Adapting to the Student


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, teacher-student relationship in this session, almost treating the student like a child at certain points by telling her to take notes on the session when the student looked disengaged in the conversation. As an observer, I felt somewhat uncomfortable and thought the atmosphere was quite unpleasant. It also appeared to me that the student left unprepared to continue working on her essay as she was hesitant to answer when the tutor asked if she felt better about where her paper was going now.

At the end of the session, the tutor told me that you have to treat certain students this way. Let them know that it is not okay to skip sessions or treat them as a joke. Otherwise, they will just take advantage of you.

While this second student was definitely difficult to work with, I felt that the tutor did not do the best job in helping the student to improve their writing skills. In situations like this, what is the best way to get through to a difficult student? Especially one that you will have to work with on a weekly basis?


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