Sunday, September 01, 2013

Power and curveballs

                It is fascinating to read the fears of the prior class, a bit voyeuristic, but nice to see that there is common ground as well as varying points of view. I noticed that several people commented on the “power” that a tutor has in the relationship(two people quoted Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben’s bit about power), as that particular view is not one I share at all. They were concerned about letting the tutee down by failing to live up to expectations. I guess my experience managing businesses (I managed movie theaters from when I was in high school until about age 26)has left me feeling that in these situations we are more comrades-in-arms and not commander and subordinate. Although I am in an instructor position, the power and responsibility lies in the middle and both parties need to work hard to avoid failure. I have learned that I can do everything in my power, yet someone else will drop the ball and we both look bad. Maybe I am just hung up on the wording and the heart of the issue is still the same.
                I think that my only real concern is extremely common based on the previous class’ blog posts. I am a little worried regarding some of the grammar issues that will roll in the door. I know that my personal usage is not perfect and I have a weird sense of where commas go. In my writing, I try to not let the nuts and bolts issues clog me up as I am trying to get my ideas out. If I stop every time I think there might be an issue, my train of thought derails entirely, and I end up furious that questioning where each comma goes has made me forget the perfect wording for one of my ideas. When I go back later to edit I find sentences that are a little funky, but any change would disrupt the nuanced expression of that idea. Also, when read aloud, my odd grammar mimics my personal pattern of speech.
                This is where my issue ties in to my fears for the writing lab. I don’t want to steer a student wrong by forcing my voice, or any other, into their writing with grammar nit-picking. I guess it depends on the nature of the assignment, but an author’s voice can be vital to writing. In the past I have taken into account another person’s comments and end up with a paper that I hate because it is not my voice. Even if it gets a good grade, it still sticks in my craw because I am not happy that it sounds like someone else. I am an imperfect writer in the mechanics and I have made it this far on the strength of the concepts and ideas I write about. It is something that I will work on for the sake of my tutees and students.
                The other thing that I am and always will be a little nervous about is the wild card element of the job. You never know exactly what will come your way with each session. When I was teaching English in Japan it was the same way; I would have a grammar lesson planned and the student would come in and ask to work on some topical vocabulary. The longer I did it, the more I relaxed and tried to not be as stiff in my prepwork. Basically, I need to be prepared for any situation. You never know when that curveball will come… 

Gary Lindeburg


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