I went into the writing center, planning to observe a session or two and take notes; however, when I sat down to chat with my mentor Bob before the student arrived, he asked me how I would feel about running the session. I hesitated before giving him my answer. I had never tutored before and I was quite nervous. Would I know what to do? Would I make a fool of myself? Would my advice make sense and be relevant to the student? Despite my fears, I was excited as well. This would be one step closer to doing the job that I have wanted to do. I also remembered one of the quotes I live by that was said by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” This most definitely scared me!
“Okay!” I said enthusiastically. Amy, the student, arrived for her appointment and sat on the orange couch to wait, which is customary in our writing center. With a huge smile, I found Amy and described the situation to her. Thankfully, she was fine with being mentored by me as opposed to her normal tutor Bob.
We walked back to the pod and I asked Amy what I could help her with, then, in order to ease the tension, I told her and Bob that I was nervous. Amy confessed that she was nervous as well and then told me what she wanted assistance with making the paper “better” and more interesting for her teacher to read. I asked her if she could provide more details on what she meant by “better.” She was not able to tell me what she meant by that, so I said that we could look over her writing and discuss it afterwards and maybe work on some revisions.
“Would you feel comfortable reading this out loud?” I asked.
She hesitated, “no, I don’t want to.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, not surprised, “well, the reason why I ask is because reading your paper out loud will help you find mistakes that you probably wouldn’t find just reading it silently to yourself.”
“I don’t want to read it.”
“Okay, that’s fine,” I replied, “Would you mind if I read it out loud?” She seemed okay with that and I proceeded to read her paper. I noticed that there were many grammatical errors and poor word choices, but I wasn’t sure if I should say them correctly along the way or to just read it exactly the way it is. I opted for the latter, which I found was a good decision since we had to do some revising later down the road, not to mention we are normally not supposed to focus on grammar in the writing center.
After going through it once, I asked the tutee how she felt about the paper. She reiterated what she said earlier about how she doesn’t like this piece of writing and because of that there is no way her teacher would like it either. I asked her if there were specific parts that she would like to talk about. She didn’t have an answer for me.
Panicking on the inside because I didn’t know what to do, I feverishly looked through the paper again. I tried to find something that I felt could be revised. Fortunately, I noticed that Amy didn’t have any sort of introduction or conclusion. I asked her if she had those included. She admitted that she wasn’t quite sure to go about writing them and so didn’t attempt to add them.
I asked Amy how she might want to start the paper and she wasn’t sure so with Bob’s help, we discussed different ways that she could go about introducing her topic. She told us which ideas she liked and also contributed some of her own ideas. At this point I could tell that she was opening up in the session. Bob asked Amy if she would feel comfortable with doing free writing with us or alone. She preferred to be left alone to write, which seems to be the norm with most students. Bob and I left so that Amy was able to free write for about ten minutes.
While Bob and I were away, Bob told me that he felt like I was doing a good job and that I’ll be an effective tutor. I needed this reassurance because I wasn’t sure if I was doing well or not. At this point I gained some more confidence in my abilities and looked forward to going back to the session with Amy.
Ten minutes had passed and we returned to the pod. Amy constructed an introduction that I felt was strong and introduced the topic very well. She took my advice about not giving away too much information about the topic so that it leaves the reader wanting more. There were very few revisions for her introduction that Bob and I suggested.
We didn’t work on the conclusion during this session; however, we discussed ways that Amy could narrow the focus of her paper so that was matched the expectations of her professor more closely. Amy didn’t like any of the advice that Bob and I had and expressed that our ideas did not bring the paper in the direction that she wanted it to go. This was fine, but the topic that she wanted her paper to feature was different from what the rubric called for. I told this to her, but she was adamant about her ideas.
At this point, we only had a few minutes left so we started to write the summary of the session and a note to Amy’s teacher. We also formulated a plan for the rest of her writing process. Amy told me that I was very helpful to her and that she will have to come back and show us how she did. Being able to help her made my day and gave me a good feeling; that is how I know that this position at the writing center will be a good fit for me.
After Amy left, Bob and I reflected on what happened. I felt more confident in my abilities and was ready to run another session. Of course, I was ecstatic that my first try was a success and that I did most of my work without the help of Bob. In all, learned about myself and I also learned about the tutee. I will remember and refer back to this first session for the rest of my career at the writing center.