Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Blog 5: Emotional Writing = Emotional Students

I am almost glad that I had waited so long to write this blog post because I hadn’t had much experience with emotional writing until last week. A student of mine had been given the all too loaded assignment to write about a “memorable experience” in her life. Like many students, she went for the most memorable, and most tragic, of her life experiences. Quickly after beginning the session, I knew that this would be a difficult and emotional paper to tutor. She apologized before we even began reading, telling me that it was a pretty sad paper. I had just assumed she meant that her writing wasn’t as good as she wanted it to be, but then I read her paper which was about her first miscarriage and the death of her first live-born child. After reading this portion of her paper, I looked up to see tears streaming down the students face. She was overwhelmed with emotion, and I, too, was moved by her tragic narrative.

In this situation, I felt that it was best to take a short, two minute break. I told her that I was sorry for her loss and acknowledged that these experiences must have been very hard for her to go through. She thanked me for my concern, and told me that her baby had only died two months ago and that she was sorry for being so emotional. I assured her that no apology was needed. I waited until she was calm and her tears had stopped before asking her if she would like to continue with the session or take a break. She said she would like to continue, and it ended up being a very productive session.

I have heard from some tutors that they encourage students to avoid these sorts of topics because of their emotional nature. I have also heard these same tutors advising students to “write what you are passionate about.” When these two things overlap, it becomes difficult to know how to advise a student on his or her writing, and  I’m still not sure whether to ask these students if they would consider a new topic or just help them to make their assignment the best emotional paper it can be.


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