Monday, September 16, 2013

Shelley Williams/Blog 3: Tutor vs. Tutee Expectations

I have less trouble managing divergent tutee vs. tutor expectations than I do sometimes understanding the instructor’s expectations, but to give a good example of when a tutee’s expectations are not nor may ever conform to a tutor’s training to help said tutee, I offer the following.

Last spring semester (2013), I overheard a session while I was not at the time engaged with a tutee. I was baffled at the beyond fast-food light speed at which the tutee expected to garner aid. Initially I thought the student must have a paper due within the hour and clearly had no hopes nor expectations of massive (or maybe any) revision before that time and just wanted the tan sheet of proof of writing center visit. While the latter may be true, what I learned later from the tutor who helped this student was that this was always the tutee’s attitude—the tutee just did not value improving her writing enough to invest the effort to learn ways she could viably, visibly, and markedly (hopefully in grades as well) advance her skills. Since writing well was not a skill she valued, nor could ever see herself valuing it apparently, there was little convincing her that there was a better way or attitude with which she could approach her sessions with a tutor and leave both feeling better about the visit.

Had I ever had the unfortunate privilege or fortunate challenge as the case may be, of visiting with the student myself, I think I would have asked her point blank if or why she was in a hurry and could we not or why not, dig a little deeper into her writing. I would probably preface it with questions about her past grades, her satisfaction with them, her major, her goals, her plans and hopes. Based on all these, but in particular the latter, I would try to find instances and casually use them, of how and when, in her chosen major and hopefully future profession, good written communication would be, and always is, valued and appreciated by any employer and particularly important if one wishes to be self-employed.

That particular student really only wanted to deal with superficial concerns and not big picture things. It’s an interesting consideration for pondering at what point is our effort to improve the writing of our tutees considered by them not only intrusive, but perhaps personality modifying.  If we believe the oracle “I think, therefore I am” and that to write well is to be able to think well (at least as evident on paper), we are, in essence, modifying minds and therefore personalities. But we view this, as educators, as tutors, as students in the academy, as not only a worthy goal but part of the whole experience of academia.  Since the student in question did not see things the same way, I would have to find where her values did/do lie for being in school, and if only to pass the time, getting out with some intended end-game is where I’d have to go to pick this student up off the pavement of walking on the persons she is seeking an education from as she walks the halls of the academy she may not (or ever) value.  In the end, we can a lead student to written rhetorical tools, but we cannot make her pick them up.


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