Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Blog 13: For Incoming Recruits (Tutors)

Blog 13: The Next Iteration: What I Would Tell the Incoming Tutor Recruits/Shelley Williams/Engl 3840

The Ten Commandments of Good Tutoring

1.       Thou shalt listen with all thy heart, with all thy ears, with all thy might, mind, and strength.

2.       Thou shalt treat tutees as thou thyself wouldst want to be treated.

3.       Thou shalt not write all for students upon their papers/parchment; Thou shalt make them work for what they learn, earn what they learn by so doing.

4.       Thou shalt read aloud the papers of 955 students so that they and you shalt catch more “stuff ‘n things.”

5.       Thou shalt praise with positive reinforcement whenever possible.

6.       Thou shalt focus on a few do-able issues when a paper is riddled with strife.

7.       Thou shalt not give in to a student’s negativity towards writing or a session in general.

8.       Thou shalt help the tutee to a knowledge of understanding regarding his/her own writing process as well as his/her most common problems and solution options for correcting these.

9.       Thou shalt concentrate on substance over mechanics.

10.   Though shalt reinforce thesis and roadmapping techniques for the dual purpose of orienting student tutees through rough composition terrain as strangers in a foreign land and for that of orienting readers of said composition(s).

You, dear Tutor, have chosen this position and title, much as you were chosen for it—because you care about what students learn and how they learn it. Here is a more detailed breakdown of each commandment given.

1.       Mandamiento Uno.  Show, not tell that you care by actually listening to students elaborate on their own writing and its meanings and discuss with them whether their meaning(s) are coming across as intended. Do this by active listening and by selective questioning based on what you see occurring already in the paper.

2.       Mandamiento Dos.  Honor tutees always by acknowledging, recognizing, and bridging from where they are in their writing skills/process and where they need to go and how to get there by noting their writing strengths with an eye to helping them fix that which needs gentle reproof.  Do that which will really help them; that is, do not assume your “constructive criticism” will be constructive until you’ve asked the student numerous questions to determine tutee perceptions.

3.       Mandamiento Tres. Limit writing you place on a student’s work. Writing in margins to the exclusion of the student tutee doing so, is highly discouraged if you wish to have students learn best by “doing” and thinking aloud their own errors and the corrections/solutions thereof.  Teach a tutee to fish . . . don’t fish for them. You will starve the tutee later if you hand-feed him/her now. This does not mean you should not break up the fish into bite-sizes your tutee can handle, but rather that you have to discern with keen awareness what that size bite should be with any given tutee.

4.       Mandamiento Quatro.  Read aloud the work of developmental learning students in order to catch the greatest multiplicity of potential problems. When appropriate to demonstrate the degree of difficulty you, as reader, are having, have the student read the problem area aloud.

5.       Mandamiento Cinco.  Empathize with a student about their difficulties and strengths in writing their text in order to draw out student’s perceptons of their own writing as well as their learning styles/strategies. This will develop student trust and confidence in his/her ability to resolve their writing issues in future.

6.       Mandamiento Seis.  Praise the slightest successful effort of a student to place a string of sentences or words on the page. This is especially true if it appears there is nothing good to say about the paper.  This is part of helping students to move from a place of vulnerability to a place of strength by showing (with “because”) what is right with their texts/paper(s).

7.       Mandamiento Siete.  Re-iterate the positive to eliminate the negative in order to make headway in a sea of woe and lamentation. If you can’t say something nice, find a way to say something true, while framing this in positive terms, i.e., “I like this. Do that here as well, and you will strengthen your paper.” In other words, do the things that will really help and will diffuse a student’s lambast of you, him/herself, or the text/paper, or the session itself.

8.       Mandamiento Ocho.  Teach not as you like to be taught, but as the student likes to be taught. This means you will have to be cognizant of signals the student gives that show what the preferred learning style is, or you may simply ask the student to elaborate on the process they use to take in new material or to generate the essay that is before you for review.  This will go a long way to teaching the student academic and communicative survival and excellence. Teach the student how to fish . . .

9.       Mandamiento Nueve.  Focus on the big picture problems and targets (well-constructed thesis and paper body and how these should reflect one another) before turning sights on minutia. This order can be reversed if the minutia is so multiplied that it is glaringly difficult to read the text without faltering. In that case, sentence construction becomes the big-picture issue of the session.  Mechanics concentration should be dependent on level of need, but never to the exclusion or overemphasis that would subordinate idea presentation to a place of lower status.

10.   Mandamiento Dies.  Finish where you begin; begin where you finish.  Ask the students always, and foremost: “Can you identify/bracket your thesis (main idea) for me?” If the student cannot do this, point out to said student that the likelihood is great that the reader will not be able to do so either. Additionally, highlighting topic sentences as necessary to generate or re-generate good organization of the paper should be done in relation to what is forecast in the intro/thesis. These will not be mirror images, but should be like a placid lake reflecting the sky. Use illustrations like this to help students, especially if you learn said students are visual learners, for example.

All commandments should build on one another in this way: Once you learn a new piece of information about the student’s writing, use that new knowledge to inform the session until the end of the session.

Finally, a genuine yet measured interest in your student and their paper and topic will cover a multitude of their sins. Find ways to connect with your students and their chosen topics, or use it to steer them in a new direction—not necessarily a new paper—but always in the direction of the best result the student can create.


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