Writing is a very personal undertaking to the extent that most writers would pass the chance to attend a tutoring session, unless it is absolutely necessary. The challenge for tutors in this environment is to find a balance between reinforcing the writer’s self-esteem while ensuring that the essential issues are addressed. If you read a bad paper, how could you bring the writer to understand this without making him/her feel terrible about the whole tutoring concept?
It is a real challenge to deliver bad news; personally it is even harder and I am sure most of you would agree. To overcome this rather uncomfortable situation, I often commend my writers for a good paper and use personal writing challenges as a basis to underscore the troubling spots in their paper. Mind you, commendations are sometimes ineffective because writers know when they have done less than perfect work. So while it is necessary, it must be aimed at honestly evaluating the writer for a fair attempt.
I find that writers respond fairly well when you use your personal writing challenges as a platform to discuss their challenges. This strategy relaxes the writer and opens them up to talk freely about their paper. Now you have the space to throw up suggestions pointing the writer in the right direction. I had one of my writers abandoned a really bad paper lacking direction and totally of subject, to start from scratch. She took rather kindly to the criticisms what may have appeared as criticism, her second attempt yielded a really good paper. This is the ideal atmosphere you should seek in your tutoring session; it makes your writer appreciate writing as an act rather than something they should know just by being students.