5 Years and Counting...

I realized this evening that this January marks my fifth year as a writing tutor (I'm even including that one semester I was banned from tutoring because I was student teaching). That's a really long time to tutor - or it could be because it's the longest I've ever had the same job title.

Last semester - my first as a grad student - I took a class in which I recorded a tutoring session, transcribed it, and then wrote a really long paper about it ("really long" being a relative term). And I bumbled my way through the process, thinking that I was doing fine - I had no real problems transcribing the experience (unlike some, who seemed to spend weeks on the process); and I hadn't a real problem reflecting on my tutoring because my first director was, I think, excellent in so many ways, not the least of which was getting us to reflect on our sessions. Yet he nagged at me for semesters and years to record a session; I didn't listen. And now I wish I had listened. (Thanks, Harry. You were right - I should have done it sooner!) Because after I had submitted a draft of my tutoring analysis to my now-director and professor, she gave me back a veritable novel of comments, after which I met with her - and I had a very big, very obvious "ahha!" moment. In fact, I had several. They're still reverberating. I suddenly became extremely conscious of what I was saying, and how I was saying it, and what effect my words had on my students. I had different experience than my classmates, who hadn't (I don't think) been tutoring as long as I. They listened to their sessions and heard immediately all the things they were doing wrong. But I'd been tutoring so long, and had a background in education that none of them had, that allowed me to know how to avoid those pitfalls. I needed someone to show me a different mirror. And now I'm very, very conscious of the feedback I give my students, and I am really aware, for the first time, how difficult it is to leave myself out of the tutoring session - no matter how I think I'm repressing my opinions, there's still a danger that they're being offered just in how I phrase my responses and questions.

Anyway, I suppose I write this because I've noticed a lot of other students who write, on this blog, about their tutoring experiences and include references to things they've read. This is all very interesting, but I wish I had access to more self-reflective pieces about what tutors really learned about their own tutoring practices. And I wish there were a way to publicly share these experiences more. I would love to listen to other students' sessions, read their transcriptions, and read their analyses.


  1. Hi, Michelle,

    I know that you posted this blog entry some time ago, but I really wanted to comment on it.

    As you may well know, last semester I was involved in the tutor writing class at BSU. I am, unfortunately, no longer in that class, but I am still tutoring at our writing center--as is most of the BSU students that were/ are involved with this blog. Anyway, last semester our professor, and director of the writing center, had us analyze another tutor's session that had already been transcribed for us. I, personally, found this to be an enriching experience. I learned a great deal about how "what" someone says, or "how" someone presents themselves, greatly influences a session.

    I was fortunate to receive a very positive session--which went very, very well. Needless to say, I learned a great deal what works well in trying to get a positive outcome.

    On the other hand, I did feel a little ripped-off in receiving that transcription. What additional information, or realizations, could I have gained through analyzing a session that bordered on terrible?

    I think the same could be said of analyzing a session of my own...am I the consultant that I think I am? Or, could I change my approach to better suit the needs of the writer?

    Thanks for the post and getting me thinking again!


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