Well, I had my first and second consultations yesterday, and I think that they both went pretty well considering that I’m new at this whole thing and all. My first consultation was with a non-traditional student working on a journal entry for her ongoing class journal—each journal entry encompasses the class readings for the week, and is also to include her reflection upon them. She expressed that she’s had this professor before and always received good grades, but that this professor’s new graduate student grades the entries very critically. She seemed very upset about this and told me that she’s being marked down for her use of passive sentences. She then told me she didn’t know what a passive sentence was, and asked me if they are grammatically incorrect—this stumped me a bit. Passive sentences aren’t grammatically incorrect, but unless used vary the stylistic approach or to overemphasize something other than the subject, they can be tough for a reader to get through. I explained my personal viewpoint on this subject, and she looked at me like I made no sense (I’m sure I didn’t—I’m really bad at that sometimes), so we read through her essay a second time and I paused at every passive sentence (I think there was only five or so in the entire page and a half). We talked about why it was passive and how flipping the sentence around would make it more direct—an active sentence. I think that we spent 20 minutes of the 30-minute consultation talking about the passive sentences within her paper, when she originally came in to get feedback on the overall organization of the piece. Although we only were able to dedicate 10 minutes of the consultation on the organization, I think that we were both satisfied with our time spent together.
Throughout my discussion with her, I couldn’t help but get this "fix-it-shop" idea out of my head—I felt a fear creeping through me, one of fostering this stigma. I was able to put this fear aside only because we were discussing aspects that she was truly curious about—her questions drove the consultation, and I didn’t feel as if I was "fixing" anything. I felt that we were looking at how passive sentences worked within the context of her style, her message—her paper. And she made the only marks on the journal entry. What do you think? Have you had similar experiences within your sessions? Would you have handled this situation differently?
Just curious as to your thoughts on this…