Wednesday, September 11, 2013

(Sept. 2, 2013) Fear: Too Many Damns Not Given

The question: 

What are you most nervous about with regard to tutoring? What scares you? What keeps you up at night as you think about the hoards of ENGL 1010 papers you'll be dealing with?

What scares me most, frankly, is working with students who don't care. This fear has more to do with teaching next semester than it has to do with tutoring; for the most part, those who enter the Writing Center have done so volitionally (Red underline? That is definitely a word). One might think the same would be the case regarding anyone entering university-level studies, but my experience in taking general education courses proved otherwise. Unfortunately, the dynamic at play between many students and general education courses (especially core courses like English) is woefully trasactional (Another red line?). That is to say, students enter the classroom with -- rather than an I'm here to learn mentality -- a let's get this over with aura. 

It's a function, in part, of higher education becoming more accessible, which is ultimately a good thing. There's a sense in which the 'special' status of higher education is thereby reduced, however, which has the effect of negating the atmosphere of learning, as it were. I'm here, with everyone else, to get credit and get out of here becomes an acceptable ethos. 

At risk of waxing Platonic, ideal learning is a development, a process without a defined end, whereas the necessary institutionalization of 'credit' (in its various forms) reduces learning to a system of defined boundaries, and a finish line. While the democratization of education, I maintain, is not only a great accomplishment but mandatory in a free and open society, its advancement bears with it a sort of 'lowest common denominator' effect

My main concern is that my time will be spent primarily with students who are consciously doing as little as possible to get their credit, rather than with students who are really in the classroom to learn, develop, and expand their intellectual horizon. It may be the case that I have created a monster, envisioning a worst-case-scenario. Perhaps my concerns will prove unfounded, and my experience will prove far more positive.

Looking through past tutors blogs on the subject, it seems I have been able to get through the worst of it already: not knowing the procedure, not knowing the tutees expectations, not knowing the answers to their questions, focusing on the wrong aspects of the tutees writing, etc. I feel confident (enough) in my ability to help students that walk in, and I'm looking forward to using my tutoring experience to inform my teaching approach for the following three semesters. 


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