This is my first year as a Writing Fellow. During the first of the semester, my colleagues in the writing center discussed strategies and procedures that can be utilized during sessions with writers. Despite the amount of preparation I had, the anticipation of my first writing sessions still filled me with nerves. The professor I fellow for gave me encouragement before I began. She said, ‘Remember, no matter what happens, you’ll give them something that they didn’t have before.’
Throughout my first day of group sessions, I noticed that none of my groups were full with the students who had scheduled to attend. Group sessions turned into one-on-one sessions. To make things worse, one session seemed to go completely wrong. One of the students that I also have another class with started out the session by asking for notes I had taken in the other class. When I playfully said, “How about we do that at the end as a reward for a good session?,” he became frustrated. He said he did not have the assignment we were supposed to go over together. He only had a flash drive containing his work, and neither of us had a computer. Determined to accomplish something during the session, we searched the building’s first floor for an open computer or computer classroom. After being turned away from a classroom, he chuckled and said, “You’re new at this, aren’t you?”
I left that day feeling defeated. The lack of attendance threw me off, and the one student that didn’t bring in his work brought down my confidence. Now, I think back to Muriel Harris’s article found in Ben Rafoth’s A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Writers One to One. Her article is called “Engaging Reluctant Writers”, and was my writer reluctant. Harris gives strategies on how to break the ice and get to know the writer. Something that I really took from it was the understanding that her article was just advice to tutors. There is no formula to the perfect session. The writers have to want to write, and sometimes, no matter how hard someone tries to assist them, there’s only so much that can be done. I believe that realizing perfection is something to strive for but can never really be achieved gave me a great deal of confidence. With each new session, I improve. I just have to take it one step at a time.
Don't be discouraged. As writing assistants we all learn how to become better at teaching and communicating with each session. Think about it this way, when you were a Freshman in college many things that are easy to you now were hard for you. In the same way, as time progresses and you learn more about yourself and tutoring, and you will get better. Try to be very patient and confident, after all you are the writing assistant and not just the student anymore. You are both, a peer and a writing assistant. Don't feel totally defeated by a reluctant student, it happens to the best of us. When I had my first composition writing session, I was nervous because the class I had fellowed before was a political science class. The topics and writing, as well as the expectation from the professor, were completely different. As, you said, I took it one day at a time and one session at a time. I guarantee you will get better but don't loose your confidence over difficult students, even the best professors have to deal with them.