Sunday, September 01, 2013

Fear Factor: Writing Center Edition

Several fear-inducing scenarios come to mind when I think of what I could possibly encounter being a writing tutor. Most of them have little to do with the tutee and have much more to do with me personally. My worst imaginary situation consists of me being unable to help the student, not being able to make myself understood, or even coming across as incompetent, and having the student get up and walk out dissatisfied and upset. Actually, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be if they came back with a failing grade on a paper that I had worked on with them.

There were a lot of similarities between my anxieties and those of my predecessors. As far as the basics of writing, I am pretty certain that I know my grammar and style well enough to write a good paper, however, without an overall refresher on the subject, I fear that I would make a mistake in trying to explain to a tutee why a particular section in their paper is incorrect and end up looking like a babbling know-nothing. Or, even worse, they would ask a question that I don’t know the answer to, or I might give them the wrong information. I would also want to know what to do in a situation where I am tutoring an international student who does not speak English very well. Being certain in my knowledge of the different grammatical mechanics would be invaluable, especially in a case where language barriers could get in the way, and I would be able to explain the rules so that they are easy to understand.

One anxiety I had not thought of before came up as I was reading past posts on the blog. In a post from 2004, the author dreamed about a tutee who was very impatient and rude. My anxiety in dealing with tutees such as this one is that I will lose control of my temper and tell them off. On the rare occasions when I do lose my temper, I tend to speak more sharply than I should, and I would hate for the writing center to gain a reputation because of that. Continuing on the theme of preserving the feelings of writing tutees, I sometimes fear that I will get carried away in my corrections and edit someone’s paper too harshly. I would like to gain a better grasp on the proper way of pointing out mistakes while still being tactful and polite.

I felt a little apprehensive after leaving my first day of tutoring class on Friday. We had just been talking about what defines a thesis statement, and having had most of the rules I had been taught about thesis statements blown completely out of the water, I began to re-examine and doubt what I think I know about writing. This is probably a good thing, this whole experience of breaking down and rebuilding my writing ‘muscle’ into something stronger and more agile than it was before. I’m sure it will help me increase my confidence as a tutor and as a writer.


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