I am a first-year Writing Fellow at Nova Southeastern University. In our writing center, each writing fellow works with a specific professor and composition class, assisting first-year composition students. As fellows, we are required to meet regularly with the professor and with students in and out of class.
During my first week as a writing fellow, I met with the professor I would be working with in order to discuss my role as a tutor and what to expect on my first day. She gave me advice on how to talk with the students and how I should present myself to the class; she told me to “Make sure you establish your authority.” At the time, I thought that was an odd suggestion, so I pushed it aside and ignored it until this week’s sessions gave me insight as to why my professor gave me that advice.
During my sixth week as a tutor, I had multiple students miss our scheduled sessions together, without warning or legitimate excuses. As many tutors may know, it can be very frustrating to plan for a group session—a session including two or more students—and have only one person show up; it altars the plan of action. For example:
My student, who we can call Benjamin, was supposed to meet with his group members from 11am-12pm, however he missed. At Noon, as I was supposed to begin another session with the three group members Vanessa, Elizabeth, and Sebastian only two students appeared—Elizabeth and Sebastian. Great—I thought—students are skipping because they’re afraid of melting from the rain. Keeping my thoughts to myself, I continued the session as best as I had planned.
Halfway through the 12pm session, Benjamin appeared asking if he could join us in order to make up for the meeting he missed. I told him, “Since you missed your session by an hour and a half and you just interrupted this group, you must reschedule your appointment for an available time next week.” Annoyed and understanding, he walked away. Shortly after Benjamin left, Vanessa waltzed in and joined us. She claimed she was late due to the “persistent downpour”. Since I had just turned her classmate away, I told her, “Being late because of rain is not a valid excuse, so this session won’t count and you will have to reschedule for next week.”
As the session came to an end, the two students who saw me turn their classmates away said in a shocked and sarcastic tone, “Oh, so you do have a strict bone.” I quickly attempted to lighten the mood before they left, but they were quiet and wanted to leave.
Up until this week, I hadn’t really thought of my student’s perception of me. I automatically assumed they understood my role as a fellow. However, after their comment I noticed that they considered me as a fellow peer, not someone with authority. Was this a bad thing?
My students confided in me and talked with me as if I was a fellow classmate, but now that they have seen me be authoritative, their perception of me has changed. Hearing them state that I was strict worried me; I wasn’t sure if I was too strict or if I sounded rude towards the other students. This situation made me recall the advice my professor gave me on “establishing my authority.” Maybe I was being too “friendly” when first meeting my students that I didn’t establish the role clearly to them.
To better understand the role I’m supposed to have as a tutor, I read “Transgressive Hybridity: Reflections on the Authority of the Peer Writing Tutor,” by Jason Palmeri. The article illustrated that the line of authority for tutors is blurred and complicated since the “peer tutors’ position is as a teacher-student hybrid” (11). He discusses as long as the peer tutors’ assist writers to “produce the type of writing expected of them in the university system” (11) then they will acquire authority.
Hopefully during my next week sessions my students will be fine, and they will understand that I can be both a ‘peer’ and someone with ‘authority’. However, I now wonder: does establishing authority create a rift within the dynamic between a tutor and student?
Popular posts from this blog
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
By Lori Brock
A Nearly Septuagenarian’s Ad ventures with Purdue Owl January 9, 2023 As a student, the Purdue Owl website was a source of great comfort for me. It seemed almost a tangible, billowy, yet safe and confining space; kind of like those bounce-houses filled with balls for kids. I would flit among MLA and APA and general writing tips: pulling up a sample reference page here, making sure I knew the difference between effect and affect there, and ended up by checking an in-text citation for a quote within a quote. I haven’t perused Purdue Owl’s website in some time, so, it is disconcerting to find it is completely tied into Purdue University’s writing lab. Now, you can also more readily access various sections of the style guide directly from the browser. If, for example, you want to check to cite a poster in APA format, Purdue Owl’s information is listed among the many sites you can choose in your browser. I can see how advantageous this fine-tuning is, and, in fact, I have already ma