My favorite student is the uninterested student. I enjoy the students that slink into the Writing Studio, more attention on their phones than the people around them, looking for the tutor that will hopefully fill out a session report form with little to no interaction. I love them! Why? It’s simple; they give me a sense of accomplishment.
I had a student come in the other day with a less-than enthused attitude. I was covering the student’s appointment because another tutor was out sick. Upon entering the studio, she became aware that her scheduled Writing Fellow was out. Her words: “Oh, awesome! I have other things to do anyway, so if someone could just fill out the report for me… that’s all I need!” Inside, I was a little surprised. These were the responses I more often received the first couple of semesters the studio was open; by this time, most students utilized Writing Fellow assistance and saw the benefit of an extra pair of eyes. I assumed this was her first time. It was.
I encouraged her to come sit with me. “We will find something to improve,” I told her.
Yet, she kept insisting, “I really don’t need the help. It’s finished. I just need the report.”
“Well, let’s take a look at what you have,” I kept pushing back as she opened her product review, “We’ll need to at least talk about the assignment before we can fill out a session report form.”
“Um, okay.” She was not pleased. “I just have a lot of other stuff to do, so we don’t need to be long.”
“I understand. We’ll see what you have and go from there.” I assured her that by the end of the remaining 23 minutes, she would gain some knowledge she could apply not only to this paper, but to future papers as well. I saw the skepticism on her face. This would be a challenge.
Asking her to read out loud came with a rebuttal, “Read out loud? Why?” A slight laugh followed.
“Well, sometimes our mind skips over missing words or wrong verb tenses when we read to ourselves. When you read out loud, you’re more likely to see such mistakes and catch any awkward wording. Maybe you’re paper is perfect, but trust me, we might find one or two areas with an ‘s’ missing, or past tense where it should be present.” She stared at the paper, and reluctantly began reading out loud.
One spelling mistake fixed. One sentence restructured. A verb tense error corrected. Her irritated expression softened, as she noticed minor mistakes she might have otherwise skipped over. “Wow, I didn’t see any of these problems earlier today.”
“That’s why you’re here! It’s so easy to rush through assignments like this and overlook minor mistakes. I do it all the time.” I tried to relate to her, hoping we could continue making positive headway in the remaining fifteen minutes.
We went on to find comparative material and worked through the organization of her claims. She gradually grew more interested, more comfortable, beginning to see the benefit of the Writing Studio. “I can’t believe we were able to do so much; I thought I was finished. You’re really good.” She had found those mistakes herself, and she had developed more supporting ideas by simply talking to me about the paper. Upon completing the session report form, she left informing me that I would probably see her next week.
The best students are the interested students. They come in with lists and ideas of what they need to work on, of areas they want to improve. They enter with a positive attitude and leave feeling accomplished. However, the least enthused students are the few I feel really benefit my position. They push me to do my job, to do my job better. They force me to draw out interest, to explain our methods in an attempt to gain compliance. They move me to help students understand the benefits of the Writing Studio, but more importantly, writing as a whole. Tough sessions give me a sense of accomplishment, as I watch students crawl into the Writing Studio, leave walking, and return running. My favorite student is the uninterested student.