One example of this was a session I shadowed on Wednesday. A student came to the writing center with a mostly-finished draft of a paper she'd written for her English class. This next part is going to make me sound fairly arrogant and judgmental, so I'd like to apologize in advance: I'm sorry. This paper was ghastly! The student had some really good thoughts and I knew that she KNEW what she wanted to say, but that it just wasn't being expressed in an organized, eloquent manner. Her ideas were scattered, sprinkled, and hodge-podged in small paragraphs with no elaboration on her statements, and no connection between the different subjects. Her sentences were difficult to understand and grammatically incorrect. In short, it looked like it was written by a 7th grade student (and that might be a tad generous).
I AM SO RUDE! I know this. Please, please have mercy on me. However, I really don't think any of us can deny feeling this way about another's work at some point in our academic careers.
As the student was reading her paper aloud to the veteran consultant, I began to have panicked thoughts: "How is she (the veteran consultant...let's call her "Jane") ever going to fix this!? Where would one even begin on something as messy as this?" This paper was a disaster, and it needed some serious literary housekeeping! It's like trying to clean up an utterly messy house; overwhelming to the point where one doesn't even know what to start with first. I watched the student as she struggled with reading the paper aloud: "It sounds so bad when you read it out loud..." she said. I could see the frustration on her face.
Jane was positive, calm, and organized in a situation that would have left me dumbfounded. She asked the perfect questions, made the perfect suggestions, and, rather than being the housekeeper herself, Jane handed the student the mop. By the end of the session, the student's discomfort had turned to relative ease, and her sad, frustrated face had morphed into a smiling one. She felt more confident, had begun to form a real sense of direction with her work, and she was ready to go home and make her own changes to improve the paper.
Does this kind of educational genius come naturally, or is it the result of experience in tutoring? I have always felt confident as a writer, but I am just now starting to realize that being a good writer and being a good writing tutor require different abilities and strengths. I could have written that girl's paper backwards, forwards, and inside-out! However, that's not what she came to the Writing Center for. When it came to HELPING HER write her paper, I struggled.
My fellow 303 students, have any of you felt this way while doing your daily eavesdropping at the Writing Center?