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Tutoring Disabled Students.

I had a session this past week in which I tutored a deaf student. It was a really interesting session, but I was also nervous about it; I didn't know what to expect from the student, who supposed to bring his interpreter but didn't. We spent our session typing out notes to each other on MS Word (I thought it would be easier - and I think it was - than handwriting everything we wanted to say); but I realized after our session was done that I didn't cover nearly as much as I would have with a non-deaf student. This was not particularly surprising in retrospect, but I should have stuck to a few points more than I did. I also realized that I wasn't as organized as I thought I would be; I wondered if I manage to get my message across to students who don't have learning disabilities, and what I could do differently; I had to reevaluate my effectiveness.

Each semester the director at my Writing Center encourages his tutors to either videotape or audiotape a session, listen to it (or watch it), and then reflect on it (in an e-mail to him, or the associate or assistant directors we have working with us this year). I have to admit that I'm truculent in doing this, because inwardly I'm worried about doing such a horrid job that I'll only get harsh criticism. (This is unfounded, of course.) I decided to keep the notes that my student and I typed as a means of communication, though, because of the comparative novelty of the situation. Halfway through the session I already knew what I could be doing differently, but it was difficult to shift gears so far into the session, so I decided to keep with it. The session wasn't my worst by any means, but I reflected later that I hadn't wanted to admit I wouldn't get as much "done" in the session; and that I would have to be better organized in choosing specific higher order concerns on which to focus.

I wonder if other tutors have had similar experiences, and what they've learned. And, more specifically, what those experiences actually were.


  1. That's a tough situation. I think, however, that your willingness to explore what you did and what you could do better is key to writing center work. If we don't take the time to reflect and grow then we are seeming to claim we have all the answers. That is surely not a WC paradigm.

  2. We have had similar experiences here at the Univ. of Scranton. You might want to read Margaret Weaver's "Transcending 'Conversing': A Deaf Student in the Writing Center." It was published in the 2nd edition of The St. Martin's Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, pages 221-232. I think you'll find it an invaluable resource.


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