, and I attempted to calm her down by just allowing her to get her emotions out and listening. I think that is exactly what she needed because after about five minutes of that, she said she was ready to finish reading her paper to me. However, knowing my best friend like the back of my hand, I suggested we that we took a break and watch a Disney movie and order Chinese. Allowing her to just vent and take a break from reality made all the difference. I know that this situation was a special case because I will not being in an unprofessional setting like that nor know probably any of my tutees here at the Writing Center on such a personal level; although, every human being has a breaking point and may need an unbiased ear to just listen or be sensitive and allow them to take a break from reality.

I have read some emotional pieces, aside from my own, though. I remember reading a paper last semester, where a young man wrote about his triumphs over becoming a single man after ten years of marriage, being a newly single father of twin elementary-aged girls, and returning to college after dropping out his first semester. He had been through quite an ordeal for someone only a few years older than me, and the emotions. So, during the session, I tried to be a bit more cognizant than normal of the way I gave him feedback about his paper and some resources available to him that might have been more convenient for him, like submitting his assignments as OWLs for tutoring. He seemed extremely grateful and noted that he might have stayed in school a decade ago if those types of resources were available to him. The tutee knew I cared about him as a person, not just his paper, and I think that made all the difference during this session; this type of empathy should be used in every session, though, not just obvious emotional ones. 


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