Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Saturday I had my first tutoring session! I was a little nervous, but I was grateful that I had so many in-class discussions to fall back on. Because of our discussions, I was looking for specific things; we made a session map; and let the session evolve according to the needs of the writer. I do not feel that I did a perfect job, but I felt much more confident than I would have had I not been taking this class. It was amazing how useful the map was, as well as phrases like “teachers generally like to see…” Using these tools helped the writer understand that I was there to help, not to criticize. Letting her write down the thoughts we had helped her understand that I was not there to write her essay for her, but to help her become a better writer.
Because of our class sessions, I was more focused on helping her become a better writer rather than just getting an A on the assignment.  We talked about tips and tricks she could use, as well as reviewed sources to help her when she was uncertain about thing such as APA format (a necessary step as I was not familiar with all the requirements myself). The tool that I felt was most useful, however, was asking questions. Instead of telling her “put a comma here” I would say things like “This sentence has a natural break in it. Where do you think it is?” When I used this kind of meta-cognitive talk path, the student was not defensive, and felt that they were revising their own paper. This feeling was reinforced by my refusal to write the changes for her.
If there was a sentence that I struggled with, I would say things like: “I’m having a hard time following you here. How could you rephrase this?” Again, this helped the student know that I was on her side, and not trying to critique her essay. Another thing that I found very useful to our session was my knowledge about the internet and Microsoft Word. I was able to show her a few tricks with Word that will help her in the future, such as how to add references and citations, then have Word build that citation itself. I feel that this knowledge is invaluable to students, as it saves them time and allows them to focus more on their essay than the mechanics of the paper.
The final thing I’ll say about my first session is that I learned how important it is to complement often. I showed her what she did well and why I liked it, and this created a friendship between us. Then, when there was an issue in the paper, it was easy to talk about because it was just one little thing that was wrong in a whole sea of “good stuff.” To end our session, I asked my tutee if she felt better about her essay, if she had any more questions, and if she felt like I had done a good job in helping her. She responded positively, and said she felt very confident about her essay. I am sure she had no idea it was my first session, and I have this class to thank for a huge portion of her confidence in me.  In short, I really like this job. I love helping students become better writers, and I love the look in their eyes when they understand the concepts we’re talking about.  
- Sam Bartholomew


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