Sunday, October 12, 2014

What’s your advice?



What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a new tutor?  

Last week, one of the writing center tutors told me to write down every grammatical issue that comes up in a session when working with an ESL writer. Looking back, that’s what he would do differently as a new tutor. He’d write the issues down and figure out ways to handle each of the errors in future sessions. In fact, he said he’d figure out several ways to explain the grammatical rule, how students can notice the mistake in a sentence and various ways to explain the solution. Sometimes it takes several ways of explaining something to clarify it. I think this is a great idea and I’m betting that all you seasoned tutors out there each have a piece of advice that you could share. Is there something from your experience that you would do differently? Something you did that worked fabulously? Something you think made you (and can make us) a better tutor?

Even if you’re a newbie tutor, you could probably share a piece of advice that the rest of us could benefit from.

Here’s my advice…

I have observed that good tutors possess character traits such as approachability, friendliness and patience. In addition, good tutors also strive to be interesting, humorous, lively, cheerful, confident and straightforward with students. I know it’s a big list, but I think it’s a good one to work toward.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Salt Lake Teens Write

I’m volunteering as a mentor in the Salt Lake Teens Write (SLTW) program administered by SLCC’s Community Writing Center (CWC). The SLTW Mentor Training Manual states that the program is “designed to motivate both teens and mentors to strengthen their writing skills for personal, academic and professional development.” Each mentor-teen pair is supposed to work on 7-10 projects, culminating in a writing portfolio for each teen, an anthology publication of all participants’ work, and a closing celebration that will include a public reading at the end of the school year. It's a nine-month commitment to a one-hour weekly mentoring session.
 
Salt Lake Teens Write kickoff, September 13, 2014

I’ve been assigned to work with a 16-year-old girl at the Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center, which serves immigrants and refugees from all over the world. I’ve had an initial get-to-know-you meeting with my mentee and a few of the folks who run the Hser Ner Moo Center, but I have yet to start the actual mentoring.

I can see that a major challenge for me will be managing and adapting expectations: the Hser Ner Moo staff's, my own, and my mentee’s and her family’s. My assignment from the SLTW program is only to be a writing mentor, but the Hser Ner Moo Center needs tutors who can help non-native English speakers with reading, math and science. I may need to clarify with the center staff that I’ll just be working on writing skills. My own hope in signing up for the SLTW program was that I’d be paired with a teen who was already proficient in English and would have a lot of ideas of their own about different genres and projects they wanted to try. I’ll need to adapt to mentoring a teen who might be more focused on language acquisition, and I’ll definitely need to ask other mentors in the program to share any applicable experience and advice they can offer me. My teen mentee canceled our first scheduled session right before I arrived because she had to tend her baby brother, so I’ll probably need to adapt to her family’s expectations and priorities, while encouraging my mentee and her family to commit to her full participation in our weekly mentoring sessions.

Like so many things in life, mentoring for SLTW will most likely take me in directions I hadn’t imagined when I signed up. It will all be valuable information as I learn how to work effectively with all kinds of writers in all kinds of situations.


The Breakroom S01E01 "The Mime"

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I'm a tutor. How can I help you?



              
Image: writingworkshop.blogs.wesleyan.edu 
Upon entering you could assume that you have entered into a library. In the large classroom size room there are shelves with books along one wall. There is one wall with many large windows and a long table with computers are at the bottom of the windows. Comfy chairs occupy the corners and in the middle of the floor are several tables. The Salt Lake Community College, Student Writing Center is a very open and welcoming place. For my semester project I have chosen to work in this writing center.

My first day has come and gone and I admit, I was nervous but having observed several sessions it wasn’t too overwhelming. In the hour that I was scheduled, there was an abundance of staff and the writing center was slow. I didn’t get to tutor that day but I need to do 15 hours and so I’m sure that I will get my chance. I took the slowness to re- think about the observations I did and what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do things differently. 

For one of my observation sessions I was able to see two very opposite sessions happening at the same time. Two friends walked into the SWC (student writing center) and the first one received a tutor that was interested in them the moment they sat down. The second had to get their tutor’s attention by another staff member. The tutor didn’t even close their own work. I was shocked that the second tutor immediately, upon receiving the student’s paper, wrote all over it and changed almost everything on the first page. 

When I checked on the first student I noticed their session was very happy. They were laughing and sharing the student’s paper. The tutor was very engaged in the work they were there to do. The second tutor was very quiet and the student sat across from them, wringing their hands. I realized then that no tutors are alike and that I want to be very involved with the student’s work and with the student. They are coming in for help and if I just take over, do it for them or make them feel uncomfortable-- they won’t want to come back again. When the two student's left one was smiling and very happy. Student number two looked like they would never return.

                Overall, I am very excited for the work that we do in helping the student’s and I am glad to have this opportunity.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I’m going to be a tutor…


SLCC Student Writing Center

My service-learning project for English 1810 (my mentoring writers class) is to engage students in one-to-one tutor/writer conversations at the SLCC Taylorville Campus Student Writing Center, in an effort to improve their (and my) writing process. The project mainly includes student writers seeking help in the writing center, but also the other tutors/instructors who I'll be working with.

Together with student writers, I will discuss aspects of writing based on each student’s priorities for their individual writing assignments. These facets of writing ability may include:

  • understanding instructions
  • planning strategies
  • determining content
  • drafting and revising assignments
  • defining purpose
  • composing a thesis
  • editing and proofing for errors (grammar and punctuation)
  • writing concerns other than those listed

Working with students on their various projects is a way to strengthen my own writing skills. I foresee that my experience in the writing center will facilitate this happening in several ways:

  • formulating and studying explanations for various issues and concerns that will arise in my tutoring sessions
  • solving problems for the various writing difficulties involved in student writing
  • learning how to assist all the diverse people and personalities who are patrons of the writing center
  • evaluating and reflecting on what I learn and my experiences through the use of the SLCC Student Center evaluation form and the TSR writing center tutoring log
  • networking with other writers, both students and instructors

I’m looking forward to starting my own tutoring sessions with fellow writers. If all goes well, this should begin this upcoming week. Watching the tutors and tutees as they work through the individual writing projects, I can’t help but think about what a wonderful opportunity the writing center is providing. It not only offers us the opportunity to better our writing, but also the chance to get to know other students and to network—or commiserate—with other writers too.