Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When Students expect a proofread.

Matthew Kunes

I really haven't had much of a problem with this issue, honestly. The only times I have ever done a proofread (strictly) is when, in my estimation, was when that was the only thing the paper (and student) needed at the time. I suppose they bear mentioning, since they occurred early in my experience as a writing tutor, though I already mentioned it on the blog.

I suppose I could reconsider it from a new, two-weeks-later perspective.

So, in reference to my earlier post “My First (writing) tutoring session,” I had a student who brought in a highly structured medical brief on a patient she interviewed herself. Looking over the strictures of the assignment, the student assured me that she had everything that was required for the brief, as she is very experienced writing this type of paper. All she needed was a proofread, she said.

So I gave her a proofread.

That came right after the in-class discussion on focusing on organization, structure, and transitions, areas of writing that this student really didn't need help with (in this case). I was confused as to what I should do: torn between doing what the student wanted, and what I felt the paper most needed (a grammar check); and what I had been told was the job of a tutor.

I sided mostly with the former, but with a perfunctory check over her organization and structure. The meat of the session, however, focused on proofreading.

In this case, I tried to focus on the maxim repeated in class: “The goal of the writing tutor is not to produce better writing; it is to produce better writers.” I tried my best to explain the rules and conventions of grammar and punctuation, in order to empower the student to take these matters in her own hands in the future. I am not sure how well I did.

In any case, now it is pretty common for me to say something along the lines of “It isn't my job to proofread.” Though I, of course, point out grammar errors, it is usually when, as discussed in class, I see a pattern of such errors. I focus on higher level stuff first, giving grammar and usage issues secondary importance.

I'm still pretty new at this, but at least I'm trying!


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