As I ponder what it means to be a tutor, I first think of my own experience with writing. I ask myself why I write and what I hope to accomplish. In other words, I think it best to begin by putting myself in the position of a writer.
If someone were to ask what it is that I like most about writing, I would say that I am most fond of the autonomy it allows me and of how this allows me to connect with others. When I write, I extend a part of myself onto a medium, expressing myself with the hope that I can connect with an audience in some way, that I may both show and be shown, that I may both teach and be taught; this hope is why I write.
Yet I have found that this hope seems less realistic at some times more than others: Reflecting on my writing experience, academic or otherwise, I recall times of inspiration and of frustration, of despair and of triumph. Though one day I may feel like a paragon of writing prowess, I could easily lapse into doubt and frustration the next, as my purpose may be lost in the translation from mind to paper, or perhaps my purpose is ill-formed and lacking—there are numerous possibilities for why I could struggle on a given day.
However, when I have difficulty expressing myself, I find solace in one thing (Well, OK, more than one, but Iron Maiden and chocolate are not particularly relevant here): discussing my ideas with someone else. From another’s perspective, I can see beyond my mental horizon, and discover ideas that are hidden within me, as well as ideas that are outside of me. When I take part in such discussion, I benefit from being shown and taught.
Considering all of this, I believe that the role of a tutor is to provide the aforementioned external perspective.while allowing the writer to remain autonomous. As a tutor, I need not be an oracle; instead, I need to listen, observe, and share, helping writers to see outside themselves so that they may better see ideas and inspiration within themselves.
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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.)
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