Showing posts from October, 2012

Its the day before Halloween :)

Last week my mentor thought I was ready to take over one of his sessions. I was so nervous, he told me I would be fine and he would be there to help me out if I needed it. His session was cancelled so I thought I was in the clear, until he had a drop in. We greeted the student and explained I was a tutor in training, and if it was okay with her I would be tutoring her. She agreed and we sat down. When I asked what she needed help with she said she needed someone to go over her presentation with her. I was thinking "Oh great, I've never observed a session that had to deal with a power point presentation. Just my luck." When I asked for her assignment sheet she handed it to me and explained some of it. All I kept thinking was "I hope I know a little of what she's going to show me." When she pulled up her power point I saw it was about Promotions. My mood went from worried to I got this instantly, because I am a Marketing major. After that it was smooth sailing

The Frivolity of Formality

Over the course of these past few weeks I've come into the question of formality.  This is a crucially important detail in my case, for while I may appear fully able to control myself in writing, my casual conversation is heavily littered with expletives.  I don't know if it's how I was raised, the role models I chose, or just the hand I was dealt, but I find few greater joys than expressing myself with a well placed expletive and more or less speaking like a pirate.  No, I do not kiss my mother with this mouth- we're more of a hug-based family.  Anyway, I've encountered very little casual swearing during the sessions I've observed, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's due to the fact that I'm observing, and because of this the tutor is trying to appear professional and set a good example.  That's very respectable of them I suppose, but I'm a just a kid- my attention span isn't too consistent and I don't exactly have an overwhelming se

A Question to Consider...

This week in the writing center, I had the pleasure of observing some sessions. I come with one question: Is it okay to be very directive to a student if the student really does not understand? In reading much writing center theory, we learned that we should never be directive.  We must provoke an answer or thought out of a student through questioning alone. Now what if the student really does not understand? You could just keep asking the same question until he or she understands, but what good does that do? I think that some students really just need a push in the right direction. Does that make being directive acceptable? We do not want to make the student's paper our own. This defeats the purpose of the writing center and tutoring. To answer my own question, I think in some situations, a student should be directed.  I can think of times when someone asks me a question and I simply do not have an answer. I understand the question, but I just can't think of an answer no mat

Hello PeerCentered!

Hello Catherine Woods, and welcome to PeerCentered. Why thank you PeerCentered, I am glad to be here (finally). My laptop only seems to feel like cooperating 97% of the time, and this ended up being the 3% left over. But I digress. I am lucky enough to have begun tutoring at Columbia's Learning Studio already. This not only forced me to jump in headfirst and blindfolded, but it also gave me the chance to learn the system from the inside out. In my case I think that this was a wise decision. I learn much more efficiently by doing than by listening or reading, so the choice to begin tutoring sooner rather than later was a good one for me. This is what I have discovered so far... 1. Students secretly want you to guide them, but if you do this overtly they will work against you. Let them decide what needs to be done, and then aid them by helping them to do what they already (whether consciously or unconsciously) know they need to do. 2. Sometimes the student doesn't need yo


Three sessions that I observed this week dealt with students who came in with a finished draft. In each session the tutor started by asking the student what the assignment guidelines were and what the actual paper was about. From there each tutor took a different approach in going over the paper with the student. One tutor read over the whole paper in great detail, pen in hand making corrections as he went along. There was an awkward silence for about fifteen minutes as the student watched the tutor silently mark up his rough draft. Another tutor went through the paper paragraph by paragraph and started asking questions about the body paragraphs before even getting to through the introduction. While some questions did seem relevant to making the paper more effective, a few suggestions made were things that were already included in later portions of the paper. The tutor failed to realize some of the techniques the student was already using since the paper had not been read in its en

Professor VS Student

While observing in the Writing Center, I have been lucky enough to come across a session tutored by another student, like myself, and a session administered by an actual professor at Columbia College Chicago.  The differences in their methods were striking and interesting. I was clued in to how to relate to the student in different ways, and how each method proves to be successful. The session with the professor began with the exchange of jokes and anecdotes, with the professor doing most of the talking. As he warmed the tutee up to the session, she became more open, and even began to laugh along and input jokes of her own into the exchange. Although I felt slightly uncomfortable, an outsider on this friendly happenstance, I could sense the mood change. As the two dived into the paper, the sort of joking mood continued. I noticed the tutee sort of forget her anxiety about the paper, and was comfortable enough to begin to "direct" the session. The tutee left that day with

The Table-Barrier

Today I saw a tutor do the unthinkable.  When hope was in short supply and the writer's overwhelming shyness seemed reared back and ready to destroy all chances of his benefitting from the session, a tactic which I had not yet witnessed lunged forth in a shower of gallant splendor to save the day.  This tactic:  Breaching the table-barrier. The second the session begins, every session, is when the writer sits down in that chair across from the tutor, am I mistaken?  There is occasionally some informal introduction occurring at times when eye contact is made before a seat has been taken, but the business at hand is never referred to before this crucial "sitting-down step."  Now, as the student is seated, he or she is immediately, often subliminally, made aware of the division between him or herself and the tutor due to multiple physical cues.  The first of these is the physical space created by the table that (seemingly) cannot be breached by either participant, not to m

Directive Awareness Catalogue

I just observed a session that screamed “directive.” I thought it might be useful to note some of the phrases that I found common in the session. Recognizing and acknowledging these phrases should help us better be aware when they accidentally (or intentionally) come out of our mouths. Please keep in mind that the phrases listed here are not necessarily condemned. They all fit into different levels of directiveness. Sometimes they can be a good choice, we should just be aware of them. “I think…” “I think you need to…” “I would try…” “I think what he/she wants you think to think about is…” These statements suddenly make the session about our opinion, whether we know it or not. While we may consider equal collaboration as an approach to the session, we shouldn’t forget about the other half (or more than half), the writer. “What you want to think about is…” “So you wanna think about…” “So that’s what you wanna talk about…” “So you wanna writ


   I have gotten the chance to concentrate and take note on two totally different types of tutoring sessions. There were a lot of questions that I want to ask so bad, but instead I just payed more focus on the body languages and facial expressions of the tutors and writers.      My first session I actually was able to observe was a session with a girl that was new to the country. She came here from Asia when her step father and her found this school online. It was a long session because she spoke very little English, but the amazing thing was, she wrote it well.  I had so many questions to ask her, but I knew it was inappropriate and I had to keep my distance so I continued to observe from across the room. She would keep rejecting to read and when ever the tutor would read I would glance at her and see her constantly cover face at the end of every sentence. Then the tutor asked if she wanted to continue and she would continue to refuse.The more she refused, the more relaxed and inter

All tutors get the job done differently

This week, I had the chance to observe various tutoring sessions in my school's writing center.  One in particular stood out to me. It was this particular student's first time to the writing center. As we waited for her tutor to come bring her back, she was visibly and audibly nervous.  She was talking to another student who just got out of a session, hearing all about what to expect.  She was most nervous about the possibility of having to read her paper out loud. Once in the session, the tutor nicely described what would happen in a session and the fact that she could get weekly tutoring if need be.  The student knew exactly what she wanted to do with her paper, and was already on a second draft. Her reaction to having to read her paper out loud was "oh no, uhh do I have to?". The tutor kindly explained that it helps to hear one's own writing read aloud, because it is a good way to catch errors.  When she started to read aloud her three page paper, the tutor

I Googled "Tutor" and Nothing Came Up

Okay, so I didn’t do that literally, but a tutor in a session that I observed a few days ago practically did. I want to very briefly talk about the effects of using a search engine in the tutoring process. While it can be an effective and convenient tool for pulling up a source that escapes you or an example that you think the writer will benefit from, Google can quickly turn into an enhanced distraction that isolates the writer and turns her against you. In the session I observed, this is exactly what happened. A writer came in to buff up her resume. The tutor turned to Google and showed her examples. This was great, but he kept returning to the screen. Sometimes she started to talk, and he would immediately turn to the search bar. With his eyes on the screen and his fingers on the keyboard, he seemed like he wasn’t listening. I wasn’t the only one picking up on this– the writer did as well. As the session went on (with more and more treks to Google), t

Sometimes All We Need Is Non Judgmental Support

As of this week, I have had my first round of observing various writers at Columbia College Chicago’s Writing Center. It is rather intriguing how each and every student has a different feeling towards writing, learning about their own writing challenges, and how to fix those challenges. The first session I observed was one that involved a girl who came in to the tutor to help revise a draft of an essay she had due for the upcoming week. She appeared to be a bit antsy but the tutor reassured her several times that everything was bound to be successful if both of them cooperated. Both the tutor and the girl sat side by side, looking over the paper. A small frown appeared over the girls face as she said, “This is so embarrassing!” as she flipped quickly through the pages. The tutor put a smile across his face and once again, trying to reassure her that he was there to help her to the best of his abilities, not judge her. It turns out the girl had an issue with using text language/slang

My First Sessions Observing

So far I have observed four tutoring sessions and I feel that I've gained not only experience but confidence that I can do this. I have been nervous from the start about tutoring because I don't want to misguide anyone that comes to the Learning Studio. I fear that I wouldn't know an answer to a question or how to cite things. My mentor has helped me with these fears and reassuring me that it's not as scary as it seems.  Now on to my observations. My first observation was very short and sweet. "Jorge" sat down and said "This is going to be a short session. My teacher told me to come here. I already have written my paper but I need help to narrow the paper to the 1 page requirement." "Sam," the tutor, put Jorge's paper between them and had Jorge read his paper aloud and went paragraph by paragraph. After each paragraph Sam would say what she liked or what she had questions on. Once Jorge read his paper out loud he realized he also neede

Observations in the Writing Center

I have spent the last two weeks doing observations in Columbia College Chicago's Writing Center.  I have noticed a few procedures that the tutor follows to help the writer develop their writing skills.  The session starts out with the tutor asking the writer what they want to get out of the session.  After the writer explains, the tutor asks the writer to read their paper aloud.  The writer reads, and from time to time, pauses as they try to fix an error they have made.  I believe that this process of having the student read aloud is one of the most important aspects of the tutoring session.  Reading aloud helps the student hear their writing voice and identify with it.  It also aides with finding errors within the paper.  Ella, an ESL student, said to her tutor that "I found some spelling and grammar errors while reading it aloud."  Ella might not have noticed these errors if she had not spoken her written words; our brains automatically correct errors as they read so th

Human Nature

Through the few sessions I've been able to observe thus far, I've noticed a pattern or two.  The first is not the main message of this post but is necessary to mention all the same.  I have heard the exact same sentence uttered to me the second I've sat down at every session.  This sentence is "feel free to jump in."  The tutors, having undergone this exact process in order to attain the position they fill today, know that I'm there to be a fly on the wall, an anthropologist, an empty glass to be filled with the splendor that is their writing expertise.  However, they seem to want my help!  I'm just some random long haired fellow they only just met, and they want my input?  To me, this is an expression of the idea that no tutor is ever fully confident in his or her own ability.  They, we, all realize that they are not the end-all-be-all of writing, which is actually very refreshing to see at Columbia.  A lot of people I have met here have developed this pa

Adaptability in a Variable Job

When observing tutoring sessions, there are so many different situations that can arise. I think it is safe to say that no two sessions will be alike. They are all so unique. This week, I had the ability to observe a couple of sessions in my school (Columbia College)'s writing center. Saying the sessions were different is an understatement.  One session was with a student who was hard of hearing. He was having trouble with an assignment in which he had to apply a novel to his life and his experiences. The tutor often had to repeat himself or rephrase things in order for the student to understand. The tutor often had good ideas that the student used in his paper. This student seemed to have come in looking for someone to assist in formulating ideas, not to be guided in the right direction. The second session was different. The student was required to come in weekly because he is in a lower level of the general writing course. He was very on track and knew what he needed. He did n

You Get Out What You Put In

       As Writing Center tutors, we learn from our tutees while we try to better their writing. The Writing Center is a diverse environment where people of all different backgrounds interact as they collaborate on the writing process.       While you may know everything there is to know about comma splices and their proper uses, your student may have a stronger authorial voice in their academic paper that you envy. As you work together, information is exchanged between the two parties, resulting in improved writing on both sides.        For me, I'm worried that I may not know every answer to someone's questions. So, I see the tutoring session resembling a volleyball game. Each participant contributes to the conversation, building off what the other's prior statement added to the discussion. In instances where you don't know the exact answer, you can either utilize resources that will find what you're looking for, or you can use personal experiences to provide exa

Adapting to the Student

Hello, My name is Gonzalo and I am a writing tutor in training at Columbia College Chicago. This week I got the opportunity to observe how one tutor approached three very different sessions. Two students were required to be there while the third came by choice to get some honest feedback on a paper she was writing. I noticed that the relationship between the tutor and student changed based on the enthusiasm each student brought to the session. The student who came in by choice held a peer-to-peer relationship with the tutor as the two bounced ideas of each other helping to fix a few problem areas in the student's essay. This seemed to be an example of the ideal tutoring session we read about in essays on the subject. Another student came in as required by her teacher and seemed to be very removed from the session. She was supposed to attend sessions weekly, but out of six sessions, this was the first she had attended with anything to work on. The tutor took a more directive

The Posturometer

Sitting up straight? Spine aligned? Eyes at attention? Well if they aren’t, it’s not all your fault. It’s mine as well. Posture communicates a lot more than one would think about one’s state of mind, but it’s a mutual relationship. In the tutoring session, we see posture in the student as a duality: it measures his commitment to the content and his enthusiasm towards the session. I’m a TV writing major, so let me tie it back to that. If I’m writing an intensely emotional character scene or climax, I’m not slouching. My eyes are too close to the keyboard most of the time, my spine is pointed straight to the sky, and my fingers are at attention. The closer I get to the screen, the closer I am to the content. The closer the student is to the paper, the closer he is to the content. If we see a student leaning back, stradling the chair, dangling one hand between his legs as he writes with the other– his position coming into the session is clear. But here