Monday, November 18, 2013

Blog 11: Is there another tutor in the house?

Blog 11: Is there another tutor in the house?/Shelley Williams/Engl 3840

I have been fortunate; this has never happened to me--yet. However, I can think of at least one good instance when for both my sake and the sake of the tutee, I wish it had happened, that is, the tutee or I had had to or wanted to or did actually, seek a replacement tutor for the session.

She came in semi-confident, semi-wary as a returning "mature" or non-trad student. She made it clear that she was new at this; didn't really understand what the teacher wanted; never liked English that much in high school; and finally, as the session wore on, gave me quizzical looks that indicated not only was I not reaching her either, but I was potentially making things worse.

It was at the beginning of spring semester 2013, my first semester tutoring for WSU.  I was struggling with 18 credits (several of which I changed to audits later). Although I felt I was so not hacking it again as a student, I felt I was setting the student at ease by telling her that I'd taught 1010 before, and that this was not going to be as bad as she thought. Because I was so busy "telling" versus showing her how easy it was, it became a labored session--both time-wise and emotionally, as in emotionally-draining--for us both.

Between not saying what I meant or wanted to say because I felt I already knew how to do that, I ended up feeling there wasn't anything I could have done to make the session go less smoothly by what was coming out of my mouth (I now know far less at all should have been exiting that source).  The only tool I didn't forget, mostly because I never didn't have this, was some modicum of self-deprecation or genuine humility in this case, sufficient to say that I was learning again too, being back in school with credits over my head and that I wasn't really explaining myself very well.  When in final and utter doubt, I always self-deprecate.  And sometimes that's useful. Though I think aiming for a middle mark of inspiring confidence by neither bragging nor over-commiserating would have been far better. Or, failing that, if a session starts to get off track and it becomes like a runaway train, for whatever reason, I would at least now not be afraid to ask for a second opinion from a fellow tutor by asking some pointed question to which he/she could respond to with wording that might enlighten the tutee in a way that my words have not as they just kept dimming the switch in the wrong direction.

I've learned that I can also switch tacks midstream too if my approach isn't working and am now more skilled at that. However, I'm sure the day will come when a completely derailed session will have to pass into other hands. Until that day, I'm learning how to avoid it in as many circumstances, with as many kinds of students as possible. Knock on wood.


Post a Comment

<< Home