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Roles of a Tutor

            Tutors can play various roles when helping students learn about their writing. A tutor is obviously a form of teacher, but it is also very important to play the role of a trustworthy peer, equal, and even friend. Seeking help from tutors can be an intimidating task for students, though when paired with a compatible tutor, the student will find their time and courage well spent. All too often tutors come off as impatient and condescending, which may actually be true in some situations. The most important skill one may find as a tutor is viewing the student as an equal. Many times students are discouraged enough as it is, and they do not need further scrutiny from a tutor to further barrage their self esteem.

            As a tutor, it is very important to focus on the positive attributes of a student’s writing. When making suggestions or corrections, it may be wise to sandwich them between two or more positive and uplifting comments on the student’s work. Also, be flexible. Keep in mind that the work is not yours, it is the students, and if they choose not to take your advice that is their choice. Avoid stiff, black and white thinking. When it comes to the English language we all know that there are massive gray areas surrounding many rules, and that many “rules” are not in fact rules at all, but mere opinions on style and word choice.

            Always keep in mind that though you may be tutoring someone in writing, chances are you aren’t the next Hemmingway or London. Though you may have an English writing background, education, etc. you are not the all knowing. Even if you were, writing in English consists much of opinion and style, and sentences and clauses can be rearranged and ordered in many various patterns and still be considered correct English by the books.


  1. Anonymous9:30 PM

    My name is Alex; I work at the Salt Lake Community College Writing Center. I agree with the advice. It is good to not think of writing as "black and white" or get stuck in absolute methods of doing things; it is good to not be condescending or impatient; it's good to be a trustworthy friend in the tutoring role. I've found that it's easy to agree, but your advice isn't as easy to apply. Sure I can tell myself "don't be impatient or condescending" but it still happens. One way I avoid thinking I'm the all-knowing is by asking questions constantly: asking is a method of discovering knowledge that also serves as a reminder of how much I don't know, and I think the moment we stop questioning is when we begin to think not that we know it all, but that we know enough, and begin to stagnate.

  2. A haughty attitude on the part of the tutor can certainly be detrimental to the writer's learning in a given situation. Like you've said, Jordin, a writer's ego may be battered enough as it is and doesn't need someone else to make them feel more inferior. Copping an attitude of superiority can also create hostility on the part of the writer too; no one like to be put down or made to feel stupid. In my years of experience working with writers and mentors of writers, I've never really witnessed a tutor flaunting an air of superiority. I'm sure it does happen, but most writing centers are usually pretty careful to hire people who don't act like that. I have interview questions that dig around a potential writing center tutor's attitude and personality. Most times writing tutors remain fairly humble about their knowledge and are there to help a writer learn.


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