Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tutor! Not Editor, Not Co-author

Thankfully, I have not had to deal with a ‘proofread my paper’ tutee so far this semester. If I did have someone walk in and tell me to just edit their work quickly because it’s due in an hour, then I would have to sit them down and gently explain to them what it means to be a writing tutor.
As a tutor, it is my job to help the student become an independent learner and a better writer. It is not my job to be their editor, proofreader, or co-author. It is possible for a tutor to be too helpful and start changing a student’s essay until it is a spectacular piece of writing, but is nothing like the student’s original work. That is when the line between tutor and co-author begins to blur, and when it comes to partially writing an essay for the student, that leads us into the subject of academic dishonesty and we really don’t want to go there. Editors and proofreaders exist in the professional world as people who double-check the writer’s work and make sure it is ready for publication. Professional writers, however, generally know their syntax and grammar rules well enough that they write at an advanced level automatically. Students are just students, so they are still learning and building on the skills that have already been formed. Some are more skilled than others, but a tutor’s purpose is to help them build those skills. Being able to write clearly is essential to being a good communicator. Most people in the workforce do not have a proofreader going over their emails before they send them out to co-workers or supervisors or even (gasp!) the executives of the company. There may also be times when something important with a time limit, such as a grant proposal, needs to be written professionally and sent out quickly. There is not time for a poor writer to slowly slop something together and then have it sifted through by a proofreader. That said, it is vital that college students in every discipline learn how to write effectively and independently. Basically, tutors are really just super-nice English teachers who give compact, one-on-one learning sessions. How great is that?!


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