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.
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I have posted a poll in the IWCA forums: IWCA Forum: Peer Tutor => What do we call ourselves: the poll! It is a part of an earlier discussion that kind of petered out about the titles used for writing center workers. Please take a moment and vote! If you don't have an account on the forum, you can register for one by clicking on the "Register" link (next to the rocket icon in the top-right of the page.) Don't forget to state your institutional affiliation when you request and account. (That's how the IWCA Forum keeps out spam accounts.)
As a frightened freshman, I wandered deep in the bowels of the library basement. My eyes darted from room number to room number, looking for the aid my professor promised I could find. At the end of the hall, a golden light shone from an open doorway. My approach was slow and I lingered on the threshold. All uncertainty vanished when I was greeted with a smile and welcomed into the new world of the Tutoring Center. At the time, I did not know I would spend most of my weekdays in that room as a senior or how mundane this new world would become. How could I? I didn’t even know how much insight I would receive from my tutor that day! Being a learner in the writing center is a wholly different experience than being a tutor, yet I know many of my colleagues have not had the same learning experiences that I have. I think this is unfortunate because there is much that a tutor can gain from being a learner. It was my freshman year of college and everything was new. For me, that meant that fear
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