Wednesday, December 04, 2013

To the fall 2014 tutors

The first thing I want to tell new tutors is to relax, enjoy working with students, and try not to worry or overthink. The job is challenging, but rewarding. It can feel like the tutee expects you to make their paper absolutely perfect, but in the end you clan only do so much. You are there to help them learn to be better writers, not ensure their individual papers have perfect grammar. It will be a fight sometimes, and they will walk away feeling like you failed because you didn't doctor their paper and do the work for them. I know the idiom about giving a man a fish/teaching a man to fish is a bit overused, but fits fantastically to writing center pedagogy. You can fix all the commas in a paper or you can teach them how to fix their own commas. Which is more valuable?
I think the biggest piece of advice I can give to the incoming tutors is to be mindful of ESL sessions. From a lot of my previous posts, my particular interest in teaching English as a second language is probably pretty clear. There are a lot of specific elements to tutoring language learners, as opposed to developing writers, that can add extra stress to the job. Talking at length about complex essay structures is a bit difficult when the listener is still trying to grasp verb conjugations. These are times when the support of coworkers and the writing center staff can come in very handy. Hopefully, most of you have taken a foreign language class, so try to remember what that feels like.
All in all, I hope you enjoy the experience of working in the writing center. No matter what field you are planning to go into, the ability to help people understand their own thought processes and how to express themselves in writing can be useful. You will get tutees from all around  campus, but your job will remain the same.

Gary Lindeburg


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