I got a very nice compliment from the director of my Writing Center a few weeks ago: He wrote me a lovely e-mail (which I'm considering framing) telling me what a good job I was doing when I wrote up the Conference Reports each tutor fills out at the end of each session; they're sociologically designed to get us thinking about the session we'd just had, and to reflect upon it. And he asked me a very interesting question:
What was going through my head when I was writing each Conference Report?
It took me a couple hours in really thinking about this, because up to this point, I wasn't sure I'd been thinking anything specifically; I was often just trying to remember what I'd done well or badly in that particular session. I wasn't concerned with how I was phrasing my experience. But then I got to thinking about last semester.
Last semester I was inundated with reflection. I was doing so much of it - between my Methods class and tutoring (which my director always highly encouraged us to do, from the moment of being hired), between having to really look at what I was writing and analyze my thinking and rationale about what I felt was everything under the sun - that I was coming to a few realizations about myself that I had been trying not to see. (Or maybe, as I'm nearing 30, I'm finally allowing myself to see.) And I felt that something clicked in my head last semester: I was finally putting together some practical experience in relation to some pedagogical practices that both my director and my Methods professor had been teaching. In essence, a lot fell in to place, and a lot started to make sense. (Especially when I heard the same strategies from both professors!) I was able to see a more direct correlation between what I said and the student's response, and I was able to shift gears much more easily if I saw that something wasn't working.
At the beginning of this semester, my sixth as a tutor, I came in with a different appreciation for tutoring: all this reflecting that I had to do, all that I had to see in terms of my own writing and how my mindset and thinking was so innately connected to how and what I wrote, made me be able to appreciate my tutoring sessions so much more. I now knew from experience how painful reflecting could be, and how writing exposed one's own thinking to the world. Writing for me has always been such a closely tied connection to how I think that I really understand why many people are so protective of their writing. I look to see the way my student responds in the session: her posture, her facial expressions and mannerisms, how close she sits to me, how willing she is to answer questions, how closely she peers over her paper as we read through it together. These clues, as much as anything else, makes me stop to think about how that student, in that one session, feels about her own writing, and makes me really think about what I did in that session, what worked, and what I need to do to become better. I can then process what happened and (I hope) write about the session in such a way that's clear, concise, and readable.
If nothing else, this job is preparing me remarkably for the day that New York State gives me that teaching certification.