Monday, September 30, 2013

Emotions and Writing

Matthew Kunes

For the most part, I have not encountered many stressful emotional situations in my time as a writing tutor. I attribute that mainly to the lower volume of students the Davis Campus gets in terms of students needing to get their paper tutored. When I was first planning my writeup for the blog, I figured I'd bemoan my lack of experience in this area (for more bemoaning, see my previous posts).

That, in and of itself, is surprising, since it seems to me that writing and emotion have gone hand-in-hand ever since the more creative side of the discipline developed. I guess I'll just chalk it up to average student apathy, rather than a strange statistical improbability. It's hard to get emotional about a class or an assignment you don't care about.

Luckily, at least for the purposes of the blog, I had an experience just last Saturday that fit the bill perfectly.

I had a student who was doing yet another personal narrative, that needed a simple stamp of approval from me before she could turn it in. Unfortunately for her, and fortunately for me, the subject matter she chose was painfully sensitive to her: the day her adopted son was born. It did not help that the 4 year old in question was sitting right with us, acting innocent and childish for everyone to see.

I usually have the student read the paper aloud, so as to give me time to look over it, and give the student the same chance as well. At one point, however, the student literally could not proceed reading; such was the nature of her emotions provoked by the experience she related.

I tried to be as understanding as I could, asking if I could take over reading the paper aloud. She wasn't a complete wreck—don't get me wrong—but she wasn't in a state where she could continue, so she nodded. I tried my best to handle the situation delicately, and act as respectful as I could

Luckily for me, the paper was fairly well written. I didn't feel the need to rip it apart (however lovingly), and I'm not sure what I would have done had the paper needed it. I assured her that she had done a good job, while giving her some pointers on how to further improve her writing.

I suppose that I will have to face other emotional students in the future, and I hope I will be prepared for that. The frustration inherent in writing end-of-term papers is not something I am looking forward to facing.

I guess it will just take a certain amount of tact, patience, and empathy.


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