The Waters of Tutoring

I took work off today and decided to devote my time to observing 5 tutoring sessions at the Salt Lake Community College Writing Center (SWC) in addition to receiving tutoring of my own. When I  initially entered the room I was immediately surprised by how many people were there both tutoring and being tutored. I said to myself, "Wow! You're in good company. It appears that everyone is as awful at drafting as you are." This put a smirk and smile on my face followed by a choking chuckle I uttered under my breaththis was the perfect ice breaker into the new and daunting waters of observing tutors and their techniques of which I will be performing soon enough.

My first observation andin my opinionthe best one involved what appeared to be an experienced 23 year old male tutor employed by SLCC helping a 40 year old, Asian born, broken English female student attempting to complete a vocabulary assignment in preparation for a test. They began by first analyzing her assignment criteria. They then dove into discussing the differences between nouns, verbs, and adjectives as part of the said assignment. This quickly transitioned into word definitions, concluding with a brief summary of the discussion from the tutor who, lastly, sent her on her way prepared to ace the test. The flow of the session was sensational, however, throughout the tutoring I was most surprised with how positive and poised; convincing and confident the tutor was. For example, when she needed to know a word definition, he stopped everything they were doing then said, "Here, let's find it!" Next, he then would go to his laptop and together they went to to discover the word's meaning. I found this method of tutoring particular interesting, effective, and (most of all) enlightening. It was obvious the tutor knew the word's definition and could have simply spouted it off to her without a seconds hesitation. Yet, his experience shined through and he knew how important her question was to and for her, and demonstrated through this/his teaching technique that it was equally important to him. He made seeking out the answer a fun finding project for both of them. This experience illustrated to me that the tutor is striving to be tutored as much as he is tutoring; tutoring is a joined and, therefore, an enjoyed experience.

At the end of the session she was so thrilled with the help she received she happily asked him when he will be back to tutor again so she can come and work with him. This is the success of a tutor: being a continual resource of positivity and poise, of convincement and confidence, of friendship and friendliness. It appears that once one chips through the crust and enters the waters of tutoring its difficult to want to come out of it, and easy to want to return to it. I am in the waters of tutoring now: its time to swim.


  1. Nice analogy, David! I'm always interested in the expectations that people who aren't regularly in a writing center setting bring to what is going to happen.

  2. Very well put David. It is very interesting and entertaining to observe these sessions. Yes, some of the tutors in the S.L.C.C. Student Writing Center are very skilled at what they do. The most compelling element of this particular session is that the tutor actually showed the student how to find definitions, rather than simply defining the word. This tutor is apparently executing his job with expertise. A successful tutor will not only answer a student's questions, but show them how to answer their questions on their own using resources such as the internet. I noticed your use of alliteration in your post, one of my own personal favorite toys to play with when writing. I am looking forward to the rest of the semester of service learning with you and our other classmates!

  3. You know, I hadn't thought about looking up words in the dictionary that way, although I have used other resources (then again, the only words I had to clarify were those related rhetoric). It's a great way to get students to do a bit of research on their own. There's a saying in Spanish: "La educación no es para enseñar qué pensar, sino a pensar," which roughly translates to, "Education serves not to teach what to think, but rather how to think."

  4. Anonymous12:35 AM

    Wow, I appreciate the tutor's collaborative approach in this example.

    In my experience, I have often found it easy to simply spout my knowledge (or so I think) when "mentoring" others, and expect them to learn by following my lead. But, if I'm honest, this approach isn't particularly effective, as my endeavors to learn math have made painfully clear; that is why I believe it is important to allow writers the opportunity to find significance through direct interaction, for there is a huge difference between hearing a lecture on oceans and swimming in them.

    Nice post!


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