Monday, September 02, 2013

Not Knowing it All & Not Doing it All

I have two primary concerns about tutoring, and they are the concerns that have typically plagued me as a teacher, and in my personal life. First, I don’t want to steer a student in the wrong direction, give incorrect, or even downright bad writing advice. Second, I’m a “fixer”. I want everything to be good, and everyone to be happy. Both traits can make tutoring more complicated and stressful than it should be.

I am getting better at knowing the terminology of certain grammar functions, or missteps, and the reasoning behind certain grammar rules. I am also getting better at knowing MLA style. However, I still worry about giving misinformation in specific topics. This will improve with time and knowledge. On the plus side, I have no worry about looking up a topic of which I am certain. This is a valuable learning tool for the tutee, also, because the student can learn good help-seeking skills. Claire pointed out that, sometimes, students need guidance in where and how to look for help.

I also have to reign in the Ms. Fix-it, copy-editor, red-ink, part of my personality when assisting students. It is easy for me to fall in the trap of pulling out the metaphorical red-pen and saying “Change this to that, and what to which, and who to whom,” in addition to discussing the style, content, organization, and structure of a piece of writing. I have to be careful not to fix everything, and let the student construct his or her own knowledge appropriate to the student’s own level of skill and knowledge. I also have to be aware that anyone can reach a point of diminishing returns, where the ability to take in any further information begins to decline. Input does not equal uptake. Merely because a student has heard something, has been told a particular nugget of writing gold, does not mean that the student comprehends or can use the information. Therefore, it does no good to the student if I merely red-ink “bad” spots without discussing the reason for the misstep and possible methods of improving it.

Basically, I need to not worry that I do not know everything and I cannot fix everything. If I could, my children would be perfect, my dinners would never burn and I’d be at a much higher pay grade. But life, like teaching, doesn’t work that way. As a person, and as a teacher / tutor all I can only do my best from moment to moment and know that somewhere, at some point in time, something good will come of all my efforts.


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