Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tutoring Reluctant Students

Let's face it: we all have to deal with students who don't really want to be in the writing center. And, let's face it: we can relate to that. So, what can we do when students don't really want to be going over their essay with you?

Well, the first thing that we need to remember is that if the student isn't paying attention, our efforts are wasted. We are not there to do their homework for them, and that includes filling out a brown slip. The student needs to earn that. If they aren't going to listen or try to understand what we're saying, we can explain that to them, and suggest that we reschedule if need be. That happens, and it's okay.

That should never be our first resort, however. We should try to engage the student as a human being and try to help them feel excited about their subject matter, if nothing else. Passion for revising the paper will come by itself if we can help students realize that they really do have something meaningful to say about the topic.

I feel like we are going to see more and more of this kind of thing as the end of the semester approaches and students burn out, so what can we do about it? Well, as hard as it may be, we need to try and not burn out ourselves. The students will reflect our own attitude back at us, so we need to be energetic and friendly. The more comfortable we make the tutoring environment the more likely the students will be to respond in a positive way.

Tutoring students that don't want to hear what you have to say is hard enough, but what about students who don't want to hear it because they think they don't need to improve their writing? Well, all we can do is try, but it helps if we talk about what the paper is doing to the reader rather than what the writer has done incorrectly.

At the end of the day, it's the student's loss if they don't accept the help we offer them, and in some cases it may be appropriate to express that fact. There is a lot we can do to help students with their papers, even when they don't want to hear what you have to say. It's important to be patient and sympathetic, but most of all, it's important to be human. Relate to the tutee! You've had hard days too! You've been asked to do things by teachers that you didn't want to do at the time, but you've seen how those things have helped you develop and grow, so let the students know those things! Remember, a machine can never replace human feedback when it comes to writing, which means that we don't want robot tutors!

Have fun, help the student do the same, and remember: be human!


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